Daydreaming and motivation

One of the most damaging aspects of maladaptive daydreaming is the way it steals our motivation. Maladaptive daydreamers drift through life. We tell ourselves we will be productive tomorrow. But of course when tomorrow comes, we daydream it away just like we did today. And then we criticise ourselves for being weak or lazy. We tell ourselves that if we could just overcome our maladaptive daydreaming, we’d be motivated to work on real life. The problem is, that’s the wrong way round. You have to get motivated to work on real life, and then it becomes easier to overcome your maladaptive daydreaming.

Why maladaptive daydreaming steals your motivation

There are two main reasons why maladaptive daydreamers struggle with motivation. The first is that daydreaming is too rewarding. When non-daydreamers think about what they want from life, they get a vague vision that inspires them to do the work to make it real. But when maladaptive daydreamers visualise a better life, it feels real. We can experience success in our daydreams without having to do the work to make it a reality. The gap between living it in our imagination and living it in reality doesn’t feel big enough to justify the time and effort it will take to make it real.

The second reason that maladaptive daydreaming steals our motivation is that we don’t believe we can achieve our goals. Many of us don’t daydream as ourselves. We don’t believe that what’s possible for our confident and talented daydream self is also possible for our limited and imperfect real-world self. The same goes for our circumstances. It’s easy to achieve whatever you want in your imagination, where you control every detail. It’s much harder to motivate yourself in real life when you have to acknowledge the very real possibility of failure.

Finding your inspiration

If you’ve ever daydreamed about something you want to achieve in real life, you’re already halfway to making it happen. You’ve got clear about what you want. Motivation is a combination of inspiration and action. Daydreaming can give you the inspiration; but it usually gets in the way of taking action.

Now, if you don’t usually daydream about your real life, you might have some work to do here. I have a sci-fi universe – the adventures I have in my paracosm aren’t remotely like anything that would be possible in reality. But daydreaming is all about feelings and metaphors. In my sci-fi universe, one of the consistent themes is that I’m very good at what I do, and I’m recognised for that. In real life, I have that same need to master a skill and be recognised for it. It just shows up as a different skill in a different context.

So if you don’t daydream about achieving your real-life goals, the first step is to get really clear about what you want. And you can do that by looking at the emotions that come up in your daydreams. Your daydream world might not be realistic, but it will be generating the feelings you need to feel – whether that’s love, success, recognition, abundance, security, etc. Your motivation will be highest when you are pursuing real-life goals that give you those same feelings.

Believe in yourself

Once you’re clear about what you want, the other aspect of motivation is taking the action necessary to turn your vision into reality. That’s the part that daydreamers find difficult.

First of all, you have to believe you’re worth it. If you’ve been telling yourself that you’re weak and lazy and will never succeed at anything, just because you can’t get your daydreaming under control, is it any surprise that you don’t take action towards your goals? You don’t think you deserve them! That mindset has to change. You are worthy of having a better life than the one you have now. And you are capable of creating that better life.

How do you convince yourself that you’re worth it? You stop thinking that you’re in any way less than your daydream self. Could your daydream self achieve your real-life goals? Yes? Then you can too. Because your daydream self is you. They’re the person you become when you don’t feel any external pressure to be a certain way. And the person you practice being every time you daydream.

Now take action

Once you’ve tapped into your inspiration and convinced yourself that you’re worthy of a better life, you can start taking action to achieve your goals. And there are a couple of ways you can use your daydreaming to help you.

You can use your ability as a daydreamer to visualise the process of achievement. We’re very good at visualising the end result, but going straight to the end result in your daydreams can decrease your motivation because it doesn’t prepare you for the hard work you have to do along the way. Visualising yourself showing up day after day and doing the work helps you get clear about not just what you want but the actions you need to take to get there. It also helps your goal feel more achievable. And it serves as a mental rehearsal, so when the time comes to take action, it will feel easier.

In summary

It’s very common for maladaptive daydreamers to struggle with motivation. We don’t want to make the effort to achieve something in real life because we can have it instantly in our daydreams. But with a little bit of practice, you can use your skills as a daydreamer to inspire you to work on real life. And when you do that, daydreaming can become a powerful motivational tool.