You’re sitting in a dark corner of a mysterious bar waiting for someone. Part of you thinks this can’t be true and part of you waits in excited anticipation. You have more money than you’ve ever held before in an envelop in your pocket, ready to take the gamble.
You’ve reached the end of your drink, a whiskey sour. You suck on the lemon wedge as you wait.
A person arrives and sits down opposite you without saying hello. You can’t quite make out their face; it’s too dark in the bar and they’re wearing a hat.
You slide the envelop of cash over the table as instructed.
The visitor shares a secret with you in a low whisper, too quiet for anyone else to hear. The information changes you and you realise you’ve been given what you need to be a superhero.
When you awake the next day, you have new abilities. You realise you can:
- See the future (as well as many different possible futures),
- Use this new information to keep yourself and others safe,
- Envision things perfectly: the world around you, yourself, even things that don’t exist,
- Aid your own healing,
- Run, dance and play musical instruments, any physical skill, significantly better than before.
Wouldn’t these gifts be absolutely amazing? What would you do with these new abilities?
Here’s the secret: you already possess these superpower abilities.
Seriously. As you read the story above, and imagined sucking on a lemon wedge, your lips likely tightened into a scowl and your jaw clenched a little. A physical response to an imagined image.
This physical response can be pretty remarkable.
One study had a group of people work out at the gym to a set routine for a set number of weeks while another group of people just visualised that routine for the same amount of time each week with a guided meditation and a control group who did nothing.
The results shows that the group who only visualised grew almost as much muscle as the group who physically did the workouts.
The same has been demonstrated by piano players.
Some practiced the piano exercises physically while others only visualised the piano exercises. The people who imagined the exercises improved just as much in performance but also increased the muscle size and response in their fingers too.
I’m sure you can imagine that if these results happen externally, then there’s no reason they can’t happen internally.
If you imagine your body repairing and healing an internal wound, and repeat this process regularly, then it makes sense that you’re firing the neural pathways that already exist to heal and this triggers your nervous system to respond in kind, aiding the healing process.
So that’s improved healing and physical skill.
Imagination is starting to sound pretty amazing.
What about seeing the future?
We actually always do this. Our imagination is constantly wondering what happens next. It taps into memories or previous events and uses these to imagine potential scenarios that could unfold.
It’s mentally testing consequences to our actions before choosing how to react in order to keep us safe.
We can blow this beyond the immediate future and into the distant future by considering our goals and dreams.
When we use our imagination in this way, it creates strategies to get us there and motivation to act.
A world of possibility
Imagination and hypothetical thinking are the ultimate combination. This happens when we ask ‘What if…” to open up possibility.
Hypothetical thinking and imagination enable us to push the boundaries of what we already know, move beyond our library of memories and start to manipulate them, combining them into something brand new.
This combination can lead to all sorts of outcomes:
- I can remember New York City and imagine it has been separated from the mainland and drifting out to sea.
- I can remember the room I need to decorate and imagine a festive colour scheme, or a monochromatic colour scheme, or a nautical theme…
- I can remember my scheduling conflict and ask, What if I didn’t go? What if I asked for help? What if I woke up a hour earlier?
The combination of imagination and hypothetical thinking means a world of possibility: creative solutions to problems, motivation, new goal posts, the ending to that novel you’re writing, a way to handle that difficult conversation, an escape from the stress of reality, the ability to see something from someone else’s point of view.
The secret is Imagination.