Dec 15, 2021–I recently watched a sci-fi episode that examined the role imagination plays in creating desired outcomes.

Specifically, the program described an alien race that observed human behavior by making their imaginations become real. It started with bringing to life Rumpelstiltskin, a professional baseball player, and a paramour. Events progressed to manifest more ominous occurances, including the obligatory rift in the space-time continuum.

Of course the crew figured out that every manifestation–both threat and pleasure–was a product of their own imagination. Change what you think; change what you become.

A diverting story. But is it more true than we first imagine?

As I grow and survive more crises and tribulations, some trivial, some existential, the more I believe we are simply what we imagine we are. We’ve all read this concept in some self-help book, and we’ve all experienced it at some level.

Every new role I have been offered in life, I have had to imagine it before I could accept it.

Band member… college student… husband… father. When I was offered a post as “director” of a community program, I was overwhelmed. At the time, I was living in a gig economy, subbing at schools and playing music on weekends. Could I make this step up, I wondered. Having to get up before noon, shaving my beard, and wearing a tie?

Here’s what I did: I imagined myself as The Director. I set my alarm, shaved, and put on a tie. As I drove through town, I waved and nodded at pedestrians that I imagined were thinking, there goes that guy who is The Director of a program. As stupid as it now sounds, it worked. I took the position.

Another example. I once worked assisting a national consultant. As is common in the seminar business, income can vary widely, depending on federal laws, the economy, and even the weather. During a stretch when sales had waned, we were discussing going out to eat. The consultant’s wife, who managed the books, suggested we stay in to save money. He thought a moment, then announced, “No. Let’s go out. If we act poor, we’ll become poor.”

I’m learning that imagination can also banish the negative. I have always been a good Catholic farm boy, doing my homework, paying off my credit cards on time, and meeting writing deadlines. Recently a changeover at our bank has caused us to miss some payments. Time was, this would cause me great anxiety and stress. Now, I’m simply trying to imagine it is only Monopoly money. It’ll work it out. I’ll make a few calls. I’ll pay the penalties and move on to the next issue.

This kinda works, and it amazes me. In my previous iteration I would not have been able to sleep or eat for worry and fear. Now, by imagining a problem as a puzzle to be solved and imagining a positive outcome, I almost look forward to going through the phone-menu maze. It has become a game, and I try not let it have any more power over my outlook than playing a game.

I still care. I’ll still meet deadlines, Mr. Editor. But I refuse to succumb to their power to affect my emotions.

Imagine that.