Imagination—the power to reach beyond our physical senses, to make leaps of thought, to communicate through symbols and stories, to conceive of what does not (yet) exist—is the hidden force behind every human action, invention, and accomplishment.
Everything we manifest in this world, individually or collectively, is first imagined. Tribes, nations, governments, religions, fashions, and financial systems are as much products of the imagination as much as any poem or painting.
All values are mental creations. What is a dollar bill or a gold bar intrinsically worth? Nothing but what we (ourselves and others) imagine it to be worth. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, the city bank may be made of solid granite but it rests on a foundation of pure thought.
The powers of the mind—imagination, perception, reason, memory, and so on—flow together and depend upon each other. There’s no part of your mind devoid of imagination. Whether you’re perceiving the world around you, performing the task at hand, dwelling on past events, or brainstorming future possibilities, your imagination is at work.
We often speak of a strong and active imagination as something granted only to a few—artists, composers, inventors, visionaries—and used only in a handful of occupations. This is a false and limiting belief. (Limiting beliefs are one of the many ways we turn our imagination against ourselves!)
The truth is, we each possess a brilliant and boundless imagination, which is continually active whether we’re conscious of it or not.
In 2007, researchers conducted an experiment with hotel maids who considered themselves sedentary and out of shape. Half of the maids were told that their daily tasks, like vacuuming and scrubbing, actually involved a great deal of physical exercise. After one month, these women—who were now aware of exercising as they went about their usual work—showed significant improvements in their health and fitness metrics. The control group, who were told nothing, showed no changes.
What if we became more conscious of imagination in our daily lives?
What if we approached every occupation as a creative one? And every task as an opportunity to manifest our unseen thoughts and values?
What if teachers presented every subject—including history and mathematics—as the imaginative arena it truly is?
What difference would it make?
Can you imagine?
Sam Torode is an artist, musician, and author of novels and books including The Dirty Parts of the Bible, Living from the Soul: The 7 Spiritual Principles of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and his latest, Secrets of the Mind: Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Keys to Expansive Mental Powers.