How To Make Your Daydreams Come True

( Originally Published 1950 )

DAYDREAMING IS EXTREMELY pleasant for both positive and negative folk. We all do it. Oh, boy! In his daydreams the self-pitying clerk inherits a fortune, quietly buys the company, and walks in one day to give a Bronx salute to his hated boss and tell him he's fired by the new owner—the clerk, no less. Roy Howard, the guiding genius of the Scripps-Howard chain of newspapers, was once upon a time a penniless newsboy peddling the Indiana Daily Times. One day he walked in and bought the paper for cash. By her wishful thinking Dolly Dizzysteps is picked up at the curb by the handsomest hunk of man imaginable, who screeches to a stop in a shining new Cadillac convertible. He makes her stoop under the weight of diamond ropes, drapes the stoop with platina mink, and wafts with her to Arabia in their private flying Ritz-Carlton suite. Not long ago the comely unknown daughter of a miner did stand at the altar with a man of millions.

Every man can be a superman in his daydreams. Every woman can be whatever women want most to be in her daydreams. Amazingly enough, like Roy Howard and the miner's daughter, there are many men and women who do make their dreams come true in full or in great part. Many, many more—and this may well include you—can make their dreams come true if their desire is strong enough. Men and women who develop the positive attitude are the ones who transform their dreams into reality. Those who stolidly practice the negative attitude condemn themselves to a life of unrealized dreams. They fail to recognize that man's infinite capacity to fool himself makes wishful thinking without positive action more damaging than all the opiates and the hard liquors of the ages.

There are two distinct types of daydreamers:

The positive daydreamer, who takes action to gratify his wishes, who takes definite steps to turn dreams into reality, who tackles his problem in particular.

The negative daydreamer, who takes no steps to fulfill his wishes, who goes on dreaming of miraculous and complete solutions of his problems in general, who simply sits and vaguely hopes, who substitutes wishing for doing.

You are a daydreamer. It is important that you determine which type you are. It is important that you see the difference between simply wishing and taking positive action to try to gratify your wishes. You cause things to happen to you in this life—what, when, where, how these things happen depends on your negative or positive attitude and your solution of the conflict that sometimes arises between the two.

As one of countless examples, Nina Wilcox Putnam, widely traveled and noted novelist, is a positive daydreamer. When she was a youngster, she dreamed of being a writer and took steps to turn that dream into reality. She believed that a good daydream is worth fighting for, and she had to fight for hers against many negative-minded folk.

"Every individual in my family opposed me," she tells us. "My parents deprived me of writing material, so I borrowed from a neighbor and locked myself in the cellar to write." There we have the positive support of a daydream arrayed against negative factors that sometimes surround us all.

Later on, when Nina was in the midst of establishing her reputation and was beginning to work on a serial story, a close relative was taken ill in her home. "I was the chief support of the household," she recalls, "but I was also a woman and the family therefore considered it my duty to remain by the sickbed. I wanted to stay; I knew it was my sentimental duty to stay. But I also knew that I wanted to succeed, and that my story had to be done. So I moved out to a hotel, and stayed there in uninterrupted peace until my job was done.

"The family said harsh things. I myself was doubtful as to the fate of what I had written at the expense of so much criticism. But I had done what I believed was basically right. The story was sold and the money paid the expense of the illness."

Positively ruthless? Not quite! Nina would not have become the chief breadwinner in her youth without fighting for realization of her dreams. There were others who put up negative hurdles for her to leap who could attend the ill relative, and it was the positive Nina who paid the bills. She is not ruthless. She has made and spent fortunes lavishly on others, fortunes that she acquired by positive action in bringing her chief dream into reality.

Daydreaming is essentially a flight from reality, an escape into a land of make-believe. When we daydream, we joy-ride to a mental play land where the imagination goes for hilarious trips on a roller coaster or soars into the skies or indulges in romances of the heart or business or career, always rewarded with fabulous success. Every conspicuous success of man or woman had its origin in daydreaming, and yet daydreaming has a black name. Its name is bad because failures, too, are traced to daydreaming, the fantasies of success into which a multitude escape and in which they indulge until the dream has crowded out the reality and the habit of reward in fantasy has become chronic.

An Einstein indulges in mathematical daydreaming for years before he evolves the formula of relativity or the splitting of the atom. A Goethals dreams of a canal across the Isthmus of Panama before it can ever be built. A Wright dreams of flying a heavier than air machine. Someone else then dreams of flying into the stratosphere before that becomes a reality. A Mitchell daydreams of the old South before a Gone with the Wind is written. An Edison dreams of electrical possibilities, and a world becomes light at night. A Mozart or a Beethoven dreams musical masterpieces before they are put down on paper.

But in all such cases the daydreaming is done by individuals who take positive action to gratify their wishes and turn their dreams into realities. George Catlett Marshall, as a lad, dreamed of becoming not just a soldier but a great soldier. He tried for West Point and couldn't get in. So he went to Virginia Military Institute. Soon after enrollment he was accidentally stabbed with a bayonet and almost died, and his dream almost died with him. But he recovered, and his dream lived. He became Chief of Staff of the United States Army and later the United States Secretary of State in the "Cold World War." Every great leader in the history of this country has been a man of dreams linked with positive thought and positive action.

The daydreams of the multitude of ineffectual men and women are vague and rambling and go on endlessly in circles, like a dog chasing his own tail and wearing himself out without accomplishing anything. The daydreams such as those mentioned above and all daydreams that are put to work are snatched out of the fog of the dreamer's mind and subjected to the glaring searchlight of analysis and realistic tests to determine workable possibilities. They are given the positive treatment. The daydreams of the positive man or woman are alive; those of the negative-minded folk are stillborn.

The positive daydreamer may and frequently does escape from reality by temporarily identifying himself with or sharing the emotional experiences involved in watching a television screen, attending the current plays, reading a fascinating novel, or leaning back in an armchair and letting his thoughts run rife. But he comes back to reality, turns off the TV, leaves the playhouse, lays aside the book, gets out of his chair, and goes to work. The chronic daydreamer, however, is never done with his dreaming. The lullaby goes on indefinitely, soothing, holding back reality. No sooner is one dream lost than he snatches another, and he dreams for the dream's sake alone. He dwarfs Paul Bunyan's gigantic strides in fancy and in real life takes only the few faltering steps necessary for bare survival. Why? Because reality bruises him, but in his daydreams he is always the champion of champions.

There are multiple causes of chronic, excessive, negative daydreaming.

Psychologists tell us that every daydream is an unfulfilled wish; that every daydream represents a desire that has not been gratified; that there is no essential difference between dreams in sleep and daydreams; that night dreams sometimes clarify our thinking and aid in solving problems; that much of value can be secured by careful examination of daydreams; that, because of the wish element involved, daydreams bring peace and pleasure; that there is a certain advantage in being able to daydream.

Psychiatrists tell us that excessive daydreaming of the type that invites failure is almost invariably connected with deep-seated feelings of inferiority; that these feelings of inferiority, regardless of whether they are justified or not, have their origin in a timid, oversensitive personality; that such a personality draws back from the competition of a rough-and-ready world, withers under snubs and rejections, and compensates for the rough treatment of cold reality by escape into daydreams, where he can bask in the warmth of flickering flames of fancy, where he dreams up a world tailored to his wishful measurements.

Psychologists and psychiatrists tell us that frustration is the prolific father of daydreaming. A boy whose childhood is dominated by an overbearing parent or subordinated to the manipulations of older brothers and sisters may come to feel that he isn't so good and strong and resourceful as others. He is depressed and unhappy in his comparisons. But when he retreats into daydreaming he becomes the winner, and it is pleasant to be the champ. He retreats more and more into daydreams, and sometimes wishful thinking becomes chronic. His sister may dream of being the belle of the dance and attracting the attention of the school's star athlete—but he doesn't even see her at the dances, and sometimes she doesn't even get to the dances. She feels she hasn't the proper clothes to set off her charms and feels entirely defeated. She withdraws into her chamber and there lies gazing at the ceiling and dreams up romances that make the current stars of Hollywood look like callow amateurs. It's fun for a while, but if her daydreams become a chronic retreat from her frustrations, there may well be a lifetime of disappointments ahead for her. Disappointed wives and their drudging menfolk, frustrated in their careers by their limitations and their negative attitudes, find surcease in the opiate of daydreaming.

If you are a habitual daydreamer, you may well ask what can be done for you. The answer must depend on how chronic your habit is, how deep-seated were the experiences that prompted development of the habit, and how intensely you desire to abandon the habit. One thing is certain: you can't shed the habit by fostering it; you must attack it positively and beat it down and put it under control.

Some chronic daydreamers can't, without help, ferret out the memory of why they fled to daydreams for solace. They, of necessity, must turn to someone specifically skilled in probing into their unconscious minds to discover the origin of the habit.

Dr. 'Louis E. Bisch cites the case of a woman of thirty-six who despaired of ever marrying and suffered from depression because she felt so thwarted and useless.

"Tell me what you would like to do," Dr. Bisch instructed.

"My daydreams you mean?" she asked shyly. "They are too numerous and farfetched, and most of them have to do with love and marriage. As I have already mentioned, I can cook, sew, and wash dishes—that's all!"

Dr. Bisch interposed, "And you have made it clear that you like none of these. Suppose we see whether any of your daydreams have practical possibilities."

Well, this young woman thought she'd like to own a car, travel, be admired for her dancing, possess haze! eyes, be fifteen pounds lighter in weight, etc. And, naturally, there were the usual daydreams about the tall, handsome, wealthy, perfect lover whose wife she would become, about living in a beautiful home with servants and all that sort of thing.

None of these items, however, seemed to have sufficient promise of the personal satisfaction of immediate fulfillment. So Dr. Bisch urged her to think back and try to recall daydreams of the past, perhaps when she was in her teens or early twenties.

"Once I had a notion I'd like to be a dress designer," she finally said.

"Why didn't you become one?" the psychiatrist inquired.

"My parents could not afford to send me to school, and I was too young and inexperienced to make an actual attempt and try to bluff it out."

"If the urge to become a designer was strong when you were young, I dare say it is still there."

"I believe it is," she exclaimed. "Strange I never thought of it before. I could afford to study now. I believe I will."

Needless to add, the most practical daydream, even though experienced years before and then forgotten, was the means through which this woman was emotionally rehabilitated and made happy. In her daydreaming, she was seeking broad, generalized fulfillment of her wishes. Defeat resulted until she selected a particular dream and took positive action to transform it into reality.

The power to daydream is a gift from the gods. It is the misuse of daydreaming that results in continued frustration and failure. The trouble with the ordinary garden variety of daydreamer is that he wants an all-encompassing and complete fulfillment of his dreams immediately. He dreams of more power and possessions than he can possibly handle effectively and refuses to settle for anything less.

Mr. Wantaby Bigquick, working in a minor job with an automobile-manufacturing company, can't be bothered learning the small details of his job beyond a point that just keeps him on the payroll. He wants to skip the minor steps. Once he applied for the job as head of his department, and it was refused because he was in no way prepared for it. Instead of equipping himself for more important work, he blamed his superiors and dreamed that someday he would be the head of the company and then his fellows would see what a superior sort of man he was.

Working in the same department with Mr. Wantaby Bigquick is a country-bred immigrant named Nicholas Dreystadt, aged twenty-two. Now Nick Dreystadt is a positive type of young machinist. He dreams dreams, but he also is content for the time being to do better the work that is at hand and to learn every little detail of the work of his department.

Nick kept his dreams within control and tackled his problems in particular instead of demanding complete fulfillment of his dreams in one package for immediate delivery. He was made service manager for Cadillac in Chicago, and later this positive young man was drafted by the head office in Detroit. He became a vice-president of General Motors and not long ago, at the age of fifty-seven, was selected to head Chevrolet, the world's largest automobile producer. Wantaby Bigquick is still a disappointed machinist dreaming of the day when he'll head a great organization.

Occasionally people turn to psychiatrists or psychologists for solutions of difficulties that could be solved simply by application of common-sense self-analysis. If you are convinced that your life is being twisted and controlled by chronic, negative daydreaming, you should by all means seek competent professional assistance. If, however, you suspect that you have simply been drifting into too much ineffectual daydreaming, if you feel you want to do some self-searching on your own power, the following questions realistically answered should be of assistance. Write down the questions, and under each put down a cold, uncolored answer. Remember you needn't show this paper work to anyone. It's your own problem and your own search, so don't bluff yourself.

1. Have I had a sharply defined goal in life and taken specific steps for its attainment?

2. Have I ever determined on four or five specific steps of preparation to carry me to my most immediate goal that must be attained if I am ever to accomplish my over-all objective?

3. If I identified those necessary steps, did I do everything in my power to take them, or did I rest content with a few halfhearted tries?

4. When I have encountered obstacles in the way of accomplishing my immediate objective, have I really fought the matter out or have I surrendered to self-imposed obstacles?

5. Have I actually tried hard to do what I now say I can't do?

6. When did I try—how long ago was that?

7. If I failed, exactly why did I fail? Was the failure caused by something entirely beyond my own control? Or was it because I didn't have a fighting heart.

8. Did I have a deep-seated, intense desire to accomplish my objective?

9. When did I first become convinced that I didn't have the ability needed to attain my goal? ( Be honest now, for you can almost always peg the point at which you lowered the banner. )

10. What caused my conviction that I couldn't win my objective?

11. Was that conviction well justified, or was the cause something that I could have overcome if I had had a positive enough desire to fight my way through to victory?

12. Do I have good reason to believe that the cause or causes are still justified—or have some of the obstacles simply disappeared?

13. Does the thought and reality of engaging in competition with others inspire feelings of worry and anxiety?

14. If so, what, specifically, am I afraid of? Why? If what I fear came to pass, would it mean utter ruin or would I still be able to land on my feet, even though temporarily embarrassed?

15. Do the fears that thwarted fulfillment of my desires still make sense?

16. If my goal were suddenly handed to me on a platter today, would its realization come in conflict with my old beliefs, would I be embarrassed in any way, would I be able to handle it with full confidence? [I knew a $10,000 man who was miserable when his dream of the branch managership at $25,000 was offered to him. He felt that he and his wife would be unhappy because of the social obligations involved. He had his dream and was unhappy. He turned the job down on the basis of his self-imposed limitations.]

17. How many of my limitations have been self-imposed? Couldn't I have overcome many, if not most, of those limitations by positive action?

18. How often do I simply dream of accomplishment instead of taking positive steps toward it?

19. How often have I failed to step up and ask for that which I knew was good and within my reach and to which I was reasonably entitled?

20. Aside from my routine time on the job, do I put in more time and thought daydreaming than I put in on specific preparation for realization of my daydreams? [Many men and women daydream of being successful writers. Within five years some of them become reasonably successful by actually doing something about it, while the others in the same period simply dream of the day when they will be guests of honor at literary teas. Jan Struthers, who wrote Mrs. Minniver and has been feted around the world, says she thoroughly enjoys having written but certainly doesn't enjoy writing. The daydreamer tries to capture the fruits of having written without ever indulging in the positive labor of writing.]

21. How often do I talk out my daydreams, talk about the things I'm going to do someday, talk about the "big deal" I have on the fire, talk about things I rarely do anything about, but talk until the voicing becomes almost the reality?

22. Do I have a tendency to dream too much of complete accomplishment, a broad, general over-all achievement, and to neglect or spurn or dodge the minor accomplishments in particular that all build toward the general gratification?

23. Do I dream about a bigger job and better pay without doing much in addition to my daily routines to accomplish that end? [The highest aim of the great majority of people is to hang onto their present job and be given or voted a raise or promotion. They are where they are, being paid what they get, largely because of sell-imposed limitations and negative thinking.]

24. Am I simply mentally marking time and waiting for dreams to come true? [Psychologist William Moulton Marston in a two-year period asked 3,000 persons "What have you to live for?" He was shocked to find that 94 per cent were simply enduring the present while they waited for the future; waited for someone to die; waited for "something" to happen; waited for children to grow up and leave home; waited for next year; waited for another time to take a long-dreamedabout trip; waited for tomorrow without realizing that all anyone ever has is today because yesterday is gone and tomorrow never comes.]

In your own particular case, no doubt, other searching questions along these lines require carefully considered answers. After this self-quiz you may see more clearly why your dreams may never be fulfilled unless you adopt the positive attitude of mind and take action to make your dreams come true.

These steps may carry you toward a more positive way of life:

STEP ONE: When a daydream keeps recurring, grab it by the ears, look into its eyes, examine its teeth, analyze it thoroughly. If the dream is too big or too far beyond your capacity as of now, try to break it down into parts some of which are within your grasp. Then switch your thought and planning to attainment of the presently possible. If you dream of being President of the country, the mathematical chances against you are tremendous—but how about office in your neighborhood associations or a village political job? Make part of your dream come true, and you may be happier in the process of realizing part of it than you ever would be in its complete realization. Is your dream "If I had a million"? Take positive action to acquire that first hundred and then the first thousand. Except for inheritance, that's the way most millionaires made their dreams come true. What are you waiting for?

STEP Two: Dream no little dreams, but determine that you are going to take positive steps to make your very own dreams come true in full or in fair part. If you have a basketful of dreams and never have taken a positive step to realization of any of them, laugh them out of your mind and substitute dreams that offer a chance at control. Then do something about it. Don't just fan yourself with fantasies.

Sam Briskin was an immigrant kid of seventeen in Wilmington, Delaware. He asked for a job. The foreman said, "Five dollars a week." The boy said, "I'll start now." He dreamed of being his own boss. He saved money. He met Betty Prosk in Chicago. She was the sister of a friend. "When I saw her," said Sam, later, "I knew I was going to marry her." He did, and told her of his daydreams. Someday she was going to find herself married to the head of a factory, and he would make money for her, and the workers would all be his friends. He had some trouble on the way. Once the doctors gave him only six months to live, but that wasn't part of his dream. In 1923 he formed his own company. Within ten years he was a prominent replacement radiator manufacturer. He made automobile heaters. He established the Revere Camera Company of Chicago, making cameras and projectors—an outstanding company. His workers have prospered, with large pay increases freely granted. They love the boss and are his friends. He made his dream come true, positive step by positive step. Countless others have done likewise. What are you waiting for?

STEP THREE: Understand that daydreaming is simply imagination running wild like a colt in the pasture. Look it over, creep up on it, rope that coltish dream, harness it, and you have power at hand, as have all who create new products, open up more important jobs, lay groundwork for constructive changes, acquire the riches that life has to offer. Have you asked for your fair share?

Have you made your decisions? Have you really taken the positive action you know you need to take?

Perhaps you have heard one of the best loved lecturers of the century give one of his more than five thousand lectures or have read one of his numerous and influential books or his daily newspaper feature, "Let's Explore Your Mind." When a boy, Albert Wiggam dreamed of being a lecturer and author. For his third platform attempt he had memorized a speech that began "Adams and Jefferson are no more." Albert stepped forward, bowed, and solemnly spoke, "Adams and Jefferson are no more," and became tongue-tied. He couldn't utter another word. He bowed and sat down amid loud and humiliating applause. But he still had his dream and his positive determination, and he became one of the most popular and highest paid lecturers in the country. What is your dream? What are you going to do about it?

STEP FouR: Futile daydreaming may have become a pleasant little habit. Determine to halt each dream as it floats into your mind and examine it to see if it has present possibilities of action. If not, chase it out. You can hold only one dream in your mind at one time. Shoo the fantasies away by substituting thought about positive steps toward solving present problems. Smile at those futile fantasies, and tell them kindly, or indignantly if you prefer, that you are too busy thinking about more important matters to bother with them just now. Make them unwelcome. Tell those little visitors that you have declared a new mental deal and intend to give them the positive treatment every time they come to call and rap on your mental doors. Meet them promptly at the door: "Anything positive and realistic to offer today? No? Then, out you go . . . beat it, and I mean now!" Silly? No, indeed. This can aid in breaking up the habit of futile daydreaming, than which there is nothing sillier.

Susan was a career girl. She had been advanced because of her good work, but she was frustrated by the man problem and fled into daydreams. She let herself go dowdy, took no steps to meet people, gradually found almost complete escape from reality in her daydreams, in which she was the immaculate and beautiful fairy princess courted by knights in shining armor mounted on pure white chargers. The reality of the office was in such sharp contrast with her dreams she became resentful of correction and change. She was fired. It took that and a psychiatrist to convince her that daydreaming can be silly. When she applied the hot foot to her visiting dream knights and snapped out of her dreams, she got another job, joined two organizations, made the most of her appearance, looked good to a salesman. She didn't float down the aisle of the church with half a dozen bridesmaids, but she did say "I do" before a justice, and now she has the reality of a little cherub who keeps her too busy with formulas, drooling, and such, to permit of much in the way of daydreaming about herself.

STEP FIVE: Determine that the only daydream worth having is one that merits positive striving toward its realization.

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