Out on a run this afternoon, I caught a ring of white caps out of the corner of my eye. A rare fairy circle sighting, so I went home to grab my camera and came back for this photo. Fairy circles like these pop up overnight, usually after a warm rain. Legend has it that the near perfect ring of mushrooms grow on the spot where elves or fairies had been dancing on a moon-filled night. It is considered dangerous or bad luck to step inside of the ring.
Back when my kids were little, we lived right next to a very large forest and we used to talk about fairies, elves, sprites and nymphs all the time. In the woods, we had fun building miniature fairy houses from bark, moss, mud and twigs. We read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings as bedtime stories, so it was easy for them to imagine these things as real. I still think about those days when their minds were so wide open, Belief and imagination fueled their everyday activities. I didn’t know it then, but we were building the stuff of dreams coming true.
Most of us in the U.S. grew up on Disney and still love a good kid’s movie. Why? Because in them we are reminded of the power of imagination and make believe. Sadly, few of us use it anymore in our daily lives (except super successful innovators and entrepreneurs, who do). I was talking about this concept last week in a post on gratitude. We don’t put much stock in our imagination, but we should. When we believe in something, we imagine the best and we begin to see possibility where it didn’t exist before. We build belief in something through our imagination of the good in it.
I used to think belief just was, a given. Like, I want to believe something, so I do. And in some cases, I suppose it can be that easy, but I think that true belief comes from the ability to stir the imagination. Our imaginations allow us to believe in things that might seem impossible – believe in them enough to make the impossible, possible. We know that’s true, because most things that are now possible were at one time thought impossible and only exist in our world because someone drew on the power of imagination to see a dream become reality.
Maybe a personal example might help. Last year, I made up my mind to get out of teaching at the university and to get into technical writing to increase my income level. I had NO tech writing experience; read it: NONE. But I had a Masters degree in creative writing – and in my mind, that had to be enough. But it wasn’t. For six months, I filled out application after application (over 40) and the few people who called me, asked the same question, “Do you have technical writing experience?”
“No,” I would say, “but I have WRITING experience.”
I just couldn’t bring myself to say “yes.” It felt like a lie.
To me they were the same, but to the hiring agents, not so.
If no one was going to give me a chance to get the experience, I had to come up with another strategy, because the one I had wasn’t working. Even though I knew I could do the actual work, deep down, I had a hard time really believing that anyone would hire me without experience.
But I wasn’t giving up. Drawing on my imagination, I began to ask myself, what does tech writing experience look and feel like? If I had experience, what would I be doing? I got a little coaching on this one from my sister who is great at getting jobs and she happened to believe in me more than I did. She helped me “onboard” my imagination. She gave me some practice (pretend) technical writing jobs to get my imagination flowing. She showed me the tools (software) she used as a tech writer and let me play around with it for a while. After that, I began checking out online tutorials for technical writing programs like FSPro and Visio. I took the tutorials and practiced my own tech writing samples. I began “pretending” I was a technical writer. I grew in confidence and even volunteered to help a small computer startup write some technical documents for free. I had nothing to lose; it was just “make believe.” Or was it?
When we don’t have experience, we don’t really know if we can do something. We can only imagine. When we have big dreams, no matter what they are, we must rely on our ability to envision the dream a reality. Nothing else will give us the desire and drive to follow through, if we can’t at least imagine the reality of it. For kids, imagination comes naturally. As adults we have to turn it on like a power tool we keep stored in the garage. We have to use it to our advantage. When things seem out of reach for us, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are. Rather than give in to defeat, Try to see what imagination can do for you.
Then follow-through. Intention that has to, at some point, attach itself to your imagination.
Ask yourself, what one little thing can you do to act on your imagination. For me it was the practice tests and online tutorials.
Within two months of tapping my imagination, I was hired, over the phone, as a technical writer. I have to attribute my success at passing the interview to my imagination. Our imagination muscle has the power to build up our beliefs. It allows us to mentally play with an idea long enough to begin bringing it into reality. When we imagine, we can begin to place our ideas through the filters of our known experience to see how they might hold up, or not. In my case, I was able to gain experience with the actions and language of technical writing without having any real work experience. It gave me enough traction to be able to talk about it intelligently and answer questions confidently in an interview. In essence, I learned how to believe in myself and my skills enough to sell them to someone else. Imagination gives us the courage to say yes to believing in our own ability. We engage our imagination to build our belief system, then we can make our dreams reality.
Have you ever used your imagination to overcome something that seemed impossible or out of reach? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!