While it’s often likened to daydreaming, strategically using imagination to change your life takes a little more skill development and engaged focus. The great news is that it doesn’t need to cost you a cent to get started, and the benefits you can achieve are unlimited!
Using your imagination to change and improve parts of your life requires planning, practice, and technique refinement. However, set against carefully crafted goals, you can transform the world around you. If you’re not familiar with ways to use your imagination to turn your life around, it’s time to discover the power of that little pot of gold nestled in that grey matter between your ears.
What Powers Your Imagination and Perception Is Incredibly Similar
Your imagination is undoubtedly one of the most powerful change agents that is 100% governed by you. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging studies, researchers have found that those areas of the brain that help you imagine visuals are highly similar to those that allow you to see them in reality. They documented that approximately 90% overlapped with the most active frontal and parietal regions.((Science Direct: Brain areas underlying visual mental imagery and visual perception: an fMRI study))
The research results indicate that the more skilled an individual is at exercising imagery techniques, the more similar the activation in those brain regions become. The reason is that the mental control processes operating in both actual perception and imagery areas are almost the same.
This suggests that if there is little difference between the memory we develop from our imagination and perception of actual experience, we have higher power to influence the lens through which we perceive and experience future events. If you alter our understanding and start using imagination to change your life, you have a more exceptional ability to shape your future!
1. Exercising Your Imagination Strengthens Confidence to Chase Greater Goals
If you don’t dare to dream, you already deny yourself the right to lead a possibly fulfilling life, which can be beyond your current safety-zone mindset. Allowing your imagination to be cheeky unleashes your capacity to explore your potential in ways you may never have imagined.
You can take risks in your mind and consider potential consequences – good and bad – without experiencing the latter in reality. In fact, no one needs even to know what you’re thinking about! You can entertain a universe of possibilities in the safety of your private thought space anytime, anywhere.
Using imagination to change your life and dream of possibilities helps determine what actions you need to take. Where your mind goes, energy flows. Constructive and strategic use of your imagination governs the direction in which your efforts will take you. After all, as you dream of the possibilities, you unconsciously and automatically explore how you relate to them.
The focus of your attention tells your brain what is important and what to notice. Because your mind predominantly functions as a problem-solving device, what you deliberately think about and imagine will strengthen neurocircuitry’s activation, helping you find opportunities to bring those things to fruition.
2. You Improve Personal Effectiveness in Concentration, Productivity, and Happiness
According to Harvard psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert, our minds are wandering off on subjects that we’re not meant to be doing 46.9% of the time.((AAAS: A Wandering Mind Is an Unhappy Mind)) It entails that this aimless mind-wandering typically makes people unhappy.
Meanwhile, Harvard professor Dr. Srini Pillay explains how we can steer our wandering imagination through positive, constructive daydreaming (PCD) to serve us better and increase our happiness.((Harvard Business Review: Your Brain Can Only Take So Much Focus)) While engaging in a pressure-free activity such as knitting, walking, or gardening, we gently direct our minds to percolate and think around ideas, possibilities, and problems. Pillay suggests starting with imagining something playful or relaxing in your mind’s eye. Then, pivot toward expanding your imagination to explore opportunities as you hold this fun image in your head.
As you see yourself reclining on the deck of a yacht sailing in the Bahamas, you feel the sun’s warmth. Your lungs are grateful to inhale pristine clean air fully; you can smell the seawater. This scenario relaxes your mind and body. And as you lay there, you think about your priorities and plans.
Strategically planting periods throughout the day improves our concentration and productivity by creating relaxed and pressure-free spaces in our minds. We’re no longer mind-wandering aimlessly. Instead, we’re creatively thinking and having a far more enjoyable time as we do it! If you need more help to boost your productivity, check this out: 50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time
3. You Become More Attuned to Opportunities That Fit Your Goals and Priorities
Stretching and practicing painting the picture of your ideals also helps you recognize if your sights are genuinely aligned with what’s important. Think big. Try on the journey you think might have to take for size. Imagine what it would feel like to meet that goal.
Think of role models who have experienced the recognition that you aspire to happen to yourself.
- Do you have similar qualities and attributes?
- Do you recognize what it took for a person to achieve certain milestones and surpass them?
- Looking at their journey, do you imagine confronting the same challenges?
- Can you see yourself acquiring the knowledge and learning the skills that others had to get to reach their goals?
- How can your experience be the same or different?
Just doing this simple, imaginative comparison might start you thinking the following:
- “I’m different from them in many ways. I might consider doing things somewhat differently.”
- “I’m not sure I want to take the path they took.”
- “Some of the challenges I see them experiencing would not be so tough.”
- “I can do some of those things. Others I see I will have to learn.”
As you make these comparisons, you should start to get a sense of what similarities you bear and where the differences lie between you and your role model concerning your unique characteristics and capabilities. It would help if you started to get a stronger sense of whether the goal you are chasing also fits you or if it is what you want.
Suppose you sense that your current aspiration does not feel right or is not healthily energizing to you. In that case, your imagination helps you see that you need to pivot and explore in a different direction. As you allow your imagination to explore, notice whether you feel resistance or desire to think in another direction.
Not feeling passion when your imagination visits certain places suggests that it’s time to move on to different expeditions to discover what goals may suit you better. (Learn more about setting goals in this guide: How To Set Your Goals And Achieve Them Without Stress)
4. Regular Imagery Exercise Can Reduce Stress and Improve Mental and Physical Well-Being
Numerous studies have documented improvements in mental and physical well-being after exercising guided imagery. The most effective methods teach individuals to access all their human senses — taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight — throughout an imagery sequence combined with powerful breathing techniques.
Working with a skilled therapist to develop imagery skills is highly worth the investment if your goal is to decrease stress and pain, improve calmness, or simply quiet your mind. Skillful imagery of relaxing subjects, situations, and stories can lower your blood pressure, lower your heart rate, and relax muscle tension without you even thinking about it.
Guided imagery is increasingly getting considered as an alternative to pain management medication. In a meta-analysis that reviews the effect of guided imagery on patients with arthritis and other rheumatic diseases, all studies showed statistically significant improvements in observed outcomes.((Science Direct: Guided Imagery for Arthritis and Other Rheumatic Diseases: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials))
Individuals have been taught to imagine what it would be like to experience freedom in joint movement. They see and feel themselves moving freely without pain while directing healing messages in their minds to parts of their body that experience pain and inflammation.
You can use similar techniques to accelerate your recovery whenever you are feeling poorly. You can practice accessing memories of when you have been fully well, or create pictures of yourself as you feel radiant, emotionally balanced, and alive with healthy energy and a clear mind. Use these methods along with physical and dietary healing strategies to increase your control over your recovery speed.
5. You Can Heal Emotional Pain and Discomfort to Move Forward in Your Life
Your imagination can play a particularly powerful and liberating role in releasing and diffusing emotional pain, which may be affecting how you live today. Imagery is increasingly used to treat anxiety and mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, personality disorders, and sports performance.
Two primary forms of imagery being applied in psychotherapeutic settings are imaginal exposure and imagery rescripting.((American Psychological Association: What Is Exposure Therapy?)) Individuals’ imagery skills develop with the aid of a trained and qualified psychotherapist. They then learn to safely prepare a new script that will replace or attach different meanings to painful memories that have caused emotional scarring.
After reviewing clinical trials regarding the effects of imagery rescripting, Arnoud Arntz found incredibly promising results.((Journal of Experimental Psychopathology: Imagery Rescripting as a Therapeutic Technique: Review of Clinical Trials, Basic Studies, and Research Agenda)) Clients have the opportunity to process emotions that they cannot typically access. They learn to access the care, nurturing, and support they need during an uncomfortable experience, ascribe a healthier attitude towards the situation and recognize that it was an exception, not the norm.
Using imagination to change your life can help you diffuse unhelpful emotions that affected your life. You might avoid certain types of situations and people. Learning how to use imagery proactively can help you lift the emotional shackles of your past and start living life again the way you’ve always wanted.
6. You Develop Clarity and Greater Confidence on When to Say Yes and No
From the continued practice of imagining what you wish to experience, have, and do, identifying what doesn’t support your aspirations becomes much easier. You start seeing how certain opportunities, experiences, and relationships that don’t serve your goals fit what you imagine in your future. You then feel disparity and more resistant to accommodating or accepting opportunities and invitations.
With increased PCD, your neurocircuitry strengthens your familiarity and comfort with what you are wanting to experience, do, and have. Over time, your connections with parts of your past and present can start to weaken. That is because our imagination is helping you make room for the changes you envision.
Your friendships might change and perhaps even become less satisfying. Similarly, you might start finding yourself gravitate more easily toward opportunities and people who are on similar journeys as you.
7. It Improves Sport and Exercise Performance
Sports psychologists around the globe are experts at helping individuals develop imagery mastery to improve not just their physical performance but also their mindset. When imagery is combined with thought reframing and redirection, you have powerful tools for working through emotional and physical pain when you feel like you have reached your limits.
Research has long shown that imagery rehearsal can improve physical performance almost as much as physical rehearsal. In the event of injury, illness, or judicial decisions that temporarily rule you out of squad selection, imagery practice becomes more important than ever.
You can continue to practice, even though your body may be experiencing physical limitations. You can rehearse set-plays. You can still practice technical skills in your mind’s eye. You can accelerate your body’s healing process.
You don’t have to be an elite athlete to benefit from using imagination to change your life. You can get in a position to deadlift a certain goal weight or picture what you are wearing or what gym you attend in your mind.
You can choose a mantra that holds personal and emotional meaning for you. You can incorporate instructive self-talk and imagine hearing energizing music. You imagine what it feels like to start the lift, feet firm, eyes ahead.
You imagine feeling the strain but still feeling your body telling you that it will do whatever it can to launch. You also get to wallow in the feeling and elation of having achieved your goal!
To start developing imagery skills in the best way possible, start using imagination to change your life or at least what’s within your control. Always remember that there are no limits to your imagination, and it never has to be fixed.
“I saw the angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free.” — Michelangelo
More on Using Imagination to Change Your Life
- 10 Ways to Boost Your Imagination and Achieve Big Things
- The Price of Distraction Is Far Beyond Your Imagination
- 10 Ways to Nurture Your Creativity And Boost Your Intuitive Awareness