Paxson Woelber, Flickr
“Imagination is absolutely critical to the quality of our lives.
Imagination gives us the opportunity to envision new possibilities — it is an essential launchpad for making our hopes come true.
It fires our creativity, relieves our boredom, alleviates our pain, enhances our pleasure, and enriches our most intimate relationships.
When people are constantly and compulsively pulled back into the past to the last time they felt deep involvement in deep emotions, they suffer
from a failure of imagination, a loss of mental flexibility.
Without imagination, there is no hope, no chance to envision a better future, no place to go, no goal to reach.”
― Bessel A. van der Kolk
Dr. Carol Dweck, the prominent Stanford psychologist did something profound. She changed the way the entire field of psychology is explained and popularized an idea that is so powerful.
In her research, primarily among students but also among professionals, she drilled down two core mindsets that people generally fall under:
- Fixed mindset
- Growth mindset
A “fixed” mindset means that you don’t believe you can learn or develop in a certain area. You are literally stuck and “fixed.”
A “growth” mindset means you believe you can learn and develop in a particular area.
People who have a fixed mindset have a complete lack of imagination. They lack emotional flexibility. They are trapped in a story. More than likely, they have experienced some form a “trauma” that has them literally living in and repeating the past, day in and day out.
When you’ve experienced some form of trauma in your past, you develop a completely bloated and exaggerated fear of risk and failure. You begin living in a very small bubble. Going out of the bubble will push too hard on the emotional pain of whatever happened in your life.
So you continue living in the past.
You build your life around AVOIDING pain, rather than embracing growth and learning.
According to the Nobel Prize-winning research done on what is now called “Prospect Theory,” behavioral economist Dr. Daniel Kahneman showed that people are extremely terrified of LOSS.
Losing a possession.
Losing a relation.
Losing all of the work you’ve put into something.
When we have ownership over something, we exaggerate its value by 500 to 700%!
Again in psychology, there is another extremely helpful model for understanding behavior and motivation. According to the theory, we learn that people are motivated by either loss or gain by having what is known as an “avoid-orientation” or an “approach-orientation.”
Those with an avoid-orientation focus on the risks involved in a venture. They fear failure. They don’t want to lose. They are trying to maintain their current position. They are worried about what other people think about them.
Conversely, those with an approach-orientation are far more growth-oriented. They’re willing to play life on offense. They’re willing to RISK THEIR CURRENT POSITION — no matter how much hard work and effort went into getting where they are — for the opportunity, not the guarantee, of a better future.
People with an avoid orientation want things to be guaranteed. They won’t take risks if the outcome isn’t totally guaranteed. They need security because, in truth, they lack internal freedom. They lack the freedom to play big.
They lack the freedom to play.
They lack the freedom to fail.
They lack the imagination to wonder what is possible.
They are emotionally inflexible.
They are living from their past.
The mindset involved in getting precisely what you want
With that beautiful backdrop of psychological explanation, I offer you a mindset for getting exactly what you want.
Dan Sullivan, the founder of Strategic Coach — which is the #1 entrepreneurial coaching program in the world — has a saying: “Your eyes can only see and ears can only hear what your brain is looking for.”
Dan’s observation happens to be rooted in neuroscience. A concept known as “selective attention” shows us that we can literally train our brains to focus on certain things.
You can train your brain to focus on the positive in life.
You can train your brain to focus on the negative.
Hence, Dr. Stephen Covey said, “We see the world, not as it is, but as we are──or, as we are conditioned to see it.”
No one has an objective perspective of the world. We all have subjective perspectives. Each and every one of us has a different brain that has been TRAINED to focus on certain things in the world.
What you focus on EXPANDS and becomes real for you. You are, quite literally, attracting into your world everything you are focusing on.
Most people have NOT trained their brain to focus on WHAT THEY WANT. Instead, their brain is focusing on what culture, society, and their own history have led them to focus on.
If you’ve had hard experiences in your past — which we all have — this may have led you to focus on how things will go wrong. Such “trauma” — no matter how big or small — has you stuck living a shell of existence.
So how do you train your brain to get what you want? You imagine your absolute ideal.
What is it you want?
Where do you want to be?
Who do you want to be?
Can you see it?
Can you see that place you want to be?
Can you imagine it?
If you can imagine where you want to be, then what you MUST do is trigger that imaginative state DAILY. You must trigger it OVER AND OVER. You must trigger it every morning.
You must trigger it and connect it emotionally to your identity, your worldview, and everything about you.
If you don’t trigger your imagination every day, then you lack imagination, and if you lack imagination, then you are living in the past and have a fixed mindset.
But if you’re willing to play by a different set of rules than others and even by your own past, then you can play by the rules of your future — the rules of imagination.
If you play by the rules of your future, then you can operate RIGHT NOW — and every single day — from the notion that WHAT YOU WANT will happen.
As an example, when I started blogging 3.5 years ago, I started writing NOT AS A BEGINNER. Instead, I started writing from my imagined END.
Stephen Covey explains that we must BEGIN WITH THE END IN MIND. That’s imagination at work. But we need to do more than simply “begin” with the end in mind. We need to operate from the end in mind in ALL that we do.
If you CREATE and live from the perspective of your ideal end, then you can START as a pro!
Because your imagination and growth-mindset will give you the willingness to learn and fail over and over. You won’t see learning as a failure, but as EXPERIENCE.
But you won’t just be failing in the way most people fail in the beginning. Because you’ll see where you want to go AND KNOW that you can get there. So your failure will look quite good to most observers — even if you’re falling flat on your face from your own perspective and emotional experience.
There is a big difference between “failure” and “learning,” and it has everything to do with your future and your past.
If you don’t evolve beyond your past, then your “failures” will remain a failure and so will you. But if you’re willing to embrace a bigger future, then any failure in your past will immediately transform to “learning” and “experience.”
Thomas Edison failed over 1,000 times inventing the light-bulb. But none of us consider those “failures.” We consider each one a step forward.
However, we only see his “learning” as experience because he ultimately succeeded. Hindsight bias is real. Edison would not be denied. He continued operating from the notion of his ultimate ideal.
He made his future bigger than his past.
Anyone who has done ANYTHING powerful in their lives or in the world at large operates out of imagination.
They operate FROM their future. They know that what they want CAN be theirs — and this internal security and freedom gives them the peace of mind to relentlessly pursue bigger and bigger obstacles and risks to achieve their dreams.
When you have HUGE DREAMS you’re pursuing, you will fail a great deal. When you fail a great deal, you learn very quickly.
If you’re not embarrassed by who you were last year, you didn’t learn much.
But most people aren’t embarrassed by who they were last year.
Because they aren’t pursuing big dreams.
Instead, they are living highly predictable lives that reflect their past, not their future.
When you are actively and aggressively pursuing BIG DREAMS, you will learn a HUGE AMOUNT.
You’ll ride high-highs and low-lows. And you’ll be fine with the emotional journey because you know that as you embrace difficult emotions, you are literally rewiring your brain circuitry.
When you rewire your brain circuitry, you change yourself. You change your memories. You change your identity.
How much imagination has brought you to where you currently are?
Do you have a fixed or growth mindset?
Do you have a big future full of dreams you are pursuing?
Do you see where you want to go?
Are you ACTING from the victory of your highest ideals?
If you ACT AS IF what you want will be yours — no matter how big — that action will be bold and powerful.
You’ll quickly succeed.
I’ve watched it in my life. I’ve seen it in my mentors.
You can act now FROM your wildest dreams being completed.
But will you?
Will you TRIGGER your deepest imagination on a daily basis so that your brain literally rewires to become that new and imagined self?
Will you act powerfully toward your dreams every day, and thus shatter your subconscious blocks?
Will you live from your future? Or, will you repeat your past like most people?
Ready to upgrade?
I’ve created a cheat sheet for putting yourself into a PEAK-STATE, immediately. You follow this daily, your life will change very quickly.
This article first appeared on Medium.