The Power of Imagination can help us make essential decisions grounded in reality yet inspired by possibility.
The Power of Imagination is what shapes the future. In yoga, there is a concept called vikalpa, or imagination. Vikalpa is an idea or abstraction that has no basis in reality. It comes from a concept in the mind that does not exist in the outside world. Yet imagination creates abstract thoughts, which may eventually manifest practically or lead to a higher level of understanding beyond our limited intellect.
Here are examples of great leaders who harness the power of imagination:
- Dr. Martin Luther King used his Power of Imagination to give momentum to the human rights movement. Dr. King delivered a speech in 1963 that we still recite today, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.”
- B Lab believes that business should be used as a force for good. Therefore, the network of B Corp certified companies, including ZaaS, is collectively utilizing the Power of Imagination to transform the global economy to benefit all people, communities, and the planet.
- Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, encourages employees to think in 5-7 year timeframes. People often congratulate Bezos on quarterly results, but for Bezos, these results were in the creation years ago. Today, he’s thinking about a quarter that will happen five years from now. Next quarter, for all practical purposes, is probably already done and has been done for a couple of years. This mentality is not a natural way for humans to think. Bezos believes the Power of Imagination is a discipline you must train. This discipline harnesses the power of vikalpa.
The Power of Imagination for Good
Daydreams are a form of imagination. Daydreams can be helpful if they are uplifting and positive. For example, thinking of yourself winning a race or imagining all business as a force for good are examples of uplifting daydreams. Likewise, visualizing yourself in a healthy and caring work environment will positively impact your psyche and may help materialize that wish.
Additionally, ideas that seem crazy or impossible, or impractical when they occur can lead to significant discoveries and valuable inventions. High-level, abstract thinking, such as the kind involved in theoretical mathematics or musical composition, challenges the brain and cultivates forward-thinking and creativity. A teacher or manager can inspire a student or employee to try out ideas and see if they become a reality. Imaginative play can stimulate the brain in a very healthy way. Keeping our minds open to unforeseen possibilities helps us grow, progress, and improve.
If imagination is linked to realistic possibilities, it can be helpful. For example, let’s say you do not like your current position but stay in it for the money or familiarity. You feel stuck. But if you spend time imagining what you want to do, the mind comes up with a way to actualize your desire. In addition, you may meet new people doing similar things that will help you move in that new direction.
For example, I’ve had many students undergo Office Yoga Instructor Training while working. Soon after, they bring yoga to their workplaces. By believing that mindfulness was needed at work, they found a program that supports this and brought that knowledge to their offices.
Wasting the Power of Imagination
Daydreams can be harmful if they distract our attention from something important. For example, driving a car while daydreaming may cause an accident. Likewise, daydreaming during a presentation may cause us to miss critical points.
Fantasies also have the potential to be detrimental. If the mind is preoccupied with a story about becoming rich quickly or dating an unavailable colleague, our attention has turned outward to possessions and success. We are likely to suffer if we make decisions based on unrealistic fantasies. In this way, imagination can contribute to misperception and delusion.
The next time you notice yourself daydreaming in a way that may be detrimental to your mind, try and shift your attention* to something positive or productive. For example, if you find yourself daydreaming about working for a company that gives back to the community and/or environment, carve out 30 min of your day looking through the B Corp directory or 1% for the Planet.
Great leaders have learned how to harness the power of imagination. How we work with our imagination can shape our future. Daydreams that divert our attention and cause present or future suffering can also be avoided. Encourage constructive ideas that support or enhance our lives and the lives of others.
*This specific shift in attention is another concept in yoga called pratipaksa bhavana, when something isn’t working, do the opposite. More on that later.
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