You get a bad rap if you daydream, but people who write off your wandering mind shouldn’t be so quick to judge.
If your thoughts often drift to far off places, you’ve probably been lectured quite a bit over the years. People have told you to take your head out of the clouds and focus on sensible things. “Get your mind right and stop thinking about nothing,” they’d say, rolling their eyes. “Focus on what’s important.”
But you were focusing on important things. They just didn’t realize it, and it’s possible that you didn’t either. Maybe you still don’t.
You may remember moments when spending too much time in your own head didn’t end well. Was there a situation where you got chewed out by a parent, friend, or significant other for not listening? Failed a test because you didn’t pay attention to a lesson? Cut yourself preparing food because you were distracted? Zoning out did more harm than good back then.
But you shouldn’t dismiss your daydreams, despite their drawbacks, because they can transform your life. Take a look at what John Tierney, a New York Times science writer, wrote about daydreaming in his article Discovering the Virtues of a Wandering Mind:
“Sometimes daydreaming is counterproductive, but sometimes it fosters creativity and helps you solve problems.”
He also claimed that it helps you achieve long-term goals. Daydreaming could be the key to a whole new level of lifestyle improvement.
And fortunately, life provides daily opportunities to seize your hopes and fantasies. North Carolina researchers found that human minds wander 30 percent of the time they’re awake, so you’re always just a few thoughts away from personal greatness… if you’re ready.
Those stray thoughts don’t seem so pointless now, do they?
1. Daydreams Are a Mental Canvas
Wandering minds can lead people to amazing places.
George de Mestral, an inventor, noticed seed hooks sticking to his clothes and his dog’s fur after a hike in 1948 and came up with the idea for Velcro. Google used to encourage employees to spend 20 percent of the workday thinking about whatever they wanted so they could dream up awesome projects. Many professional writers jot down ideas that pop up throughout the day so they won’t forget them later.
In these cases, random thoughts paid off even though the subjects probably weren’t sure bets at first. Google workers didn’t always know if their projects would work out and writers don’t always know if their sporadic notes will lead to publishable articles and stories. And who knows if de Mestral was certain in the beginning that his Velcro idea would be accepted and mass-produced?
Big thinking is risky, but you should do it anyway. Sure, the idea of spending hours pondering an idea that could fail isn’t appealing, but a lot of great concepts sound iffy in the beginning. You’ll just have to be brave enough to see if that weird concept you think about all day actually works out.
2. Daydreams Help You Process Information
By now, you’ve realized that daydreams are useful for developing great ideas, not just wondering about what you’ll wear when you go out tonight.
But they also mean that your head’s functioning properly and that you’ll remember important things.
Consider this — a 2012 study conducted in part by the University of Wisconsin claims that:
“The mental processes underlying a wandering mind reports a role for working memory, a sort of a mental workspace that allows you to juggle multiple thoughts simultaneously.”
Daydreaming gives you room to prioritize. When you’re spacing out, all these thoughts and mental tasks float around in your brain, which means that the logical, factual stuff — remembering to take out the trash and buy eggs from the grocery store before it gets too late — are drifting right alongside the other stuff — fantasies about how much money you’ll make someday, your memories of your first date, and the concept for that new blog you’re launching later this year. This is your working memory in action, and it allows your mind to access the right thoughts at the right time.
It’s also how you tell what you really want in life. If you’ve daydreamed about mastering the guitar or owning your own business everyday for the past month while you were playing with your kids, analyzing that spreadsheet at work, or watching your favorite TV show, then your daydreams are sending you a message you shouldn’t ignore. Start planning to make these goals a reality now.
3. Daydreams Keep Your Goals in Focus
Everyone has goals they daydream about, including you. Do you daydream about being better at something and mastering a skill? Do you envision having new experiences, a new standard of living, or starting a new career? If you do, daydreams are essential to long-term success.
They keep your goals in front of you constantly. If your mind wanders, chances are it wanders right toward the goal you’ve set for yourself — and it probably stays there a while
That’s a good thing.
Twentieth century poet Pamela Vaull Starr summed it up perfectly with the following quote:
“Reach high, for stars lie hidden in your soul. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.”
Your dreams increase your hunger to achieve what you want because they don’t let you forget how badly you starve for it. They motivate you to do whatever it takes to make those fantasies a reality.
If your eyes are the window to your soul, as the old English proverb claims, then your dreams are the light that shines through that window to make your soul shine. If you dream, you’ll never lose sight of what keeps your soul alive.
So in order to keep living, you have to keep dreaming.
Pay Attention to Daydreams
Never write off your stray thoughts. Many of them are wishes you have the power to make come true.
Start by trying this little exercise: When you finish reading this article, think long and hard about the daydreams you’ve had today, and what they actually mean. In fact, you’ve probably already thought about a few of them between now and when you started reading. People often daydream no matter what they’re doing, even if it’s something they enjoy… that’s how powerful your deepest desires are.
So stop, stare off into space, and get to work. Your mind is sending you a message, and your soul is waiting for you to receive it.