Every time I look at my nightstand, I feel guilty.
There sits the biography I asked for, but haven’t read yet. Why? Because I’m happier bingeing on fiction. And thank goodness for libraries, because I go through books like I go through chocolate.
But I feel better when I consider what I get from the science fiction and fantasy books I love: expanded horizons. Empathy for people in situations far from my own.
And really, those are necessary to do the work I do. They’re probably necessary for your work, too.
Imagination is what lets us think bigger. Or wider. Or just at 38 degree angles to our day to day life. If it doesn’t always push us out of ruts, it at least has us looking at those ruts in a new way.
Imagination isn’t just for artists. Creativity is a human trait, and we all have it.
And in our nonprofit sector, we urgently need to use it. We’re solving huge problems, folks! Yes, even you, sitting on your crappy chair, using a hand-me-down computer running Windows 97.
Your imagination is what will power your mission. (Well that and long hours and hard work.)
I’ve often said the bizsplainers have it all wrong. We could teach the corporate world a thing or two. Because what we lack in means, we make up with creativity. We have to!
Imagination also feeds us. Creativity makes us happier and healthier. Our brains are meant to be flexible and pushed in new directions. It feels good, and it’s good for us.
It’s also good for humankind. Imagination is how we evolved. Creativity is a community asset.
Creativity is not a private endeavor vested in a single person or a select group of people. It is not solely about genius in the arts or sciences, or actions by prominent artists, celebrities, or politicians. It is not even limited to the work of particularly original thinkers. Creativity emerges from the interconnections of ideas, experiences, and imagination.
~Agustin Fuentes, The Creative Spark: How Imagination Made Humans Exceptional
We are all creative, whether we think we are or not. It’s in us – but exercising that muscle is a good thing.
Without art, we’re not human. The ability to imagine and to take that imagination and make it into reality is one of the things that is really distinctive about humans. Whether it’s painting, building airplanes, or figuring out how to make a paycheck last to the end of the month, it all stems from the same creative capacity. And there is no better way to flex that creativity muscle than to do art, be exposed to art, and to think about art.
~ How Creativity Drives Human Evolution
So how to exercise your imagination?
This article offers 10 ideas. Here are some I liked most:
Whether it’s the fiction I’m hungry for or that biography I really should get to or blogs like this one, reading is good for your imagination. I know I was more effective as a fundraiser when I could spend time every day reading at my desk. Because no one made me feel like a slacker for doing that, I tried new things and raised more money.
Letting your mind wander can inspire some of the best ideas! Again, it’s not slacking, it’s exercising your creative muscles. Take some breaks throughout the day – even for a few minutes – and let your mind go where it will.
I now work alone in my office, so I miss having other people around. Because together, we think better. Socialize, share ideas, and let others’ creativity spur your own.
If you have the opportunity to share ideas with a group, you might be the quiet one. That’s OK, too. There’s huge value in listening and synthesizing others’ ideas.
I like this one, because one of my other guilty pleasures is playing stupid match 3 games on my phone. It’s relaxing and requires just enough attention to let my mind go where it will.
But you may have other ways to play. Join a sports team. Play with the kids. Just give yourself permission to keep play in your life.
Curiosity is crucial for our imagination. That’s my attraction to fiction: I want to know what it’s like long ago or far away. I wasn’t gifted with a physics brain, but space is endlessly fascinating for me.
Follow your curiosity and let it lead you to new smarts!
Yes, you are creative. We all are. Find an outlet. The quality of your creative work doesn’t matter – you will still benefit from exercising those muscles. Think about doing something with your hands – we spend lots of time using our heads, but there’s something amazing about engaging our sense of touch.
We’re all born with imagination.
Use yours, and feel the boundaries of your life expand. Use yours, and you’ll be able to contribute more at work. Imagine the better world you work so hard to create!
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to finish that book!