|Imagine Mosaic in New York City's Central Park|
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.—Ephesians 3:20
When I am feeling stuck, engaging in what some call, “analysis paralysis,” I find it helpful to apply the power of our God-given creative imagination for inspiration and problem-solving.
Imagination is a powerful entity. It can cause the hair on the back of our neck to stand up, our spirit to soar, or our face to blush. Imagination is the power that holds our beliefs together; we believe with our imagination. Imagination is the wellspring of faith and hope. Our biggest and best dreams for ourselves and others rise from the imagination.
When we have been hurt, our imagination is wounded. As a result, alienation and belief in bad news replace belief in good news. We may have...
- a feeling response that can become frozen into resentment.
- an anger response that can become frozen into negative reactions of rage or passivity.
- an interpretation response that can become frozen in negative attitudes, perceptions, biases, and beliefs.
There is the story about the blind men and the elephant. Each man named and described the animal according to his experience of touching only one part of the elephant’s body. The man who held the trunk “perceived” the elephant to be a large snake; the man who held the leg “perceived” the elephant to be a sturdy tree. In the same way, we “perceive” life—depending on what our experience is.
Our experiences generate our expectations and our perceptions. We interpret life experiences, and we form expectations and perceptions, attitudes, and assumptions.
All of this activity is the work of the imagination.
It is also the work of the imagination to reinterpret and reform repeated assumptions and expectations. Forgiveness demands that we take another look so that our imagination can reframe our narrow interpretations. Forgiveness includes the decision to refocus or enlarge the context…walk a mile in another’s shoes. When we enlarge the context, we refocus, or we see it through a wider lens.
Imagination is the work of seeing through a wider lens.
If we remain stuck in a negative interpretation of an old offense, we will experience resentment whenever we think about it, or about the offender. We will never be able to grieve and let go; we will seesaw between rage and resignation; we will never allow anger to surface and put us back on the journey of forgiveness. If we insist on telling and retelling our bad news stories of the past, we simply recycle the bad news and pass it on to the next generation. We pollute the emotional environment; we remain stuck in lifeless memories instead of looking for a more positive side of things long past.
When you enlarge your perceptions using your creative imagination, you at least allow for the possibility of healing. You give yourself the opportunity to turn from the negative aspects of your past, to get rid of the excess baggage, and to face the journey into the future with hope.
When I served as the Florida Department of Education State Consultant for Gifted Education, I was frequently asked to provide technical assistance to school districts regarding strategies to improve creative and critical thinking skills for students. I have identified some of those strategies here to inspire us to think creatively using our God-given imagination.
The formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill. To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old questions from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.—Albert Einstein.
The formulation of a problem determines the range of choices: the questions you ask determine the answers you receive. Write the problems you want to solve as a question. Use the phrase, “In what ways might I…?” to start a problem statement. This keeps you from settling on a problem statement that may reflect only one perception of the problem. Keep asking this open-ended “In what ways might I…?” question allowing your creative imagination to flow.
You will be amazed at how your continual re-wording of the "In what ways might I...?" question will increase your creative thinking skills of Fluency, Flexibility, Originality, and Elaboration—the four primary strategies for developing and improving creative thinking or imagination:
- Fluency is the ability to think of many answers to a question, to list many possible solutions to a problem, or to generate a number of responses. Fluency is being able to think of lots of plans or ideas.
- Flexibility is the ability to change your way of thinking about a problem or situation. It is the ability to think of alternative ideas and to adapt to different situations.
- Originality is the ability to think of fresh or unusual designs, ideas, responses, or styles. People who are original are independent and creative in their thoughts and actions. They create things that are new, different, or unique.
- Elaboration is the process of expanding an idea by adding detail. To elaborate, you must understand the original idea and see a way to clarify or improve it by adding specific details. You are elaborating when you add to, enlarge, enrich, or expand descriptions, designs, drawings, explanations, instructions, reports or stories.
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