Imagination is what inspires the creation of ideas, and the possibilities therein are boundless. Being told to ‘let your imagination run wild’ isn’t just a euphemism; it truly is a place where you can let loose without being inhibited by the past or the present. Imagination is about the future. Ideas are the future.
As children we were told to use it (‘use your imagination’) or asked whether we’ve misplaced it (‘where’s your imagination?’). On the contrary, we were also told as children to ‘stop daydreaming,’ when in fact, daydreaming is one of the key elements of imagination and creativity, according to Scott Barry Kaufman, scientific director of the Imagination Institute. It’s no wonder there’s confusion about how wild we should be letting our imagination run. As Kaufman says: “We feel as though imagination is a very neglected, yet very valuable skill in the 21st century.”
The mission of the Imagination Institute is to stimulate the field of imagination. A laudable and necessary mission indeed. Necessary because we’re in an age where we’re constantly distracted and information is freely available. Sometimes we need to stop going in search of distractions and information and to instead put our minds to work or simply let our minds wander. Kaufman says there is an environmental element to imagination, with those who are considered to be more imaginative having experienced greater resources and encouragement to imagine and create.
Reading or listening to someone tell a story is a good form of training for our imagination, as we’re required to conjure up an entire world in our mind. What makes it so special is that it’s also entirely unique; you can try, but you can’t really share your imagination with anyone else. Which is why it’s also our responsibility to nurture and use it.