Our imaginations have the ability to help us achieve our goals and dreams in life, but they can also hold us back.

I wonder if this has ever happened to you? Sometimes, particularly when the light isn’t that good, I see things up ahead when I’m running that don’t actually exist. A rock and a leaf that’s lying on it from a distance look to me like an animal. I keep my eye on it, then as I get closer I realise that my imagination has conjured up the animal when it was never there in the first place.

Our imaginations are incredibly powerful. Imagination can be used to help us achieve our goals and dreams, but can also stop us in life and can keep our lives small and perhaps even feeling worthless.

I’ll illustrate the power of the imagination with a little experiment: close your eyes briefly and think of your favourite song or piece of music. Play it in your mind so that you can hear the music and lyrics. Did you hear it in your head?

Now, shut your eyes again and imagine I have a lemon that I’ve just cut in half, and I’m squeezing drops of lemon into your mouth.

Did you feel a change in your physical and perhaps emotional state as you imagined hearing your favourite music? What about when you imagined me dropping fresh lemon juice onto your tongue? Did you find your mouth producing saliva?

Finding Meaning

If you noticed a physical response to either the song or the lemon juice, I’m sure you’ll agree that your brain absolutely knew that your favourite music wasn’t playing and that there was no lemon juice dripping onto your tongue, so why did your body react in exactly the same way as it would if those experiences had been real?

We humans are meaning making machines. We experience things in life, then take what actually happened and add meaning to it. We fail at something and we tell ourselves we’re no good at it or that we’re failures. Somebody says something and we make it mean that they don’t like or respect us. What we’ve made up then becomes the truth for us. Our bodies are helpless when the imagination speaks.

Truth & Illusion

But here’s the thing. If we know or realise that the meanings we add aren’t the truth, they’re just illusions that our brain concocts by taking vague distorted signals and creating stories out of half-formed information, we also have the power to consciously use our imaginations to create the life that we really want – and remember, our body won’t be able to resist even if it knows it’s not true.

So, imagine that you were born to run. You were made to move freely, effortlessly and gracefully. You were absolutely meant to live the life that you previously imagined. At some point in time you believed the meaning that you made up which said you weren’t good enough to live that life and so you let go of imagining living such a life.

Now go back, find, and grab that dream and start imagining it again.

Consciously create the meaning that you want your life to have.

Every one of us is ordinary. But then again, every one of us is also meant to be extraordinary. Imagine yourself being extraordinary and start living it until you become it!


Tony Phillips is a personal coach who works with entrepreneurs and business leaders. An enthusiastic back of the pack runner: coachingapproach.co.uk