Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) once wrote:
Imagination decides everything.
Pascal was one of the greatest scientists and mathematicians of the seventeenth century. But man of reason that he was, he understood that it is imagination, not reason, that tends to govern our lives. If we don’t grasp this and act on an firm understanding of it, we misunderstand one of the most essential truths about human motivation.
How do you make a purchase of almost any kind, except the very most basic? Often, with your imagination. Sure, you may collect all sorts of information about the item and its rational benefits, but, chances are that all this functions to rationalize, or at most support, a decision that's really made by the imagination. You imagine that new car in your driveway. You envision yourself in that house, enjoying the view. You see yourself on the vacation you’re contemplating. You project yourself into the potential new position with another company that you’re considering. The imagination then engages the emotions. And the emotions move the will. Pascal is perhaps most quoted for having said “The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing.” And this is all of a piece with his insight about imagination.
Is the power of the imagination in human life lamentable, or, by contrast, wonderful? By now, you know the answer. It’s up to us. How do we use our imaginations, and those of the people around us? Do we employ our imaginations in service to good, or do we allow ourselves to be enslaved by inappropriate imaginings, out of control?
Imagine today how to use Pascal’s insight in your own life and work.