Imagination can open up new opportunities to help you out of a bad situation, or hurt you as you follow it down a rabbit hole to nowhere. It all depends on whether you control it or it’s controlling you!
Sometimes the greatest threats we face, the most insurmountable obstacles, don’t really exist anywhere but in our minds. The reverse is true, too, in that often the answers we think will solve our problems or fulfill our dreams aren’t real either, just wishful thinking.
Albert Einstein, one of the greatest creative thinkers of all time (and true SagaciDon), once said, “You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created.” He’s talking about using your imagination to find new ways to look at a problem or situation as the key to overcoming an obstacle or discovering the solution to a problem. We all know this. The mantra to think outside the box has been the rallying cry of motivational speeches for decades now. If you have control over your imagination and can apply it rationally to your situation so as to imagine new avenues, new perspectives on dealing with a problem, then you can open up countless new paths of opportunity to achieving your goals.
It’s when imagination takes control over you that you can get into trouble, and in two different ways. One way is imagination can fill your head with all the dreadful, dangerous, hurtful or painful things that could or might happen, but that in reality haven’t yet, and might never. A classic example is a spouse who suddenly is working late all the time and becomes secretive about their cell phone, texts and emails. Imagination can have you convinced they’re having an affair, when in fact, they could be planning a surprise party or gift, struggling to get a promotion, but are afraid to jinx it by talking about it, or, maybe, just overloaded at work and actually are working late to catch up and not being secretive at all. Your fears just have you imagining they are. You get into trouble if you let your imagination take over, filing you with fear and blinding you to the actual facts of the situation, which are usually far less dramatic than your imagination would have you believe.
The other way imagnation can get you into trouble is by filling your head with false hope, twisting the facts to encourage you to believe things are far better than they are. Your imagination knows you want things to be a certain way so badly that you’re willing to obsess over everything you see and hear and turn it into “evidence” that what you want to happen will, when in fact you’re way off the mark. Say you find out your department’s budget is getting increased, and you think how that’s great since you’re long overdue for a raise. You start working harder and longer hours, while buying more and more, wracking up credit debt, because you’re convinced a raise is coming, only to find out the company never had any such plans. You end up feeling used and cheated, and buried in debt, yet no one ever actually gave you any reason to go down that path but you and your imagination.
Like Alice’s wild ride down the rabbit hole, letting your imagination run away with you lands you in a dream world that can only end with you inevitably waking up to face reality. The way to avoid this is to stay grounded in the actual facts as opposed to imagining what the facts are. Real facts exist, they are stated plainly, presented clearly to you, with no need for you to “interpret” them. Imagined facts are ones you speculate to be true, but have no actual basis in the real world, just in your mind. It’s when one person says, “I love you,” but the other hears, “I want to marry you, have kids, and grow old together.” When a boss says, “you’re worth so much more than we pay you,” and the employee hears, “you’re getting a raise.” When you ask your spouse if they’re cheating on you and they say, “Don’t be silly. You have nothing to worry about,” but you hear “No, I’m not cheating.” Real facts are what the world tells you, and imagined facts are what you tell yourself.
An imaginative use of the facts can open up new opportunities, but imaginative fabrication of “facts” that don’t really exist can lead you down the wrong path. Treasure a creative approach to dealing with your issues, but trash the temptation to build up false hopes. Before making any important or irreparable decisions in your life, ask yourself, “Have I sorted out the facts from the fiction?”