Psychologists say that some of us spend up to 75% of our waking life day dreaming or immersed in a fantasy world. Fantasies typically fall into two categories: unhappy catastrophizing. This is where we expect the worst–losing our job, losing our home, losing our mate, losing our life, all sad, alone and eaten by German Shepherds (to recall the Great Bridget Jones). The other fantasies are pleasant pipe dreams. We are a rock star, a Victoria’s Secret Model, a Bernie Madoff client before he made off with everyone’s dosh.
Anyway, what are these fantasies if not stories that we tell either to scare or delight ourselves? Apparently we all know how to fantasize, so why not turn that wishful thinking into purposeful thinking. A brain workout is far less effort than a workout at the gym.
Purposeful thinking is really the act of taking those creative ideas, those stories you tell yourself about the things that you would like to happen, and making them happen. First step, write them down. Second step, identify one or more concrete steps you can take on the path to making your desired scenario happen. Dreaming about a new job in a new field? Find a mentor in that field to advise you, to help you gain entry and make your old skills relevant in the new setting. Turn idea into action. No matter how seemingly inconsequential, do it.
Step three: protect your thinking from negativity. Purposeful thinking is not magical thinking–a childlike defense against harsh reality. Look at any great entrepreneur from Thomas Edison to Howard Hughes to Steve Jobs. Each of them took their wishful thinking and turned it into a purpose, putting action and energy around it, remaining resolutely immune to the naysayers inside and outside their heads.
And so we come to “The American Dream”. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is captured, initially, in the act of dreaming. Dreaming is free. And in America, it is permissible to pursue our dreams. Dreaming is the engine that drives survival, innovation, prosperity, creative destruction, economic rebirth, and new generations of American strivers.