Imagination On Hold

If you have kids or if you are working with kids, chances are you intuitively know what Dr. George Land found in his research: we are all born creative. Imagination is not merely an ability we all have. As young children, imagination is an essential part of our lives. Imagination, combined with observation, is how we learn about the world, how we learn about ourselves, and the force that drives us forward.

Most of us intuitively feel that as we grow up, imagination takes a smaller part in our daily routine. The research done by Dr. Land shows that while 98% of 5-year olds are creative, only 2%(!) of adults are. In the same spirit, most of the people I meet claim with complete confidence that they are “just not the creative type.”

Does our imagination just fade away when we grow up? Is our creativity designed to start with a bang and quickly decline? And how come some people remain imaginative and creative in everything they do.

A few days ago I chatted with a Dr. Gillian Judson who is working on bringing back imagination to the front of the education system. She claimed imagination does not fade away since our brain is wired to be imaginative and as an example the fact that seempli works and invokes immediate Insights just shows that this core skill is not lost.

So, why do many of us feel we are not creative and why in many situations in our professional and personal lives we find it hard to imagine a different alternative and come up with a creative solution? I believe that we are just putting our imagination on hold. Here’s what I mean.

Patterns and Rewards

As much as your brain is wired to be creative and imaginative, it also loves patterns. As much as your mind likes surprises, it has a tendency toward the expected. In many cases, this bias toward patterns and expected results is just what we need. The origin of this tendency is survival, and when push comes to shove (read: when you are standing in front of a hungry lion), we benefit a lot from expected results based on patterns we know and can apply immediately.

One way the brain adopts new behavioral patterns is by being rewarded. And this is where the external world has a massive impact on what your mind perceives as a good pattern to follow. If you have young children, you probably find yourself saying numerous times “Wow! Look at this! What an imagination!”. And you really mean it too. Our kids continually amaze us with how they see and perceive the world and what they make of it. We reward their natural tendency to imagine and create with authentic compliments and enthusiasm, and as a result, this behavior is reinforced.

But then something changes.

New Expectations — New Behavior

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It’s not long before the world around us starts sending us a different kind of messages. All of a sudden there are right and wrong answers and predefined methods for solving problems. There’s even a proper way to write — as in hold the pencil — and the message is clear: be aligned or be diagnosed. Soon after that, there are grades, and levels, and tags (“he is the analytical type, not the creative type”).

In most cases, schools, universities, as well as our immediate and closest environment at home, send us a strict message: get the right answer, and you will be rewarded. And our brain adopts this pattern: we need to find the quickest way to the right answer. Risks, detours, explorations, and creative methods are just not being rewarded. And needless to say that later, as adults, our working environment is likely to send us the exact same message.

So we have our natural creative wiring on one-hand and an entirely different set of rewarded behavioral patterns on the other. And guess what, in most cases, the latter prevails. With no real reward, our brain puts imagination on hold. It is there alright, but when we have a chance to use it, we unconsciously consider it against the alternative: the safe bet of doing more of the same with expected (though not necessarily effective) results.

Re-Igniting Creativity

I often say we need to practice our creative skills just like we train to develop our physical fitness. This analogy is not perfect though. If you are not in good physical shape, you practically start from scratch. You have to gradually build your muscles or make them more flexible. With imagination and creativity, you have this encapsulated potential even if you didn’t knowingly use it for years. You just need a trigger to consciously use it, and amazing things will happen. You need to jump-start it.

As Dr. Judson suggested, I see this happen on a daily basis: people working with seempli create inspiring, imaginative Insights from day one. Like any skill, the more you use it, the more natural it gets. However, if you give yourself a real chance — a deliberate and honest attempt to observe, imagine and create — you will see you already have what it takes.

The key to becoming more creative when you really need it is training your mind to use the creative operating-mode by default. And that is where a daily practice comes in handy. When you play with seempli on a daily basis you are challenging your brain to see things differently. You are re-igniting your imagination. And you are rewarding your brain by capturing great Insights — you practically smile more! By doing so, you are gradually changing your behavioral pattern. You are convincing your brain that the creative path is a path worth taking. Eventually, this will become your primary operating mode.


[clickToTweet tweet=”Don’t forget there is also another path — the #creative path. It might be a detour, but the destination can be much more meaningful than taking the shortest route.” quote=”Don’t forget there is also another path — the creative path. It might be a detour, but the destination can be much more meaningful than taking the shortest route.”]

We are born creative.

Our imagination is what makes us unique among all the creatures on earth. We are not losing this capability as we grow up — our imagination does not fade away. But many of us forget imagination is an essential part of our mental toolbox. It is our responsibility to use our creative potential.

Don’t ignore the demand for straightforward results. But don’t forget there is also another path — the creative path. It might be a detour, but the destination can be much more meaningful than taking the shortest route. Train your mind to do what it is built to do — what you did so naturally when you were a child.

Imagine. Be creative. Change the world.

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