"Everything starts as someone's daydream."
I recently received a request from a reader asking that I write a post about how to stop daydreaming. When I first read the email, I thought to myself, "Why would you want to stop daydreaming?!" As someone who is usually on the go, living a fairly fast-paced life, daydreaming seems like a luxury, something I'd love to have more time to do. But, as I thought about it some more, I realized that, as fun as daydreaming sounds, maybe it's not really all that productive. It's, of course, important to have dreams and goals and ideas, but it's a lot more important to put them into action. In addition, if you're spending all your time daydreaming, you're not really living in the present.
However, as much as I try to live in the present moment, I still cannot deny that daydreams are a beautiful and much-needed element of life. Some do not have them or have them rarely. Some do not make the time for them that they should. And others, maybe like the author of the email requesting this post, spend too much time daydreaming. While I love the idea of living a life of daydreaming, I know that's not realistic (or healthy... or present-focused...). Perhaps it is because I've been unhappy with some elements of my own life lately that I feel the quick impulse to state that daydreaming is wonderful and that there couldn't be anything negative about it. Though I would love to spend hours of my day daydreaming, I know that's just not the way to live in the moment and I know that, in many ways, daydreams can be a waste of actual days.
Daydreaming has it's upsides -- after all, just take a look at the quote above! -- but it also has it's downsides too. Like most things, daydreaming in moderation can be wonderful and useful. It's like a fine wine or a sweet treat. A little bit can be fantastic, but too much can be a disaster (or, at the very least a hangover or a stomach ache). You don't want to get drunk on your dreams and then have to deal with the hangover, do you? I certainly don't... which is why I've come up with a list of daydreaming do's and don'ts. I want to spend more time daydreaming (sometimes I don't let myself have enough time to just get lost in thought), but I don't want to overdo it. So here are the rules I'm going to follow. Hopefully they'll help you out as well!
Do limit yourself to a specific amount of time. It can be very easy to let your mind wander forever once you get into a daydreaming zone, but it really helps not to overdo it if you limit yourself to a specific amount of time. Also, pick the right time of day (like not during work or school) to let your mind wander.
Do let yourself really enjoy them. When you're allowing yourself to daydream, you must really allow yourself to be in the moment and focus on those dreams. It becomes wasteful and pointless if you are constantly being distracted. Think of it as a form of meditation and really allow yourself to be present in your daytime dreaming.
Do try to make them productive in reality. Just because they're dreams doesn't mean that they can't become reality. Think about what you like to day dream about and see how you can turn those dreams into reality. Wherever your mind wanders naturally is probably something that's important to you so find a way to make those dreams real.
Do listen and learn from them. Dreams -- day or night -- have a purpose. They are there to tell us about ourselves and our lives. It can be tempting to just become absorbed in them and then let them fade when we come back to reality, but it's very important to really listen to what your daydreams are telling you.
Don't allow yourself to get carried away. It can be very easy if you're a daydreamer to get carried away into the fantasy-filled world of your dreams. Daydreaming is alluring and it's important to keep yourself focused on the fact that you must, at some point, come back to reality.
Don't let anyone tell you they're worthless.Day dreams might seem, at times, like they're pointless. What might seem like something abstract and unobtainable can actually turn into something meaningful and purpose-driven. Don't let anyone tell you your dreams aren't worth anything because they truly are priceless.
Don't forget that reality is where dreams come true. Dreams are the foundation of great things, but in order to make great things happen, you have to remember that reality is where your dreams can come true. Don't forget to bring your dreams back to reality and see how you can use them in your life.
Don't believe they are better than your life. Dreams can be temptresses at times, leading us to believe that what they have is something better than what we already possess. It's essential when daydreaming to keep in mind that these are your dreams and it's up to you to make them realities.
Daydreaming too much can have it's consequences, but so can not daydreaming enough. As with most things, it's best to strike a balance between living in the moment and letting your mind wander aimlessly for hours. Now, so you can do a little daydreaming about daydreams, I'll leave you with this poem, "Dream Deferred" by Langston Hughes, which, as I was contemplating the topic of dreaming over the weekend, I found printed on the inside of a menu at a local DC restaurant, Busboys and Poets:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like and sore --
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over --
Like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
Like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?