Albert Einstein, highly regarded as one of the most intelligent human beings that has ever lived, believed that imagination plays a huge role in our lives. He said,
"I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."
There seems to be an unbalanced value placed on knowledge (or the appearance thereof) in today's societal priorities, casting aside imaginations like a scrap of paper carelessly over our shoulder. I, too, unfortunately have followed this whim for most of my life, believing that an imagination is something nice for when you have nothing else to do and that knowledge is really the driving force that will bring me what I want in life. Currently, I'm a college student, right in the thick of the pinnacle of education in our society, but have a gnawing feeling that many of my studies are empty bits of knowledge and facts that will largely be forgotten upon receiving my degree. This is an alarming feeling, being two semesters from graduation, on the edge of my career's genesis, feeling that I still have no idea what I will be doing with my life.
Thoughts like these aren't a once-in-a-while thing as they used to be in year's past, but are a ever present flow of thought, using our evolved frontal lobe to assess each avenue that my life could progress down, weighing the consequences of each. By doing so, I've begun to realize my current attitudes and actions are leading me to a life that wouldn't suit me well. The following are a few finding that I've discovered during these mental exercises:
1) I'm Not Normal
Many look for a good, stable job, working for a good company, and putting in their 9-5 each day and collecting a regular paycheck. My heart hurts just thinking about a future like this. It's not going to work for me. Life coach and speaker Tony Gaskins pointed out something profound that helped me realize that I wasn't going to be able to settle for a normal working life.
For many, most even, their dream is too big, too risky, too silly, too unrealistic, too difficult, and working to build someone else's dream doesn't seem to be that bad. But, I find this to be a product in the "single answer" society that we live in. Going through the educational system, the students are expected to arrive at the right answer, whether it's the answer to a math problem, the correct grammatical tool, or the date, place, major players of an event in our history, we are conditioned to believe there is one right answer, and that all other answers are wrong. This as seeped into our regular conversation, especially I've noticed as a young adult. We are asked, "What school are you going to attend?", "What are you majoring in?", "What do you want to do for your career?", and expecting 18-24 year olds to have the answers here and now. I felt this pressure and eventually found an answer that would pacify the asker enough to finish their inquiry, even though it wasn't something that I was sold on doing. Unfortunately, it took me a long time to figure out that I'm not normal. I could have been getting on with my unusual self for years now!
If you have 20 minutes to spare, this TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson had a great impact on me and provides a great transition from my first point to my second point.
2) Creativity is Essential
I was like many who, if asked, whether they were creative or not, would have definitely scoffed at the idea. I have two brothers who are immensely talented artists, being able to take almost anything that the mind could conceive and sketch it out in just a few minutes. Sitting in church, their half of the church program would be covered with cartoon characters, fighter jets, tanks, you know, things we thought were awesome as a trio of young boys. My part would be covered with these bad boys:
It was at this time that I decided that I definitely wasn't creative. However, the above video, with others that Sir Ken Robinson has presented, prompted me to buy his book The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. In this book, he explains that creativity and passion aren't simply for the group we call the arts (painting, drawing, music, etc). There are many examples in the book of mathematicians and scientists who have just as much passion and show the ability to be creative in those chosen fields. Creativity is the creation of something that wasn't there before and so often it is that passion that drives us to be constantly thinking about whatever subject we're inclined towards. It is versatile enough to find place in any medium we could possibly choose for a career. If we are able to find our passion, time (which is our greatest resource) will be spent in a way that there is no possible way that we won't be creating new ideas and processes. So, the apt title of Sir Robinson's book, everything will be changed once we find that passion.
With this in mind, I have set out on a personal quest to find my passion, feeling that investing my time and energy into this will be more beneficial than working for a life that I don't want. Because accountability is something that I struggle with, I'm writing and publishing this to keep me honest. My plan? Imagine myself the perfect future with as many details as possible and with that in mind change my actions and habits necessary to make that future a reality. This blog will act as my map, my measuring stick, and my motivation. I make it public for no other reason than this - I've figured enough out that this message is one that deserves more conversation. It's the whole "Don't use it, you lose it" principle, and I'm choosing not to allow myself to let my imagination suffer any longer.
3) Passions aren't Always Self-Evident
Like our favorite Wilderness Explorer, Russell, says "The wilderness must be explored." That wilderness is different for each and every one of us. I worry so often that I need to find the thing that I'm going to do for the rest of my life, that I'd revert back to that "single answer" tendency, believing that I needed to find one thing. What I have learned recently that this is an unnecessary worry, that the more I focus on finding the answer the more I get frustrated and down about the path that I'm on. Instead, I'm changing my mindset to be more of an exploration, not a destination. If we are able to use our time to search for our passions, instead of being paralyzed as to what we are going to do in the future, I guarantee that we won't regret the experiences we gain or where the road takes us. Yes, it takes work to discover what the world has to offer, and the wilderness of our mind and passions, but is a very front heavy excursion, because when we find that passion, we everything changes. Life begins to fall into place.
Our society is so inclined toward instant gratification that the work associated to expand our imaginations and uncover our passions becomes extremely unappealing. We constantly supplant using our imagination through the myriad of entertainment we have at our fingertips. The click of a button and we can be transported by screens to any time period in history, even into the future. Unfortunately though, too often this is enough for our minds and our imaginations lie dormant because clicking buttons is far easier than the mental exertion it takes to create. Please don't misunderstand this as some sort of attack on television and movies. I enjoy a good show or movie as much as anyone, but I have found myself depending on them more than using my mind to create or seeking out my passions. I do believe the overuse of these mediums of creativity have made a society that largely feels uninspired, uncreative, and overall unfulfilled. The more we plug in, the less time we have to explore our own minds, our ideas, our hopes, our dreams, and before long, we look back to wonder if we have ever had them. I'm extremely guilty of this and plan to make this one of the first areas I plan on replacing with a positive habit.
"Imagination is everything. It's the preview of life's coming attractions."
Join me in my quest and decide now that you aren't going to let your passion or imagination elude you any longer. Please, if you have a story about finding your passion, or advice on how to enhance your imagination, get me in on your conversation. Hopefully together we can help our children, and our children's children understand that there is so much in this world that can be created. Comment below, find me on Twitter @growskey23, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what I can do for you.
My name is Brian and I have a voice and something valuable to say. I'm on a quest to discover myself and the world around me. Join me and together we can do good in the world.