How Day Dreams Can Ruin Your Life -- And What You Can Do to Stop It
How Day Dreams Can Ruin Your Life -- And What You Can Do to Stop It

How Day Dreams Can Ruin Your Life — And What You Can Do to Stop It

In Week Eight of The Master Key System, Charles F. Haanel wrote:

14. Do not confuse Imagination with Fancy, or that form of day dreaming in which some people like to indulge. Day dreaming is a form of mental dissipation which may lead to mental disaster. [Emphasis mine.]

15. Constructive imagination means mental labor, by some considered to be the hardest kind of labor. But, if so, it yields the greatest returns, for all the great things in life have come to men and women who had the capacity to think, to imagine, and to make their dreams come true. [Emphasis mine.]

These are the lines that I believe confuse many people. Let’s look at them closely.

Haanel considers constructive imagination to be “mental labor” while he states that day dreaming is something that “people like to indulge” but is a form of “mental dissipation”. CONSTRUCTIVE is the key word when trying to differentiate the two.

When you use imagination in a constructive fashion, you are using your mind – your mental faculties – to envision things as you would like them to be. While it can be pleasing, it can also be hard, difficult work. For example, let’s say you are working on a project; you will want to imagine in your mind the outcome that you would like. In Week Sixteen, Haanel relates an interview with Henry M. Flagler, the Standard Oil multimillionaire who

…admitted that the secret of his success was his power to see a thing in its completeness. The following conversation with the reporter shows his power of idealization, concentration, and visualization – all spiritual powers:

9. “Did you actually vision to yourself the whole thing? I mean, did you, or could you, really close your eyes and see the tracks? And the trains running? And hear the whistles blowing? Did you go as far as that?”


“How clearly?”

“Very clearly.”

That is using constructive imagination. With that in mind, it will be easy to see how constructive imagination can be confused with daydreaming.

Day dreaming is mental dissipation. It takes place when you do NOT think about things in a constructive fashion, rather you think of them in an “I wish” sort of way. For example, listening to music and fantasizing about being a great singer when you have no musical ability whatsoever is day dreaming — and therefore wasteful.

That is mild.

Day dreaming can get worse.

Worrying is the worst form of day dreaming! When you worry, you “day dream” about things that may not ever happen, but you instill in you mind and body a very real feeling of fear and anxiety.

Do you see how this works?

Do you see how this is NOT constructive?

It is at best dissipative.

At worst, it is destructive.

Look at it this way: If a person buys life insurance, he is using his constructive imagination to foresee a possible situation that may happen in the future. Therefore, he buys a policy so that his family will be cared for in the event that the worst comes to pass. There is no worry there, just good planning.

A person who worries, on the other hand, would use his mind and time to wastefully envision every horrible thing that could happen. And then he dwells on those possibilities. He doesn’t just take care of business and then get on with his life. No, he fritters his energy on events that may never happen — and, statistically speaking, probably won’t.

Haanel’s goal with The Master Key System is to train your brain, to inculcate within you mental discipline that will help you to achieve high aims. Having mental focus is at the top of the list and one cannot have that focus if you waste your most valuable resources entertaining frivolous things.

You won’t day-dream these books because they are real.


  1. The heart of the issue of how we use our imagination has to do with what we’ll then do. The recent baloney about “universal genies” does more harm than good. The reason to clearly visualize (and not merely daydream) is simply because if one does not believe something is possible, then one simply will not take action in that direction. Tiger Woods, Thomas Edison and Lance Armstrong did not achieve what they did through mere visualization nor from asking the universal genie to provide; they took consistent action in the direction of their goals. But they would NOT have taken action and they would NOT have achieved what they did if they believed shooting for those goals was a waste of time or simply impossible for them. Proper visualization, bottom line, is to picture your goal the same way you picture something you believe 100%.

  2. Tony says:

    Of course action is the differentiating factor. The creative imagination comes into play not only as a “possibility finder”, but also as a problem solver.

    When one has a problem (and life IS a series of problems), one of the best things that one can do is to take the time to constructively imagine a solution to said problem.

    Or, to say the same thing in more common parlance: THINK THINGS THROUGH!


    But, yes, action is and should be the end goal – and that is usually what differentiates imagining from day dreaming.

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