Why daydreaming works for your career

How structured daydreaming can help you get ahead in life

Shamontiel Vaughn
Jun 25 · 4 min read

I was a pretty good kid in school, but there were two things I would occasionally get report card checks for: talking and daydreaming. The latter one was especially pronounced in third grade with a teacher I absolutely could not stand. She did horrible things like twist your earlobe if you couldn’t answer a multiplication question correctly.

Instead of dealing with these antics, I just ignored her completely and tuned into another world. I think she hated the silent treatment more than students who mouthed off, so I used it as a defense mechanism. My parents were concerned about me zoning out in her class, but I have no regrets. As an adult, zoning out has kept me out of countless arguments and fights — although it was classified as “icing people out” by one particularly prejudiced supervisor I like even less than my third-grade teacher. After countless accusations that I sometimes acknowledged and other times remained silent about, I walked off. It was one of the smartest and most peaceful career decisions I have ever made. And it was structured daydreaming that got me to turn in my two-weeks notice.

Structured daydreaming (focusing on real-life goals that could very well happen in the coming months) could leave you feeling driven and optimistic about your future.

When daydreaming hurts and helps

Daydreaming can look to others as though you are ignoring them. They’re not wrong. But in its defense, daydreaming has some perks that creative writers, entrepreneurs and other dream seekers are familiar with.

That’s why a Harvard study recently caught my attention. Harvard researchers studied 2,200 adults (ages 18 to 88) via regular texting, asking them what they were doing and thinking. What I found interesting was approximately 46.9 percent of them were off in another world, pondering on positive topics like work promotions or being on a small island.



What kind of structured daydreaming can you do that can make your realistic goals happen?

Unlike meditation, which I also like to do (with the help of Insight timer), daydreaming opens your imagination to explore your favorite fantasies. Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks.

One of them is if you daydream about something that’s more of a fantasy than a realistic goal, you will usually be left disappointed. On the other hand, structured daydreaming (focusing on real-life goals that could very well happen in the coming months) could leave you feeling driven and optimistic about your future. And positive constructive daydreaming (PCD)(focusing on positive thoughts during a low-key activity) can boost creativity and strengthen leadership.

Making daydreaming work for your mind and body

Oscar-winning actress Viola Davis said it best with her take on dreams: “I think sometimes you have to see a physical manifestation of your dream. Otherwise you have to hope, pray and try to conjure something in your mind to feel like it’s possible.”

For my Upwork freelancing, I write and edit a lot about physical health for two-legged folks and my four-legged friends, too. (You’d be surprised how much those two groups connect.) But I’ve also written quite a few posts on mental health.

Being able to take care of the physical body you stride in is significant. But mental health can affect your physical health. Being in tune with your state of mind can help you recognize when physical issues (ex. stress, anxiety, headaches, stomach pain, etc.) are going on. Observe how your body changes when you participate in PCD or structured daydreaming.

Maybe your daydreams involve a mentor. Maybe they involve leaving a dead-end job. Maybe you want to start a project or a company that has been on the backburner for years. And maybe you need to pay more attention to what you’re daydreaming about to make it actual reality.

While you’re in your own little world thinking about what you want to do, what stops you from doing it? What keeps you going? You only have one life to live, so why not make it the best you possibly can?

Shamontiel Vaughn

Written by

14-year journalist (Tribune/Defender/CBS Chicago); Wag! dog walker; Toastmasters member/3x officer; co-host of Do Not Submit storytelling. Visit Shamontiel.com