Today’s society leaves us little time to indulge in the beautiful pastime of daydreaming…of imagining. We’re connected and online 24/7, our days are overscheduled, and downtime for many people seems non-existent.
An endangered species: daydream
While productivity has increased in many ways, there have been several casualties of today’s unprecedented pace. One of the endangered species in all of this, I think, is the permission we give ourselves to get lost in our imagination. And in today’s society, where information and demands are coming at us from every direction – where people literally walk around plugged into multiple devices on their ears, arms, and hips like a mobile electrical outlet – we owe it to ourselves to simply release and disconnect – if only for a brief time.
When was the last time you gave yourself permission to daydream? When did you last just let your imagination simply carry you away?
Children are our greatest teachers of imagination.
Children aren’t tethered to a sense of reality that hinders them from creating the impossible. They concoct fantastic storylines, places, relationships, and adventures. According to Paul L. Harris, an expert on early childhood development at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, approximately 65 percent of children under 7 have imaginary friends. Based on the most recent U.S. census survey, there are 23,652,523 children between the ages of 2 and 7. So hypothetically, there could be 16 million imaginary friends living in our society.
And contrary to popular opinion…
These imaginary friends do not sprout up from a deep dark place inside the insecure, confused mind of the child. Rather, they emerge from a place of joy and fun. These imaginary companions are not substitutes for a missing component, or an escape to a better place. They simply represent pure, clean, unbridled joy and friendship. We had an imaginary friend living with us for a quite a while between the years of 2001-2003. For about 2 years, we had to provide a place setting at the table for our oldest son’s companion, say good night to him, and even buckle him in the car.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.” – Albert Einstein
Catalyst to empathy
For adults and children alike, imagination is not only our capacity to envision what does not yet exist. It is also the catalyst that enables us to empathize with others. Imagination enables us to put ourselves in another person’s position – to walk a mile in their shoes. And this ability to learn and understand what others are experiencing through the actions and emotions of others is an extraordinary, valuable ability. Therefore, it’s important that we all make an effort to exercise the power of our imagination – whether it is through the art of self expression, the performing arts, reading, or simply daydreaming.
Like a muscle, our ability to imagine will atrophy if not exercised.
I love to be completely lost in a romantic novel, or a deeply moving play or performance. The ability to be transformed to another world – even if for just a brief period in time – gives our hearts and our minds a well-deserved rest from the assault of daily pressures, and reinvigorates us to face our challenges head-on.
“Live out of your imagination, not your history.” – Stephen Covey
Imagination is the foundation for all invention and innovation.
It is our gateway to a better world; it is the blueprint for progress that is not shackled by any impediments that often prevent us from forging ahead. When we imagine what might be, we do so by stepping away from all that surrounds us at that point in time. Imagination gives us the gift of no boundaries.
As an entrepreneur, my imagination is a cornerstone of my success.
I am a visionary.
I don’t allow myself to be constrained by thoughts such as, “that will never work,” or “it costs too much money” or “other companies are already doing that.” I leave those thoughts to the realists (and to my management team).
Companies are built upon imagination.
Business owners believe they have a unique ability to bring a benefit to the market in a way that has never been done before, or introduce a product that will be transformative. They see a better a way, and want to breathe it, feel it, articulate it, and build it. We all benefit from the imaginations of others.
Think about the connection between imagination and empathy.
Being able to truly sense what others need – to interject yourself into their world and to have a grasp on what they are thinking and feeling – all of that stems from our imagination. This is an essential element to sales success – being able to identify with your customer’s pain points, and authentically grasp what they require to move beyond their current obstacle. In business, feeling the customer’s pain is just as important (if not more so) as hearing it.
Serving your customer from your heart – from a place of feeling – is far more powerful and connective than simply serving them from your head.
The link: imagination, empathy, and business
The connection between imagination, empathy, and business may be a stretch for some. But if you allow the idea to breathe…if you give it a chance to grow within you, it may take you (and your business) to a place that you have not yet envisioned.
“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.”
- Science Of Strategy Institute and how strategy requires empathy;
- Marissa Levin and her series on small business and sales strategy at Women Grow Business.
Guest contributor Marissa Levin is Founder and CEO of Information Experts. Launching a new Women Grow Business series on sales strategy, Marissa was named a 2008 BRAVO Award winner by SmartCEO Magazine (which honors the region’s 25 most influential women CEOs) and recently was listed in Washington’s 100 Technology Titans by Washingtonian Magazine. Describing her true passion as “helping other business owners be successful with their own business growth”, Marissa can be reached through her blog Marissa Levin.
(Image Imagine by BilliePartsNPieces, Creative Commons)Google+