When I was in grade school, it was embarrassing to be scolded by a teacher for looking out the window. I know we were supposed to be paying attention to her, but I also remember how difficult that sometimes was – especially when springtime came, and it seemed easier to get lost in the feeling of soaring with the birds outside! For the time being, I was resigned to comply, being informed that daydreaming was both unproductive and unacceptable behavior.

Today, as I help people move beyond the thoughts and emotions that lead to stress, I give them permission to do the forbidden. In fact, I encourage it. In a world that seems exceedingly distracted, lonely, unhappy and lacking purpose, spending time in imagination can be restorative and perhaps vital, to a sense of well-being. It also helps to create a future that can bring us connection, joy and purpose.

Most of us tend to exist on a hamster wheel of daily, weekly, and yearly routines. The more we think and act in the same ways that we always have, the more likely it is that we will continue to do so. But if we can set aside a few minutes each day to let our minds wander in new directions, we learn to step out of the familiar. We can safely test the waters of “what if” and return unscathed.

This does something incredible! It provides proof, in the form of an inner snapshot, that there is more than one way to see things, and more than one way to live. Opportunities we saw in our daydreams suddenly begin to pop up all over, in our everyday lives. Since we’ve already tested them out, we are more willing to try them for real, changing the way we normally think, feel and act

In daydreams, we mentally rehearse walking in the shoes of the future selves we WANT to be. Deliberately looking “outside the window” of our lives somehow softens the adhesive that keeps us stuck in familiar routines. It nudges us to explore beyond what we already know. It inspires us to keep trying new things because we have rehearsed trying new things.

Do it. Be unproductive and unacceptable for ten minutes, each day.  Step outside of the familiar. Spend time where you want to be, rather than where you are. You may be surprised at how much better you feel and how fast your future can move from what could be, to what is.