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How Dreaming & Visualisation Bring Novel Solutions

Photo: Andrii Leonov. Einstein.

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

Thomas Edison

All great inventors, olympic athletes and thinkers, including Einstein, Edison, Beethoven and Michael Phelps, to name a few, have credited their imagination to their incredible achievements. Their long-honed ability to visualise and imagine in minute detail their outputs entirely in their head before committing their actions or plans to paper have helped them yield incredible results in their respective fields! Drafts and corrections were all done in their heads too before finally stepping onto the “stage”. The most incredible of all might perhaps be Beethoven who at 26 became deaf yet continued to create outstanding pieces of work.

During these challenging times, and if quarantined, we can learn much from them. We are given a unique opportunity to turn inward, and engage with our cognitive faculties of imagination, dreaming and visualisations, which might lead us to entirely new solutions.

In this latest article, we introduce easy steps to start you on an “imagination” and “envisioning your dreams” practice, which you might then use to go much deeper in any future brainstorming you might take part in.

Beethoven composing some of his most astounding works was said to be deaf whilst doing it!

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

Albert Einsein

Imagination is the other half of innovation. We have tended not to value and therefore invest as much time on imagining, dreaming and visualisation during “business as usual”. Our focus has tended to be on over-focusing on solutioneering and planning.

Philosophers worldwide are sharing that we’ve been dreaming the “wrong dream”. What this means is that we might have been thinking incorrectly. As Einstein also stated “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

It’s time to press on the “reset button”, to tap into our creativity, potential, gifts and talents and realise that perhaps our thinking was leading us somewhere else. This challenging time offers us an opportunity to:

Start a Dreaming and Envisioning Practice

“I’ve tried to keep the track in my mind throughout the year. I’ll be in the shower or brushing my teeth. It just takes a minute, so I do the whole thing or sometimes just the corners that are more technical. You try to keep it fresh in your head, so when you do get there, you are not just starting at square one. It’s amazing how much you can do in your mind.”

Lyndon Rush, Olympian bobsledder 

We can learn to stimulate our ability to dream. We do not have to put our dreams and goals on hold. Here are some suggestions to start your dreaming practice.

1️⃣. Days 1 to 3: Beginning

“We cannot get to where we dream of being tomorrow unless we change our thinking today.”
Albert Einstein

  • 1.Find a quiet place in your apartment, get a pad & pen, set your timer to 5min on day 1, increasing by 2 min daily to 15min on day on day 7.
  • 2.Lie down on your mat, place pillow or support if you need to, or sit comfortably in an armchair or sofa, back erect being mindful you are not slouching or being too stiff. Take a few breaths in and out to the counts of 4, and just be still observing your breath Allow yourself to relax.
  • 3.Let your thoughts come and go. Just watch them as if you are watching a movie. Do not participate in it.
  • 4.When your timer goes off, jot down any ideas you had.

2️⃣ Days 4 to 6 – Start with a Favourite Task or Hobby

“At least once a day, allow yourself the freedom to think and dream for yourself.”
Albert Einstein

Photo: Thomas Edison and his Lightbulb
Nathan Lazarnick / George Eastman House / Getty Images
  • Repeat all the steps 1-4.
  • 5.When timer goes off, set your timer for another 5min and this time, create in your mind the outcome you would wish to happen.
  • 6.Imagine you are making a cake: really be precise with your ingredients, appliances, your precise location, how it feels making the cake, tasting and feeling the dough, smelling the ingredients, and getting your perfect cake out of the oven and sharing a wonderful slice with your loved ones. Try to engage in your imagination with your senses and write them down in your pad.
Photo: Emily Cook, retrieved from the The New York Times, 22 February 2014

“You have to smell it. You have to hear it. You have to feel it, everything.”

Emily Cook, a U.S. freestyle aerials Olympian

3️⃣Day 7: Be More Ambitious with Your Tasks/Dream

  • Repeat steps 1 to 6
  • When your timer goes off, this time choose another project or dream and see if you can imagine planning every single detail from whom you interact to how you feel being able to create your dream and how you would feel at its success. Feeling is very important.
  • Write this in your pad.
  • Taste the tastes of your cake, really hear the sound of any music and feel the feelings of joy at achieving your goals. Many of us have become hardened or numbed, which the media can perpetuate.
On photo: Ludwig Van Beethoven

We were taught to stop using imagination, to not think outside the box, not stand out, not dream too big. Now is the time to find solutions to an unprecedented situation and be bold.

These practices above train us to allow our senses to become switched on and sharpened. We learn to get in touch with our own internal senses which are needed to think clearly, think new solutions, create for new problems or simply live with passion and purpose.

French people in my hometown in France using their skills to help others in need

We can use our gifts for the service of others and our community . Pictures here show local butcher in my hometown in France, as well as my mother, helping our communities.

Others like my dear mother are sewing protective equipment for essential and healthcare workers on the frontline.

What this situation shows is extraordinary creativity, resilience and imagination. Beethoven became deaf at 26. But he had heard and played music for all his life. He knew in his mind how instruments, voices sounded and the combination of an orchestra sounded and how they would work together. Beethoven imagined in his mind what his compositions would sound like and put them on paper.

People are not losing their passion. Just because we are quarantined does not mean we need to live ‘automatically’. We can use this challenge to tap into our creativity.

Hold a vision for yourself, your colleagues, family, the world and at the same time let go of outcomes. We have to dream our dream and experience our dream with the fullness of our imagination and trust that solutions will come.