I am so proud of myself! It’s the end of 2022, and I’ve published a blog post every week for the entire year. If you’re a daydreamer, you’ll appreciate just what an achievement that is. It’s hard for us to set a meaningful real-life goal and stick to it – and it’s even harder when that goal involves establishing a new habit, showing up, and doing the work over and over and over again.
Usually, it’s not setting the goal that’s the problem. We know what we want. Our abilities as daydreamers mean that we can imagine how we’d like life to be a year, or five years, or ten years from now. And when we imagine that perfect life, we see every single tiny detail. In my imagined future, it’s a glorious summer’s day. I’m sitting in the garden showing a friend an advance copy of my book which is about to be published. My husband and my son are playing table tennis on the patio. My daughters are watching TV with a couple of their friends. My house is a clean, tidy, welcoming space that our friends and family know they can drop into at any time. My life is full of things that bring me joy – my writing, my mindfulness practice, spending time in nature, meeting up with friends – I’m busy, happy and fulfilled.
That’s the goal. But where I, and many other daydreamers, fall down, is that we don’t visualise the steps we have to take to reach that goal. And even if we know what we need to do, we don’t actually do it. Because the problem with being able to visualise something that clearly is that visualising it is nearly as good as actually living it, it’s a lot easier, and the reward is immediate. In reality, it’s the middle of winter here and it’s cold and wet and dark, and my house is weeks away from being tidy. The only way I can experience that glorious summer’s day right now is in my head.
But the sense of achievement you get from reaching a goal is directly proportional to the effort it takes to get there. Daydreaming about a hypothetical future is ultimately unsatisfying precisely because you can have anything you want, the minute you want it. It’s when you put the effort in, over time, to create something beautiful in real life that you feel the greatest satisfaction. So it’s worth doing the work to make your dreams a reality. I’m not talking about fantastical slaying-dragons and dating-celebrities daydreams here, but the aspirational this-is-what-I-want-my-life-to-be-like daydreams. Because for those daydreams, when you really break them down, there will be elements that are achievable. In fact, there will probably be elements you’re already working on.
One of my biggest goals is to write a book. It would be very easy to look back on 2022 – the first year after I left my career – and judge myself for not having the book written. What have I been doing in all those hours when I would previously have been at work? Why haven’t I devoted more of that time to my big goal? But that would be my inner critic talking. And I’m learning not to listen to that voice.
Because the truth is, I have been writing. I’ve built this blog into a significant resource for immersive and maladaptive daydreamers. I’ve written, every week, about the joys and challenges of being a daydreamer. I’ve had some amazing feedback from people who say I’ve helped them understand and manage their daydreaming. And in writing this blog, I’ve come to understand myself better. I’ve been able to embrace my identity as a daydreamer and I’ve learned to love the way my mind works. I may not have written my book, but I have become a writer. And that’s the first step.
So when I look back on 2022, I choose to be proud of what I’ve achieved, and grateful for the opportunities I’ve had. No, I didn’t write a book, but I made a commitment to this blog, and I followed through. If you can look back on where you were this time last year, and even one aspect of your life is just a little bit better than it was 12 months ago, then you, too, have something to be proud of. So instead of ending 2022 feeling bad about what we didn’t do, let’s celebrate the things we did do.