Despite the fact that we all daydream, most of us don't discuss it. We're more likely to talk about our sex lives (or crimes!) than reveal a daydream. Moreover, many of us have been taught that daydreaming is somehow "bad." Yet daydreams are far more than wishful thinking—they are our source of ideas, energy, creativity, self-knowledge, and motivation.
We all daydream, even if you're one of those stubborn types who insist you don't. Part of the problem in talking about daydreaming is simply defining it. Some people think of daydreaming as only those pleasure-filled fantasies of sailing off to Tahiti or rolling around with a fantasy lover. And those are daydreams, but so are mind wanderings, imagined conversations, envisioned goals, plans, and strategies, and so much more.
I'm on a mission to help people get over their feelings of guilt and shame about daydreaming because 1) it's a natural human function and 2) it's our most creative state of mind. One interesting way to look at the process is to ask the question: What would we do if we couldn't envision and imagine in a daydreaming state? We'd be like robots, stuck only in the here and now, unable to dream or create or imagine the road around the bend.
To boil it down, daydreaming is our most creative state of mind for four reasons. When daydreaming:
• We are using the most complex regions of the brain, tapping into stores of knowledge and experience unavailable when locked in the tunnel-vision of focus.
• We can envision—we can see things, people, and events via the mind's eye.
• The mind is completely uncensored, which gives us the freedom to explore a wide, and sometimes wild, variety of options without an internal critic hovering.
• We are able to free-associate, making seemingly random connections, which in turn can lead to creative solutions.
I began my research into daydreaming a number of years ago—mainly out of curiosity. I was a big daydreamer and wondered if others shared this trait and why no one ever talked about it. Also, I have to admit I was offended and puzzled by the negative view many people have about daydreaming because I think of it as a glorious process.
After much research, I came to the conclusion that a bad attitude toward daydreaming prevents many people from mining their daydreams for the gems they often produce (not to mention that a bad attitude just makes people feel bad about something they do naturally and often).
The first step in getting the most out of your daydreaming state of mind is simply to notice when you're daydreaming. According to a June 9, 2009, blog by Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide, researchers hypothesize that those who notice their daydreams are also more likely to notice when they emerge with a "useful or creative insight" from the process. I would add that those who appreciate and enjoy this state of mind are also more likely to benefit from its creative and energizing components.
So, what's your attitude toward daydreaming?
• Do you admit to daydreaming?
• Do you define it broadly or think of it only as wishful thinking?
• As a child, were you ever chastised for daydreaming?
• Do you ever share your daydreams with anyone?
• Do you enjoy your daydreams or do you think you're wasting time?
• Would you say you daydream a lot, a little, or never?
• Are you ashamed of your daydreams?
• Do you ever act on your daydreams? Create a work of art, come up with an idea for work, or plan for an event or travel?
• Think about the words you commonly associate with daydreaming and ask yourself if those are positive, neutral, or negative: i.e. "pipe dreams," "pie-in-the-sky," "spacing out," "spontaneous thought," "musings," "inner voice," "imagination," "vision," "mind's eye," etc. If you're like many people, you've probably associated negative words with this state of mind. Even switching your language can open you up to the creative possibilities inherent in daydreaming.
For more on daydreaming, check out my book
Daydreams at Work: Wake Up Your Creative Powers
or visit my Daydreams at Work website.
copyright Amy Fries