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Daydream Your Way to a Better Career

Topics: Career Advice
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Ever zone out at work? Turns out, daydreaming might actually be good for you, and for your future.

Did you used to gaze out the window while you were supposed to be completing math problems in school? Instead of being absent minded – as your teachers may have told you – you might be smarter than you think!

It turns out, daydreaming — taking a short break to think on something outside of your own reality and unfocusing on the task at hand — can be really good for you.

So how do you manage to move forward while you’re not looking at the finish line?

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Take a break on your way to a conclusion

Sometimes getting up to stretch or grabbing something to eat isn’t enough to spark that “aha!” moment in your brain. You need a bigger break. The rise of adult coloring books is one example of a small way we can “unplug” our brains from complicated activities and tasks to offer up something that not only doesn’t take too much cognitive skill, but also offers some creative outlets.

Daydreaming as a break can offer up possibilities outside of reality…like coloring that horse blue or composing a silly rhyme about the weather. When we come back to reality, those possibilities linger on the edge of our brains, opening up lots of doors and windows that were closed before.

“The daydreaming mind may make an association between bits of information that the person had never considered in that particular way,” says Eugenio M. Rothe, a psychiatrist at Florida International University. “This accounts for creativity, insights of wisdom and oftentime the solutions to problems that the person had not considered.”

Plan for the long term with your daydreams

Think of the lightbulb moments you’ve heard about with great inventors and thinkers. They weren’t necessarily trying to solve a problem in the “now,” they were looking way into the future with their imagination.

“Daydreaming can be the mind’s incubator,” noted Will Willimon when he addressed graduates at Durham Academy in 2014. “When we’re hyperfocused, the possibility of the mind reaching into its reservoir and making an ‘Aha!’ diminishes. In daydreaming there’s no controlling censor to whisper, ‘That’s ridiculous’ or ‘Completely impractical.'”

Imagine your future career

We were kids when we imagined ourselves as astronauts and llama doctors, but those career imaginings can still help us right the ship on our adult career journeys. What else is there except imagining the next step when you’ve got a ladder to climb, right?

“Daydreaming lets you experiment with different lives and different roles,” writes Amy Fries at Psychology Today. “They may not show you exactly what you really want to do, but they usually capture the essence of what you want–to be of service, to be powerful, to live a life of adventure, to be financially secure . . . Whatever it is, daydreaming is your vehicle for exploration.”


Has daydreaming ever given you a great “aha!” moment? We want to hear about it! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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