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How daydreaming helped one woman go from receptionist to music executive in three years
Daydreaming can be a good thing. - photo by Phong Pham,

Erica Grayson got a job as a receptionist in the music industry when she was 20. By the time she turned 23, she was a record executive leading the way in entertainment.

She’s now 38, and still making waves in the music world with her talent agency, MADE FAMOUS.

Grayson wrote for Cosmopolitan that her success came from her decision to keep daydreaming.

“I used to sit in my room and listen to the radio and daydream about the world of those songs,” Grayson wrote for Cosmopolitan. “This was before music videos, so I would create these movie clips in my mind.”

Daydreaming, which acts as a reset button, gave Grayson a chance to slow down, tap into what mattered most to her, and strategize about ways to reach that goal — something that our brains can't do as effectively when our minds are focused.

According to the National Institute of Health, a human’s brain is made up of a “default network” of activity that is accessed when our minds drift during the day. The “default network” allows stray thoughts that are often left in the background of our minds to surface.

In this state, our brains are able to look inward and focus on the “self," which helps us solve the problems that bug us, according to a study out of the Association for Psychological Science.

But finding success isn’t always as easy as deciding to have a daydream and hoping things work out for the best. People also have to channel their daydreams in the right ways.

“Mind wandering isn’t free — it takes resources,” said Jonathan Smallwood, one of the researchers of the Psychological Science study, in a statement. “But you get to decide how you want to use your resources. If your priority is to keep attention on task, you can use working memory to do that, too.”

People who daydream can use their visions to help create a better life — first by imagining the things they want, but don't have, and second by working to attain them.

Brigid Schulte, author of “Overwhelmed: Work, love, and play when no one has the time,” agrees that daydreaming can offer people personal and professional benefits. In an article for CNN, she wrote that daydreaming, a time when our brains are usually idle, leads people to have their best thoughts of the day and, ultimately, pushes society forward.

“Hard as it is to believe in our modern, work-worshipping culture,” Schulte wrote, “idleness, leisure time, daydreaming and time away from the hurly-burly, the drudgery of routine and the endless nose to the grindstone, is not only essential for innovation, it is, in fact, what has created civilization.”

But all daydreams don't necessarily lead to brilliant new ideas. Some can be a big indicator of personal unhappiness.

A study out of Harvard University found that daydreams, which allow people to escape harsh realities of everyday life and focus on the things they don't yet have, can only lead to disappointment.

“A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind,” wrote researchers Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert. “The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.”

Others have linked daydreaming to ADHD and poor job performances. People's attention shifts from the tasks at hand to their dreams and desires, which allows less work to be done, The Daily Beast reported.

However, history may be on the side of the visionary. Albert Einsten, Isaac Newton and the Bronte sisters were all known for their tendencies to drift off,according to Business Insider, showing that the rewards can be big for those who manage to find the right balance.

Twitter: @herbscribner