Cultivating Imagination

When I first started thinking about this post, it was tentatively titled "Cultivating an Adventurous Mindset." There are hundreds - thousands even -- of articles and pinned images about being adventurous, brave, or bold. But the more I thought about what causes boldness, the more I realized that I was missing a huge component. You can only execute bold, adventurous, brave ideas if you have the idea to begin with. I realized the question I was asking was less "How do you cultivate an adventurous mindset?" and more, "How do you cultivate imagination?"

Gorgeous vistas just seem appropriate to the topic, yes? Do you feel imaginative yet? Taken by me in Tahiti.

To back this post up a bit, this whole train of thought started when I read a blog post last week by Andrew from National Geographic. Andrew has a dream job; he travels around the world and gets paid for it. The post I read was about how he ran across the country of Lichtenstein. Literally. The country's only 16 miles from top to bottom so he decided to run across it. The whole post can be read here.

Despite the fact that I'm prone to running longer distances at times, it never would have occurred to me to run across a small country. My mind simply never went there. That's my loss because it's a cool accomplishment.

So the wheels started turning. How can all of us be more imaginative so we can create these one-of-a-kind experiences for ourselves? Beyond experiences, how can we train ourselves to think bigger and bolder about our style so our homes are more Kelly Wearstler or Miles Redd and less beige? Or even, how can we train ourselves to problem solve the way Steve Jobs did?

Another landscape shot, just because. Taken in New Zealand.

I've been contemplating this for a week, and my conclusion is, it is going to take practice. Here are the six steps I plan to try to enhance my imagination:

1. Be open to inspiration
Unless we're talking about copyrighted work, there's no shame in a little imitation. Replicating the great ideas of others will still (likely) give you an amazing, memorable experience or result. Even better, it's a great starting point to come up with your own experiences. Thinking about running across Lichtenstein got me thinking about biking across the state of Tennessee, which then got me thinking about traveling across the country via public transportation. You need to start somewhere. 

2. Think "and then..."
I was lucky to attend a business inspiration session with the famous Chicago improv group Second City last spring, and one of the biggest things that stuck with me was "Think 'and then...'" Their point was, instead of taking someone's idea and finding all the flaws with it, they take the idea and build on it, literally thinking "and then..."

3. Don't self edit
In the same vein as number 2, have you ever had a great idea, but before you've even finished formulating the idea you've already managed to talk yourself out of it? Yeah- we need to stop doing that. Let's let ideas breath for a bit before ruling them out. Maybe they're more feasible than we originally think.

4. Shift the converation
We tend to hang out with people like ourselves so it's likely your friends are as cool, interesting and adventurous as you (with great taste to boot.) So it's time to recruit them. Next time I'm at dinner with one of my girlfriends, I think we need to have a creative brainstorming session about my poor, sad bathroom, or maybe my next vacation. There's usually wine involved in my dinners, which can only help.

5. Take an interesting class
If you find a class called "Improve Your Imagination", by all means proceed and let me know how it goes, but I'm thinking more along the lines of an upholstery class, a photography class, a knitting class, etc. You don't know what you don't know and the only way to combat that is to continue learning. Who knows- an Italian class may be the spark that drives you to pack up, move to Tuscany and start WWOOFing.

6. Surround yourself with creative things
Our environment has a huge impact on us, so make it creative. I have a tendency to frame photos not because of the quality of the photo, but because of the interesting activity that was occurring when it was taken (like biking to the Jack Daniel's distillery and back. That photo certainly isn't framed because I look good in it.) I like having these reminders of how great life can be if I do something outside the norm.

A little visual symbolism for the end of the post. Also New Zealand.

So that's my plan. I'd love to start a discussion that includes not only other ways to improve your powers of imagination, but also what imaginative ideas you've cooked up. Your ideas may get the ball rolling for someone else. I know for me, I've been giving some thoughts to other topics that would fit an Anthology Magazine style. Now your turn...


Amberly said...

This is such a great post, I love the thought you put into it. It's such a great thing to read before the weekend too. I met a guy once who rode a bicycle across a few countries in Africa (I don't remember which ones), and he didn't speak any of the native languages. It sounded kind of insane but was really energizing to hear his story at the same time.

My mind tends to be all over the place when I'm trying to brainstorm, so this is a great list to refer to. And it's useful in so many ways like you say - decorating your home, planning a trip, volunteering on a project, etc. etc. I especially like the idea of asking "and then" and also training yourself to find inspiration in unique places. I started carrying a little spiral notebook in my purse that is solely for in-the-moment inspiration. I find that even just being conscious of it being with me puts me in a more thoughtful, curious mindset.

The more I think about it, the more I bet there is a TED Talk or an NPR Podcast on this very topic. I may try and look for one. Again, great post! Have an awesome weekend!

Kim @ See Kim Decorate said...

Thanks Amberly! The notebook is a good idea. I may have to try that. I would add biking across random African countries to it because that's just cool!

Let me know if you find an interesting TED Talk/podcast. I'd be interested to see it.

catherinebridgers said...

Hiya Kim!

Even though I have never considered myself creative, I find inspiration most often when I interact with others and when I question the status quo. As my Cajun grandfather used to say, "How come dat is?" What a great way, to ask "Why?"

I also think that inspiration can be an enhancement of what's already out there too.

For note-taking, check out "Mind-mapping", by Tony Buzan.

Love your blog, because I sooo struggle with decorating!

Kim @ See Kim Decorate said...

I LOVE that Catherine! I'm so going to start using that. How come dat is?

And thanks! Decorating can be tricky. I've been debating on a new couch for a year now!