At some or the other point of time in your life, you must have found yourself in such a situation where solution of a stubborn problem comes into sight only when you shift your focus to something that is completely unrelated with the problem at hand. Suppose you are trying to evolve a pattern for your preparation of a competitive examination and things are just not falling in place, but suddenly an out-of-the-box idea strikes when you were thinking about something entirely different and this unexpectedly solves your actual problem. Archimedes, after all, found the idea of his famous law of physics while having a bath.
In fact, all of us often face this kind of situation when, stuck with a problem, we find solution of it in some ostensibly unrelated thought, memory or experience of ours. Why does it happen? What is this phenomenon? To put it succinctly, it is the power of imagination. It is the ability to produce and simulate novel objects, sensations and ideas in the mind without any immediate input of the senses. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality.” Every walking second, our brain is bombarded with a buzzing, booming, blooming, blossoming mosaic of colours, shapes and movements; the capacity to make associations among all these bits of information and synthesise them into patterns and concepts is imagination.
Aristotle believed that imagination is one of the foundations of all knowledge. Albert Einstein professed that the true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination. He went to the extent of saying that imagination is everything; it is the preview of life’s coming attractions. Not without reason, as he explains, “To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.” For him, logic takes you from A to B while imagination takes you everywhere. Charles Darwin wrote that imagination unites former images and ideas, independently of the will, and thus creates brilliant and novel results. Imagination is what distinguishes an inventor from a non-inventor.
Can we hone and improve our imagination? Yes, we can. Your imagination is as strong as your repertoire of information, thoughts and experiences is. Hence, one of the fundamental requirements of being more imaginative is to make this reservoir as rich as you can. Make it a practice to talk to the people from different walks of life. Occasionally, make a foray out and beyond your subjects. Always find time to read books on varied subjects. Your cursory knowledge of social sciences may even give you an idea about a problem you are facing in your core subject. A classic novel of 18th century may help you solve a problem of today. Therefore, always try and create complex and varied lenses to see the world.
There are some simple habits that can help you make your imagination fertile. For one, keep your mind open to unexplored paths since creativity is often tagged together with originality. You must also try and be a good story-teller. When you narrate a fictional story, your mind becomes active to conjure up multiple images and details, increasing your power of imagination. Practice imaginative and creative thinking by telling as many stories as you can. Then, learning new things sparks creativity and enhances imagination. A part of learning new things is being curious. Feed your curiosity by asking questions. Also, you must never be shy of trying something new. If you keep on doing same things, you will not only keep on receiving the same things but also give a detrimental rest to your imagination. Aerobic exercises clear the cobwebs from our mind and give us insights that are out of our reach when we are sedentary. Exercise stimulates our imagination and makes us more creative. Einstein thought of his theory of relativity “while riding bicycle”. New ideas tend to bubble up and crystallise when you are inside an aerobic
zone. You are able to connect the dots and solve a problem with a cognitive flexibility that you don’t have when you are sitting idle.
So, besides the few such suggestions as above, find out your own ways to hone your power of imagination and you will find that your personality has become more capable and creative.
With best of wishes for all of your endeavours.