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, but I also remember how difficult that sometimes was – especially when springtime came, and I could get lost in the feeling of riding on the back of one of the birds flying by! For the time being, however, 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 focus, connection, joy and purpose.
We tend to exist in a series of daily, weekly and yearly repetitions. The more we think, feel, and act the same way we always have, the more likely it is that we always will. But if we can set aside ten minutes, each morning and evening, to let our minds wander in new directions, we experiment in the unknown. We can safely test the waters of “what if” and return unscathed.
This does something incredible to our minds! 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 eagerly jump back in, changing the way we normally think, feel and act.
In daydreams, we can mentally rehearse walking in the shoes of our future selves. 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 know what trying new things feels like.
Do it. Be unproductive and unacceptable for ten minutes, twice a day. Step outside of the familiar, to a place where you can think, feel and act in ways that are unfamiliar. 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.