“Is imagination a gift or a curse?”
Anonymous via Quora
Worry is Imagination. And so is Hope.
Both are taking current events and guessing at a possible future. Usually without much thought about how likely the events are. And often without much thought on how we apply those thoughts to the present.
Our thoughts and imagination can be trained. We’re training them every day. From Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Positive Psychology to Meditation and Yoga, there are many methods of training our thoughts.
We often live out the story we imagine for ourselves. To change your life for good or bad, all we have to do is imagine it.
“Everything you can imagine is real.”
Tackling our negative imagination:
Tip 1: Compartmentalize. In his book How to Worry Less and Start Living Life, Dale Carnegie gave some great tips on how to minimize our worrying thoughts. One very strong thought is to contain bad events within the day they happen. Anything bad that happened yesterday has happened and can’t hurt us today. What happens today will be done and gone by tomorrow. And tomorrow can’t leak into today. Accept the events that happen and let them go.
“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night
Tip 2: Improve. Since we have an imagination, might as well use its powers for good. Learn what we can and look for opportunities to make our lives better. Sometimes the lesson is that we’ve put enough thought into something and even a moment more is not worth it. Plan a trip to getaway. Think of your life goals, career, and education. What have you always wanted to do?
“Imagination does not become great until human beings, given the courage and the strength, use it to create.”
Tip 3: Visit. Visit someone else’s imagination. Listen to your friends and family. Talk to people on Quora. Read a book or articles. Watch a television show or movie. Memorize the lyrics to your favorite songs. If you love your imagination, then put it to work by visiting fiction and nonfiction.
“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.”
Tip 4: Keep busy. Write down ideas of things you love to do or need to do. When you’re imagining problems, use that time to focus on other things. It’s the perfect time to start cleaning, working on projects, and organize your junk drawer. Your imagination is just looking for things to do. Apply it to some real tasks and you’ll start coming up with amazing solutions
Encouraging positive imagination:
Tip 5: Doodle. Research shows that. Get a sketchbook and doodle about all of the good things in your life. Food, shelter, love, health, minor and major kindnesses. If you let yourself be creative, you can train yourself to notice all of the things you have going well in your life. Have you ever had a moment of courage, hope, or peace? You can probably fill a sketchbook with images of your happy thoughts. Pull it out when you need a reminder and keep adding more.
“I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
Tip 6: Love your enemies. While you’re doodling, try making notes of all of the great qualities of people you have problems with. Even if the best you can come up with is “Not a murderer.” “Not here right now.” You’ll start to see yourself as someone who can see the good in anyone and any situation
“You may think I’m small, but I have a universe inside my mind.”
Tip 7: Project. We all often tend to project negatively on others. Projection in psychology is applying traits and motivations on others based on our biases and experiences. Practice imagining other people around you are happy thoughts about you and themselves. Even if they don’t say it out loud. For example: “My boss is grateful that I’m taking care of this! Even if he doesn’t know about the details, it’s one less thing he has to think about”
Tip 8: Transform criticism into compliments. Imagine that anything negative someone says to you is a compliment. If someone says you need to do something better, think to yourself “Wow, he must really think I’m capable of improvement if he decided to share that.” And for times when others don’t believe in you? It’s just a compliment to be noticed.
“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.”
Dr. Mae Jemison, first African-American female astronaut
Tip 9: Change external circumstances. A study showed thathad an easier time changing other habits at the same time. Any time you have a new habit you’re working on, change your external world as much as possible. Consider ideas like always sit at your desk when you work on your art instead of sitting in bed with your laptop. Go to a coffee shop, art museum, or park to spark your imagination.
Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.