What one ingredient does it take to hit the ball out of the park – not once in a while but time after time? What does it take to be the world’s best chess master? To play at Carnegie Hall? To write an epic novel?
If you said talent, guess again.
A high IQ? Wrong again. As scientist E.O. Wilson once put it, “If your IQ is 160, join Mensa or work for the IRS. Otherwise, just work hard.”
According to recent studies, the real secret to creative success is grit: the willingness to show up day after day, month after month, and practice.
By itself, that doesn’t sound like such good news. Fortunately, there’s a companion to being a winner that’s more fun: Daydreaming. For those of us who grew up lying on summer grass and staring at the clouds, that’s a comforting thought.
Why does daydreaming work? It seems those of us who daydream instead of trying to focus are more likely to generate ideas.
We’re more productive when we can just stop and think for a while, or browse the Net – which means if you’re reading this at work you can stop feeling guilty.
Other studies show that those of us who have more trouble screening out ambient music or the hum of an air conditioner are more likely to have brainstorms.
Nobody is quite sure why this is so.
Perhaps people who aren’t trying to focus are less likely to dismiss thoughts that seem irrelevant right now but could inspire a breakthrough later. Then, too, when we don’t know where to look, we look everywhere.
Psychologists estimate that we daydream for one-third to one-half of our waking hours, even though a single daydream lasts only a few minutes.
Daydreaming is usually pleasant. It helps the brain consolidate learning and solve problems, just as nighttime dreaming does.
But perhaps the best reason of all to daydream? In a daydream, anything is possible.