Where do you usually find yourself when you suddenly have those bursts of creative ideas? Those sudden brilliant solutions to problems?
Most people will say: “In the bath… in the shower… in bed… while driving… listening to music.”
All these states have one thing in common: the person is relaxed and solitary. It is in this relaxed state that your brain allows its imagination to express itself. It is also during this relaxed state that you can improve your imagination.
When your creative imagination flows smoothly, all your senses become more alert; your circulation is freer; your body more relaxed and stress-free; and your motivation and concentration enhanced.
Unfortunately, for many of us, our imagination is imprisoned when we are told not to use our senses, not to ask stupid questions, and certainly not to daydream. The good news, however, is that you can train yourself to improve your imagination, thus making yourself more creative.
Research has shown that your imagination, in the right side of your cortex, can be trained. And you can do this when you play games that improve your imagination.
Two simple imagination games
Here’s two imagination and creative games that you can use to train your brain:
1. Find the similarities of two objects.
Find as many similarities as you can between two seemingly unrelated things. For instance, an elephant and an apple.
To give you a head-start, here are a couple of similarities that made me smile. First, both apple and elephant have gravity in common; the apple inspired Newton and the elephant is the heaviest land mammal. Secondly, when it comes to spelling, the word elephant contains all the letters of the word apple.
In this game, the average total of similarities found is 10. But you could well go on to 100 if you really use your imagination.
2. Find the uses of an object.
Find as many uses as you can for something – say a dog. My top three are: as a loyal friend, as protector of my home, and as my exercise partner when I go jogging.
You will find when you do this exercise that every answer will give you a small creativity boost, and that some of the brilliant ones will often make you laugh.
The average number of uses discovered in this types of games is more than 20. Try it and see how many you can come up with.
When you train your brain and you improve your imagination, your whole life will improve.
Why you need to improve your imagination
One of the more inspiring quotes on imagination comes from Albert Einstein:
Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.Albert Einstein
So, what are the benefits on having a good imagination? Here’s what you can enhance when you improve your imagination:
Memory: Imagination involves different brain functions, such as memory, thoughts and emotions. When you improve your imagination, you also improve memory, intuition and other cognitive skills. Recent work has revealed that there are links between memory, imagination and problem solving, and increasing access to detailed memories can lead to improved imagination and problem-solving. (McFarland, 2017).
Problem solving: Imagination is critical for problem solving. Without imagination, you will find it difficult to see different possible solutions to solving a problem. So, play games that involve imagination like solving simple puzzles and quizzes, and you will improve your problem solving skills.
Leadership: To lead a team successfully, you must have imagination to see different directions and different opportunities. In business, sociologist Jim March believed that three qualities – imagination, self-knowledge and poise – were essential to leadership. (Patriotta, 2019).
Better well-being: According to psychologists Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman (Peterson, 2004), imagination is one of the 24 character strengths. Their research found that improving your character strengths will enhance your well-being including developing more resilience to help you go through difficult and challenging situations.
- Buzan, Tony. “Boosting Your Imagination.” Adapted with permission.
- McFarland, C.P., Primosch, M., Maxson, C.M. et al. “Enhancing memory and imagination improves problem solving among individuals with depression.” Memory & Cognition 45, 2017.
- Patriotta, G. “Imagination, self‐knowledge, and poise: Jim March’s lessons for leadership.” Journal of Management Studies, 56 (8), 2019.
- Peterson, C. & Seligman, M. “Character strengths and virtues.” American Psychological Association, 2004.