“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” I believe no truer words were ever spoken and they were said by one of the greatest minds in the history of humanity. Albert Einstein knew a thing or two about imagination. His ability to think beyond convention, to question authority and the conclusions of scientists who came before him, gave our world some of the most significant scientific theories and discoveries of our time.
Imagination is one of the world’s greatest forces. Human beings have progressed and developed in direct relationship to their collective imagination. All of our world’s greatest achievements were once just thoughts in the minds of people who dared to dream them.
When I travel I’m always amazed by the efficiency of airlines. They get a bad rap from time to time, but when you really think about all that goes into it, it truly is amazing. What imagination there had to be to have the first flight take place? Each phase from man’s first flight to the multidimensional concept of air travel had to be taken as an idea in someone’s imagination before it could become a reality. Like all visionaries, those who dared to conceive had to break through the limited thinking of those around them and declare something like that possible. Leonardo da Vinci, one of the world’s greatest thinkers, inventors and artists, drew elaborate drawings of flying machines all the way back in the 15th century. It has been written that he created a machine that did fly, but the religious leaders of the day labeled it an instrument of evil and made him destroy it.
The most dynamic aspect of imagination is the act of forming mental images of what does not yet exist in our world. Another level of imagination is creating a new idea or combination of ideas stimulated by and based on previous experiences. But there is something I refer to as creative imagination that takes us a step further than just forming mental images. Creative imagination spurs action—it causes things to come into existence. When we are creatively imagining something, we are actually causing it to come into being because it has been formed for the first time in our minds. Our images contain creative power. Our thoughts are like magnets, literally drawing to us that which we think about with passion or emotion.
In order to achieve your dreams you have to suspend disbelief and allow yourself to dream and do it on a repetitive basis. Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players.” He was a master at creating a theater in the mind; with patrons of his plays suspending disbelief for a few hours to believe what they saw on stage was true. The same happens to people when they go to a movie. You know what you’re seeing is fictitious, but you suspend disbelief in your mind for those two hours and feel all the emotions as you’re watching the movie as if it were real. The same is true with your imagination. If you would suspend disbelief and allow your mind to go to positive places, thinking about what you want to be present in your own reality, if you think about those things with enough feeling and enough belief, you begin to manifest them in your life.
I truly believe your thoughts rule your world. That’s why you need to be very careful about what you think about. Most people think about what they don’t want, what they’re afraid of, or what they can’t do. They focus on the negative, and guess what? They likely to lead a very unhappy, unfilled life filled with anxiety rather than achievement. Whatever you think about, your world eventually becomes.
One of the challenges is the way most people are programmed to think. The majority of the messages we receive when we are very young involve conformity, and most people end up programmed that way. As a child, you were taught to obey or suffer consequences. So it’s little wonder that when most people reach adulthood, the majority choose to perpetuate conformity as the easiest and most expedient approach to life. We prefer not to rock the boat because our need for approval is usually far stronger than our desire to do something great.
I personally believe that conformity is one of the greatest psychological evils of human kind. Not saying that there are not some rules for the sake of civilization that need to be followed. I’m talking about conformity that breaks a person’s spirit—that takes away a person’s capacity to dream a better life for themselves and have the drive to achieve it. The need to conform, to get approval from others, usually becomes the far greater need in our mind over achievement and doing something great. The person caught in this destructive habit never does anything worthwhile with his or her life. He wants to do something great, be independent and do important things, but he can’t. His need to always be approved of prevents him. The conformist is filled with the need for approval and he or she can never get enough. He runs from one person to the next seeking compliments and endorsements for his behavior and or actions. As a child, he or she probably turned to teachers. When he started to work, he turned to his boss and fellow workers, and in marriage he turned to his mate. The conformist must always have someone around him to pat him on the head and tell him when he’s doing a good job. This bolsters up his poor self-esteem. By constantly seeking approval, he escapes from the responsibility of creating his own success and happiness and becomes totally dependent on others for his well being.
In order to be leader, a trailblazer, you have to break away from conformist thinking. If you were to take an assessment of how you think, are you more interested in approval from others and conforming (i.e. an average, ordinary life and average, ordinary existence) or are you interested in achieving something great? If you’re going to aspire to do something great, to lead people, and make something significant happen in your life, then you have to drop every part of your desire to be a conformist. And the problem is conformists probably surround you. You may be married to one, surrounded at your job by some, and even parented by conformists. Your need for their approval needs to diminish if you want to make your dreams come true. In my opinion, the opposite of bravery is not cowardice; it’s conformity.