a) Get screened for a learning disability and, if needed, take medication to focus.
b) Visualize a report card with all “A”s.
c) Both a and b.
d) Keep on dreaming.
e) None of the above.
If you answered, “keep on dreaming,” congratulations. You may already know that daydreaming can lead to better life satisfaction by improving relationships and boosting creativity. If not — or if you answered a, b, c, or e, please read on.
Daydreaming Leads to Relationships, Creativity
Daydreaming may not be the first word that comes to mind when you think of ways to improve your love life, but this is one of the surprising scientific findings cited by author Jonah Lehrer a couple of weeks ago in his article “Daydream Achiever” (Lehrer, p. C3). By imagining a variety of scenarios and testing them in our minds, we role-play internally and then take action in our real-lives to create the relationships we want.
Scientists have also found that daydreaming fosters abstract thinking, says Lehrer, by allowing us to make the new connections and develop the new ideas that are the heart of creativity.
Ask Arthur Fry. Arthur was a daydreamer and one day in church, instead of listening to the sermon, his mind went off on a tangent. He started thinking about the paper scraps he used for bookmarks and how they were always falling out of his hymn book (Lehrer, C1).
Now it may be that Arthur missed an important message from his minister that day, but let’s all give thanks for his distraction — it brought us the eternally useful Post-it® Notes.
Creativity and Economic Success
Fry’s creative new idea not only gave us walls covered with colorful reminders, it gave the 3M company more than $1 Billion a year in revenue, reports Greg Beato. This is just one example of the link between creativity and economic success. Professor Richard Florida says that the “creative class” is now the fastest-growing part of our economy and will continue to be our decisive economic advantage in the future. The core professions in this class range from technology to sports to the arts and they develop best in communities that foster diversity— of ideas, cultures, interests, and abilities (Florida, 2002).
This is great news for all teens — but especially for those in what I affectionately term “The Bottom 80″— those who are not in the top 20% of their classes. I found that students in “The Bottom 80” have the strengths and gifts to thrive in the dynamic world Florida describes (see www.positiveleaders.com for more details).
It could also be good news for students like Jill, the high school daydreamer in question at the start of this article. In a world where connecting diverse ideas is a crucial competitive advantage, you’d expect daydreamers to be revered. Sadly, though, this is not yet the case. Adolescents who daydream are often seen as unmotivated, underachievers, or problems that need to be “fixed,” tutored, or medicated.
Wrong Right with Daydreaming Teens?
Imagine what would happen if we stopped looking at what’s “wrong” with daydreaming students — and started seeing what’s right with them?* It is when they are not interested in a topic — or they are more interested in something else — that they daydream…and make creative connections, as Arthur Fry did on that fateful Sunday morning.
What if — instead of focusing on how to make these students listen in class, get better grades or go to a “great” college — we encourage them to bring good dreams to life?
Beato, Greg (2005). Twenty-Five Years of Post-It Notes. Retrieved on September 6, 2008 from: http://www.rakemag.com/reporting/features/twenty-five-years-post-it-notes-0#adjump
Duvivier (2007). Appreciating Beauty in the Bottom 80. University of Pennsylvania: Capstone, August 1. Retrieved on September 3, 2008 from: www.positiveleaders.com/studyresults.html
Florida, R. (2002). The Rise Of The Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community And Everyday Life. New York: Basic Books.
Hallowell, E., & Ratey, J. (1995). Driven To Distraction : Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood Through Adulthood. New York: Touchstone.
Lehrer, J. (2008). Daydream Achiever. Boston Sunday Globe, August 31, pp. C1-3.
* Inspired by Dewitt Jones’ film, “Celebrate What’s Right with the World” (2007).