How Daydreaming Can Make You More Creative and Successful
Daydreaming, unfortunately, is unlikely to become a successful parlor game. Just as doodling in the margins of our notebooks was frowned upon, the act and art of daydreaming is one that is usually cast in a negative light. Often misinterpreted as an indication of a simple mind, daydreaming is, in fact, a complicated mental and metabolic process that has been referred to as the “default” setting of the human mind, thus making daydreaming a uniquely human activity that is directly tied to our species unique intelligence.
Okay, you say, that’s all well and good, but how does daydreaming actually influence my creativity, my capacity for success and all of that other latent greatness? I’m so glad that you asked:
Daydreaming Allows Your Brain to Focus on Your Goals
In the mind’s eye, you have a real opportunity to see what kind of future you want for yourself. Sure, you might have ideas about professional, personal or creative goals, but in allowing your mind to wander off for a while, you might just begin to daydream about specific goals that might have gotten lost in the shuffle. Allowing yourself to daydream can show you what goals you are really interested in pursuing. Motivate yourself by thinking about the ends to your means. What are you working toward? Restoring a prized Mustang? Maybe just getting through physical therapy? Envisioning your just rewards can help you get through the thickest, most brutal workloads.
Daydreaming Can Give You New Perspective
Whether you’re a writer, a designer or even a stay at home mom, we’ve all struggled through the phenomenon known as writer’s block. We get focused on an idea or principle, and we focus on it so much that it becomes an anchor that we can’t move past. Daydreaming, in a professional sense, can allow your mind to loosen up and digest different ideas, while keeping tabs on your original project. This is referred to as ‘working memory,’ or the mind’s ability to process and perceive information in the short-term sense. A study recently published by the University of Wisconsin found a direct correlation between daydreaming and a higher capacity for working memory. Working down different mental tangents can allow you, when you’re ready, to return to an idea with a fresh insight that you may not have found if you hadn’t allowed your brain a chance to catch its breath.
Jonah Lehrer, author and expert in the fields of psychology and neuroscience, posed an interesting question in a recent online talk with The New Yorker: Is our constant access to the Internet killing our imagination? More often than not, if you go out for lunch or to run some errands, you’ll see many people tuned out and plugged in as they wait in line or stroll down the street. If people can have constant access to their emails or their favorite blogs, when do they have time to simply take in the sights and let their minds roam? Daydreaming allows the brain a chance to practice utilizing our imagination by exploring one’s own capacity for creativity.
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Strengthens Ability to Grasp Abstract Thought
In addition to being a good way to deal with writer’s block, an active imagination is also useful in elaborating and expanding an idea that is already going forward. This ties into the high functioning working memory listed earlier, because a strong ability to daydream means you can think about specific ideas or goals while you’re doing just about anything. Going to the bank? Take that half-hour to mull over the facets and physical features of a character you’re designing. Need to find a way to boost sales? Think about that while you’re driving to the grocery store. If you can actively realize both the physical world around you as well as the abstract goals, visions and ideas in your head, chances are you’ll be able to have them sync up. Practice the art of thinking while not thinking, if you will.
Increased Organizational and Compartmental Ability
Daydreaming can allow you to process information in unique ways. Maybe you think of the calendar of a week as a cycle instead of seven, linear days. Visualizing your workload and dividing it into chunks that can be managed in an hour, in a day or in a week can greatly boost one’s productivity. Similarly, if you’re caught doing a task that is described, at best, as mundane, daydreaming can distract you, allowing one portion of your consciousness to wander off and think of more important things while the rest of you focuses on stuffing those envelopes or entering all that data.
Daydreaming as a Form of Meditation
The quickest way to burn out an engine is to run it into exhaustion. Well, the human mind works the same way. Work that requires a high amount of concentration and creativity can also produce a lot of mental stress, especially when working in an environment that is conscious of deadlines and originality. After pumping out a new article, or submitting a couple pages of new designs, you might not have time to take a day off and relax poolside. But that certainly doesn’t mean that you don’t have time to envision yourself by the pool with a nice cocktail at hand. Taking small breaks throughout the day to simply let your mind relax is a great way to cope with a high-stress work-life. It may seem silly, or even like a waste of time, to take five minutes just to sit by the window and watch the leaves fall from a nearby tree. Doing so, however, will give your mind a chance to catch up and come up with new ideas, whether or not you were actively thinking about anything.
Manage Conflict and Risk
A high capacity for abstract thought can allow you to learn from your mistakes, and apply what you’ve learned to future risky endeavors. Daydream about yourself in past scenarios, and extrapolate what might happen had you said something different, or behaved in a different way. All of this can be applied toward future encounters that might lead to conflict or loss, such as making deals with unscrupulous business partners, or contracting work out to people who might not perform as you see fit.
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