Imagination and Redefining Reality4 min read

Imagination is more important than knowledge.
Logic will take you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.
—Albert Einstein

Imagination is the most underrated tool in personal development—and also in meditation practice. In this article, we’ll explore how it can be used as a tool to affirm your aspirational identity, overcome negative emotions, and create positive states.

What Imagination Is

Many people have a very limited conception of imagination, seeing it merely as “making things up”, child’s play, or fantasies that should be kept in check by cold reason and facts. This approach severely limits your possibilities.

In truth, imagination is one of our core mental faculties—together with perception, memory, thought, and will. It is the act of creating mental images, whether sound, smell, taste, touch, vision, movement, feeling, or abstract thought.

All creative thinking is an expression of imagination, as is problem-solving. Without it, you can’t come up with solutions or explanations. You can’t create something new. You can only react to the environment—and that is living outside in.

Because imagination allows us to create an experience inside us, without external stimulus, it’s the perfect expression of living inside out. It can be the seed for creating change—internally or externally.

Everything that was ever invented existed first as an image in someone’s mind. You create an idea within you, fall in love with it, then commit to manifesting it. Through repeated concentration, willpower, faith, and action, what was once “only” imagined becomes reality, inside or outside of you.

The Power of Imagination

Science has found in many ways that your brain doesn’t quite distinguish between an experience happening outside you and something that is “only happening” in memory or imagination.

  • Your brain releases the same hormones when it encounters real social rejection as when it imagines it or remembers it vividly. 
  • It’s the same with many traumas—for the brain, past pain feels real right now.
  • Your brain treats false memories in the same way it treats actual memories.
  • Your brain produces the same physiological changes whether you are in front of an attractive sexual partner or simply fantasizing about one. 
  • Your mind can even heal your body if its imagination has been excited to believe that healing is taking place, the placebo effect, and can also create a nonexistent disease, the nocebo effect.
  • Feelings that are imagined have the same psychological and physiological effects as feelings that arise spontaneously, as described in the TED Talk of psychologist Dan Gilbert.
  • Imagined consumption of food can reduce actual consumption.
  • Imagining that you have already achieved your goal can reduce motivation for achieving the goal.
  • Imagined practice of basketball, by players who just visualized playing without actually touching a ball, led to similar improvement as actual practice!
Imagination for Self-Transformation

When transforming yourself from your conditioned identity to your aspirational identity, imagination will take you far, and lack of it will leave you stuck in your conditioning.

Imagination has great power to creating internal changes, such as healing yourself, creating certain emotions, shifting your identity, doing spiritual practices, or programming new behaviors. You feed the new idea until it is as real as an experience that comes from outside, through the senses, and then it will have the same effects.

The Key: Imagination + Energy

When covering the Daily Alignment Practice, we talked about the four elements of effective affirmation: concentration, willpower, faith, and feeling. Now we can combine these four elements by saying that to produce any change, external or internal, we need two things: imagination + energy.

We create the blueprint for our new reality with imagination, then breathe life into it, with energy, to manifest that idea through action.

How to Redefine Reality

An effective exercise of imagination can create the same effects in your body and mind as having that experience in reality. How?

  • Use meditation to create a space that is somewhat disengaged from the external world.
  • Hold your new mental image with focus and intention.
  • Awaken strong emotions associated with the image, making it feel real.

A practice such as the loving-kindness meditation is a perfect example: you feel love and joy in your heart. The same thing is happening in your body, mind, and hormones as if you were experiencing being loved in “real life”. Try it!

The Danger of Delusion?

If you’re afraid that too much imagination will lead you into self-delusion, remember that imagination and delusion are different things

  • Imagination is the process of creating a change via the power of your mind.
  • Delusion is when you believe that you have already completed that process and achieved a full success in it, when in fact you haven’t.

If you imagine that you are Superman and then punch a stone wall, the wall will teach you a painful lesson: that you are deluded.

If instead you (1) vividly imagine that you are as strong as Superman, (2) create the feeling of superhuman strength in your muscles, and (3) then go punch a sandbag—a more reasonable experiment—you’ll find that your punch is now stronger.

How much stronger? As much as your capacity to hold that imagination, with concentration, willpower, faith. That requires repeated practice, not just a one-and-done spurt of imagination.

Be committed to this practice, yet wise about your expectations.


Imagination is a mighty tool for you to shape your reality, both inside and out.

Imagination is not about creating fake or unreal experiences, but it serves as a shortcut to create changes in yourself without depending on the external world. It is the most natural and powerful form of virtual reality.

It frees you up to be what you want to be without needing to wait for the perfect external conditions. It is inherent in the practice of creating your new identity and living inside out.

To learn more about boosting your powers of perception, see the summary of passive imagination. To learn more about boosting your powers of creation, see the summary of active imagination.

For a deeper dive into these concepts, see Chapter 11 of Wise Confidence, or try the Absorb the Virtue meditation in the app.


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