Every great work in the world first has its place in the human imagination. If a man is about to build a bench, he first pictures in his own mind the kind of bench it should be.
Similarly, the painter, architect, contractor, or manufacturer, traces in his imagination an image of that which they would produce.
The imagination, then, is a gallery in which you hang pictures, both of what you have done and what you intend to do.
You may not always turn these pictures into realities at once, but they are there to interest and encourage you and to come to our aid when needed.
Upon one occasion Webster used, in one of his speeches, an illustration that he had carried in his imagination for fifteen years.
Beecher, who was endowed with an unusually vivid imagination, placed this faculty first in importance in the making of a preacher.
They affirmed that a man with a trained imagination could not possibly wear out or become uninteresting to his congregation, and asked pertinently:
“Did you ever hear anybody say that spring has been worn out? It has been coming for thousands of years, and it is just as sweet, just as welcome, and just as new, as if the birds sang for the first time; and so it will be for a thousand years to come.”
If it’s important that a man have a clear and accurate image of what his material product is to be, how much more important is it that they have a picture of the character and life he is building.
Indeed, imagination should not be taken for granted, because it is essential in developing ourselves, our lives and even our reality.
It has well been said that no man ever made his mark in the world who did not have a master passion for something.
When a boy is scribbling a picture on paper and in answer to your question tells you he doesn’t know what it is going to be, you feel sure it will not amount to much.
When you ask a youth what line of work he intends to follow, and he replies that he has not yet made up his mind, you begin to fear for his success.
But what will you say to a man who at thirty, forty, and even fifty, has not determined what his life’s ambition is, to what ultimate goal they is working?
The fact, that less than five percent of men succeed in being attributed to this aimless, hit-or-miss way of living one’s life.
In the imagination, you find again much of the difference between the timid and self-confident man. One pictures defeat and failure, the other sees himself as successful and influential.
One person thinks of all the ways in which they will fail, imprints them upon his mind, places them in the gallery of his imagination, to haunt him day and night.
The other person thinks of one way in which they will succeed. Sketches himself as a strong, noble, courageous character, places the picture before his mind’s eye, and delights in it by day and dreams of it by night.
Fear is nowhere else more destructive than in the imagination. It is often a greater enemy than the thing feared.
Maybe, you have heard of the soldier, a prisoner who was experimented upon many years ago, blindfolded and then told he was bleeding to death, while merely water was trickling from his arm.
When subsequently examined he was found to be dead, although not the slightest injury had been done to his body.
The fear had so completely possessed him that he believed he was actually bleeding to death. Fear sometimes rises from over-caution, but frequently it is the result of selfishness.
William James puts it in a strong, appealing way when he says:
”The attitude of unhappiness is not only painful, it is mean and ugly. What can be more base and unworthy than the pining, puling, grumpy mood, no matter by what outward ills it may have been caused by? What is more injurious to others? We ought to scout it in ourselves and others, and never show it tolerance.”
Physicians tell us that nine-tenths of the ills of their patients are imaginary. In many instances a placebo pill is all that’s necessary to affect a complete cure.
Perhaps, you know of persons who think themselves born under an unlucky star, or pursued by some unhappy fate. Their imagination is crowded with pictures of the direful things that will surely happen to them sooner or later.
They reproach themselves for physical weakness, lack of memory, want of ambition, fear of failure, inability to attract friends, or other shortcomings.
Instead of resolutely setting out to develop themselves, they exhaust their remaining powers in useless regrets.
They’re like the people described in medical literature, utterly unable to initiate a single thing on their own behalf.
“A negative man,” it says, “too suddenly ejected from his long-accustomed groove, where, like a toad embedded in the rock, he had made his niche exactly fitting to his own shape, presents a wretched picture of helplessness and unshiftiness.
His friends suggest this or that independent endeavor; he shakes his head, and says he can’t—it won’t do; what he wants is a place where he is not obliged to depend on himself, where he has to do a fixed amount of work for a fixed amount of salary, and where his spineless attitude may find a mold ready formed, into which it may run without the necessity of forging shapes for itself.
Many a man of respectable intellectual powers has gone down to ruin, and died miserably, because of his negativity, which made it impossible for him to break new ground, or to work at anything whatsoever, with the stimulus of hope only.
He must be bolstered up by certainty, supported by the walls of his groove, or else he can do nothing; and if he can’t get into his friendly groove, he lets himself drift into destruction. Negative people never to be depended upon, their very central quality being fluidity, which is a bad thing to rest on.”
Few people realize how important a part imagination plays in the every-day matters of life. A businessman endeavors to give a prospective customer a mental picture of his products, or of what they will do for him.
The physician holds before his patient an image of what they will be and can do when well. The politician describes the condition of things as they would be if he is elected.
The public speaker illuminates and illustrates his subject chiefly by means of the imagination. So, in every human activity the order is first the mental picture, then the act.
Only second in importance to the image-making faculty is that of initiative, or the power of originality.
Many business and professional men acknowledge that, had they known what difficulties awaited them, they could not have gone forward so hopefully.
But, they just couldn’t bring themselves to turn back once they had put their hand to the plow.
The story of almost every successful man would be a recital of uphill work at first, with many obstacles to be met and overcome, disappointments to be bravely borne, new resolutions of determination made at the beginning of each day.
There are a thousand imitators to one who can originate. A man who is constantly watching to see what others are doing in order to steal their thunder, is not true to himself nor developing his best faculties.
Nothing could be more humbling to a person than the inner realization that they are a mere copycat, a make-believe.
You should avail yourselves, it is true, of the experience and ideas of others, and frankly acknowledge your indebtedness to them, but you cannot rightly call this material your own until you have put it through your mental process and stamped it with your individuality.
Take to heart these inspiring words of Emerson:
“Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession.
That which each can do best, none but the Maker can teach him. No man yet knows what it is, nor can, till that person has exhibited it.
Where is the master who could have taught Shakespeare? Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? Every great man is unique.
The Scipionism of Scipio is precisely that part they could not borrow. Another Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare.
Do that which is assigned you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much.
There is at this moment for you an utterance brave and grand as that of the colossal chisel of Phidias, or trowel of the Egyptians, or the pen of Moses or Dante, but different from all these.
Not possibly will the soul, all rich, all eloquent, with thousand-cloven tongue, deign to repeat itself; but if you can hear what these patriarchs say, surely you can reply to them in the same pitch of voice; for the ear and the tongue are two organs of one nature.
Abide in the simple and noble regions of thy life, obey thy heart and thou shalt reproduce the foreworld again.”
When Shakespeare says, “To thine own self be true,” he indicates the way to originality.
Let a person first place in the gallery of his imagination only such images as he would care to see materialized in his life, an important skill to develop.
Then let him go bravely forth, resolved to make these a living reality, and by full use of originality, initiative, and courage, wins an enduring place among successful men and women.
Now, let’s extend this even further, what about creative imagination?
Creative imagination is more than just active imagination. To be able to actively imagine things, to see and hear things in one’s mind, is an important ability.
It doesn’t have to involve much creativity, though, does it? Daydreaming, for example, is a process of imagination.
It can consist of an elaborate fantasy world, but one full of all the things that many people think about.
Creative imagination, then, has to include the ability not just to imagine things, but to imagine original things.
It is seeing things that others don’t see, and coming up with new ideas. So how do you cultivate this?
First, exercise your basic imagination. It can be as simple as thinking in pictures more, or listening to music in your mind. Play little “movies” in your mind, until you can watch them on command.
This is a simple process, but for those of us that can’t easily do it naturally, it can take a lot of practice. Fortunately, it is not an unpleasant activity.
The second part of developing your creative imagination is to get more creative in your thinking and imagining. Start by paying attention to your creativity.
Your subconscious minds give us more of what we pay attention to. Ignore creative aspects of your life, and you’re telling your subconscious they are unimportant.
On the other hand, if you note when you’re creative, your subconscious mind will start feeding you more creative ideas.
Different surroundings can also encourage your creativity. Want more creativity in your love life? Hike up a mountain with your partner. Do you write? Try sitting on a roof to write.
Want new ideas for your business? Take a notebook to the park and sit by the duck pond. A change of environment can get your thinking out of its ruts.
You can play games that exercise your creative imagination. One such game uses a technique called “concept combination.” Alone or with other players, you combine random concepts or things in new ways, to see who has the best idea.
A thermometer and a billboard, for example, could generate an idea for a sign that checks the weather and adjusts the message accordingly (“Come in out of the heat for a cold beverage,” or “Come in out of the rain and warm up with our gourmet coffee.”).
Many great things have started as a simple, creative idea. Consider donating some of your best ideas to help others.
Remember this, the more creative you are, the more ideas you will be able to create. You can be creative even if you don’t think you are.
Being creative and thinking up world-changing ideas occurs in the same way. Everyone can be creative but they have to be willing to start. The creative process will then become more natural over time.
POINTS TO REMEMBER
How to develop your imagination?
- Have a clear and accurate image
- Have a picture of the character and life
- Realize that imagination is important
- Resolve to make your imagination a living reality
- Exercise your basic imagination
- Get more creative in your thinking and imagining
- Different surroundings can also encourage your creativity
- You can play games that exercise your creative imagination.
– From 1 to 10, 10 as the highest, how do you rate your imagination?
– How often do you imagine?
– How do you imagine yourself to be?
– From 1 to 10, 10 as the highest, how do you rate your creative imagination?
– How do you plan to improve your imagination and creative imagination?