Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


7 Simple Yet Effective Ways to Jump-Start Your Imagination

Integrate these into your routine for an exciting, fun, and meaningful life.

'Samantha Sophia/Unsplash'
Source: 'Samantha Sophia/Unsplash'

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” — Albert Einstein

Imagination is one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal: It’s the gateway to leading a creative, joyful, and free life—of transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary.

And yet, so many of us have all but forgotten that our imagination is always at our disposal, waiting to be tapped.

Think of it like exercise. No matter what shape you’re in, once you commit to integrating it into your daily life and get moving, it becomes part of your routine.

After a while, if you practice using it, your imagination will be as easy to access as turning on a light switch.

Here are some tips that will help you jump-start your imagination muscles.

1. Change Your Self-Perception

Are you walking around thinking you’re not imaginative? If so, it’s time to debunk that myth. You are! You just have to learn how to re-awaken it.

The first step is to get your inner-self to change its perception. One way to loosen up old ways of seeing yourself is by using positive affirmations.

Try this strategy: Walk through your day with a positive thought in your mind like, “I’ve got a rich imagination” or “My inner soul is the source of great imagination.”

You may feel silly doing it initially, but trust me, it will help. When I’m working on changing behaviors, I sometimes even sing my affirmations!

2. Observe

For actors, writers, and artists, observing is second nature. By taking the time to slow down, sit on a park bench, and pay attention to whatever is in front of you, you’re opening up your imagination pores.

The next time you’re walking through the city or doing errands in the suburbs, rather than rushing to get from one place to another quickly, put on your "observation" hat and really look at what’s going on around you.

Check out the people standing in line at the grocery store and how they interact with each other and the grocery clerk (You can create a story about anyone you want; it's a great way to get your imagination in full gear).

When taking a walk, pick up a leaf on the ground and examine its veins, colors, and shape.

Observations become fodder for your imagination.

3. Access Childhood Memories

I have yet to meet a person who can’t remember times from their childhood when their imaginations were vibrant—whether building a fort with leaves, creating a play with friends from the neighborhood, building a snowman, or decorating a room for a birthday celebration.

Our childhood memories can be rich sources for rekindling our imagination.

I love closing my eyes and returning to thoughts of my childhood—of spending time with my Mom in the garden, playing hide and seek, or having our Sunday night barbecues. Just thinking about those times accesses something deep within and opens up my heart.

Do this exercise, with your eyes closed, for three minutes once a day, with no goal in mind except to enjoy reliving some pleasant childhood memories.

4. Open to Possibility

Teaching yourself to see what’s possible rather than what isn’t possible is the hallmark of imagination.

If your default response is to say "no" when you’re given an opportunity to have a new experience, think about what might happen if you say "yes." An entirely new world could open up for you.

Or let’s say you’re given a difficult task to do at work—something that has never been done before. You have no road map or personal experience with this, but you need to figure out a way to make it happen.

Rather than heading down the path of impossibility which closes your neural pathway, take the other path of opening to the possibility (even if you experience self-doubt), knowing that there is always more than one solution to a problem and that you’re going to figure it out.

5. Be Curious

It’s easy to get lost in the maze of all of the technological devices and information at our fingertips.

You can activate your imagination by reading and learning through books and online:

Be curious about things that happen throughout your day.

Be curious about the weather.

Be curious about people.

Be curious about nature.

Insert the word "why" or the phrase "why not" into your thought process and your curiosity pores will open up exponentially.

6. Be Playful

Although highly underrated and undervalued in our society, play is creativity at work: It's actually a necessity for living a rich, meaningful, and creative life.

Play is an attitude, a spirit, a point of view, and most of all, a way of living. It’s a commitment to finding true joy in any act, with no concern about the outcome. In the best sense, play is the expression of who we are when we can let go of who we are trying to be.

Play is much less about what you’re doing than your mindset when doing it. For example, if you’re practicing scales on the piano, you can do it in a sort of mindless routine fashion. Or you can turn it into a fun game for yourself—mixing up the rhythms, patterns, and style of practicing.

How about when you meet someone for the first time? You can either take the standard route of asking conventional questions, or you can enter into a playful mode, asking them unusual questions, like “What are your dreams for the future?” You may knock the socks off of some folks but I think you’ll actually be pleasantly surprised at what can happen when you start incorporating play into your daily life.

The key to being playful is not to be attached to the results. Just enjoy the process of it.

7. Spend Time in Nature

If you slow down, walk outside, and take some deep breaths, nature will awaken all of your senses and jump-start your imagination beyond your wildest dreams. Nature is magical—if you give it the opportunity.

Get close up to a flower and look at its stamen. Rub a leaf between your fingers; feel its texture. Look at its veining and ponder over how no two leaves are exactly the same. Watch the bees and butterflies as they buzz and whirl about the landscape. Get to know your favorite tree—and then tell yourself a story about it. Watch the worm wriggling its way out of the moist soil after a rain.

Creative individuals like Einstein, Beethoven, Leonard da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Richard Feynman were known for spending a lot of time in nature.

A suggestion: Take a daily nature walk with the sole purpose of being in and connecting with nature. No friends, children, or technology allowed. Even if you spend 10 minutes a day doing this, you'll be surprised at how it ignites your imagination and creativity.

“I think nature's imagination Is so much greater than man's, she's never going to let us relax.” — Richard Feynman

More from Fran Sorin
More from Psychology Today