When I Close My Eyes

Daydreaming isn’t a waste of time, as many would have you believe, but a gateway to creativity, problem-solving and even to the realization of our potential. Daydreaming is one of the most routine things we do, and also one of the most private. In a university survey, 80 percent of the students said they would rather admit to an embarrassing experience than reveal their daydreams.

What does daydreaming have to do with racing, you ask? Everything! Throughout racing history, drivers have daydreamed about a vast array of things. It’s what motivates them. They daydream about being faster, about improvements to the suspension, engine, exhaust and more.

Psychologists say we spend up to half of our mental activity on daydreams, which helps us realize our goals, and reveals our innermost hopes, desires and fears. Some believe daydreams are scatterbrained and unfocused, but one of the functions of daydreaming is to keep your agenda in front of you. It reminds you of what’s coming up, it rehearses new situations and scans past experiences so you can learn from them. This certainly sounds like it could be beneficial to auto racing doesn’t it?

Over the years, my personal experience with daydreaming is that not only has it been rewarding but also a most helpful way of preparing me for the racetracks. All racecar drivers have a tendency to see themselves as competitive drivers, but if it weren’t for our tendency and desire to imagine ourselves winning, there might not be any realization or appreciation of doing so.

As daydreams leap about dramatically, our average thought only lasts a few seconds, and we might ask if there is a common content to our daydreams? Daydreams concern our personal goals, and so there’s no such thing as a classic daydream and they tend to differ with each individual. While daydreaming, we are slightly disengaged from our immediate situation. That can mean we are more receptive to ideas generated within our subconscious. But we should never take daydreams at face value. Their real meaning is often cryptic and has more to do with ‘trying out’ various courses of action. Although the content of daydreams varies greatly, two common themes are the “conquering hero” and the “suffering martyr.”

I doubt it’s possible, if the truth be known, to find a single racecar driver, engine tuner or car builder who succeeded at everything they accomplished without the benefit of daydreams.

Daydreaming can stem from such mundane activities as getting the trailer organized prior to heading out for the track. It also can be a scenario where a person overcomes a personal fear, such as holding the throttle down without lifting when his brain tells him he must, or being able to wait a little longer before braking.

At times a daydream itself can be therapeutic. It’s as if we are able to play a film in our heads and our daydream can change our mood or even better, they can relax or entertain us. When we can revisit a daydream that makes us feel faster or more prepared for a weekend at the track, it can help us endure a situation that may be difficult to change in reality. These brief and pleasant smatterings of things we wish to do can, in fact, make the difference.

Neil Gaiman, English author of novels, graphic novels, theater and films said, “You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.”

When all is said and done, isn’t the amazing world of racing all about daydreams? Why not take advantage of what NASA drivers have been doing for years and start daydreaming now even before you head out to the next event. Until next time, enjoy your daydreams.

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