It is imagination that makes humans unique in nature.
Genetically we differ 2% from chimpanzees and 3% from worms. It is not our genes that have us living in penthouses and connecting on facebook.
Our difference is the human cortex, the layer of brain that is most highly developed in humans. The cortex is where we begin to live intentionally. We have a choice. We don’t have to just respond to the world, but can begin to imagine a better world and thus plan and act accordingly.
The unique gift of humanity is reason, the ability to solve problems in the mind.
What is the Purpose of Human Life?
2,300 years ago in the Greek city-state of Athens, Aristotle asked himself “what is the purpose of human life?” Aristotle defined the purpose of an object as being that which it can uniquely do.
A human is alive – but plants are also alive – so that cannot be human purpose.
A human feels – but animals also feel – so that cannot be human purpose.
The unique gift of humanity is reason, the ability to solve problems in the mind: to imagine solutions before putting them into practice.
Aristotle concludes the Nicomachean Ethics with a discussion of the highest form of happiness: a life of intellectual contemplation. Reasoned imagination is the highest virtue.
Leadership Requires Imagination
A leader must see a future that is not yet here. The clearer you can see and touch and feel this potential future the more compellingly you can communicate it to others. The more you practice your imagination, the better you will get. How can you practice your imagination?
How can you develop your imagination? Here are some ways:
- Spend time bored.
- Read fiction. Write a new ending to a classic book. Make a hero into a villain, and a hero into a villain. Write yourself into the book.
- Throw photos on the floor and then explain the connection between them.
- Watch TV in another language and explain to a friend what is happening.
- List 10 small improvements you could make to the seat you are sitting on.
- Tell bedtime stories to your children… let them create the characters as you go.
- Develop 2×2 matrix on an area of interest… and develop scenarios for changing positions.
- Go to an ethnic restaurant and order something you have never had before.
- Go to a railroad station or airport and take the first train or plane to depart.
- Imagine a world without oil, cars, telephones, internet… fill in the blank…
What other ways can we develop our imagination?