Sunday, September 21, 2008

Are you daydreaming?

Do you daydream? Or do you consider it something that lazy people tend to do?

My Mom clipped and mailed me an article the other day from the paper on the subject of daydreaming. I was able to find it online, as well.

It's a terrific story about how many of our best ideas result from daydreams.

"Daydreaming itself is usually cast in a negative light. Children in school are encouraged to stop daydreaming and 'focus,' and wandering minds are often cited as a leading cause of traffic accidents.

In a culture obsessed with efficiency, daydreaming is derided as a lazy habit or a lack of discipline, the kind of thinking we rely on when we don't really want to think. It's a sign of procrastination, not productivity, something to be put away with your flip-flops and hammock as summer draws to a close."

But scientists have recently found that daydreaming is a "crucial tool for creativity, a thought process that allows the brain to make new associations and connections. The daydreaming mind is free to engage in abstract thought and imaginative ramblings. As a result, we're able to imagine things that don't actually exist."

As one psychologist puts it, "During a daydream, your thoughts are really unbounded."

What researchers have found is that one reason for our lack of creativity is because -- in a busy, overscheduled, goal-obsessed, go-go-go society -- we don't have enough "empty time," those "periods without any activity or sensory stimulation."

In my experience, creativity is one trait many of the most successful coaches share. It helps them "to make a set of unusual connections." In other words, they're seeing things that other coaches don't see. This level of creativity helps them to devise schemes many other coaches can't.

It's important to point out that daydreaming alone is not enough. "Letting your mind drift off is the easy part. The hard part is maintaining enough awareness so that even when you start to daydream you can interrupt yourself and notice a creative insight." In other words, we have to pay attention to our daydreams and recognize when they're pointing us toward to good idea.

Here's how the article concludes:

"It might seem as though our mind is empty, but the mind is never empty: it's always bubbling over with ideas and connections. One of the simplest ways to foster creativity, then, may be to take daydreams more seriously. And when we are stuck on a particularly difficult problem, a good daydream isn't just an escape - it may be the most productive thing we can do."