top of page
  • Pamela Carey

When You Are Stuck in a Daydream

Updated: Nov 22, 2023

If you are repeatedly trying the same thing, over and over again, and failing. Or if you keep fantasizing about doing something, you keep thinking about it, planning, dreaming, idealizing about something, and you never really get started and you feel like you're stuck in this cycle - this may be why.

In this blog we're going to look at if you like the idea of something, versus the reality of it.

We got to jump in with an example, because that's going to make it much clearer.

Let's say that someone always talks about wanting to be a writer. They tell all of their friends about it. They think about what it would be like to be at this really nice desk writing for a few hours a day in solitude, letting their ideas roam, maybe doing photo shoots, promoting their book, thinking about how they might get a sequel out of it. They love the idea of maybe doing a writer's retreat and having other friends that are writers and what it's like to go to the coffee shop and work, and they have all of these different book ideas or screenplay ideas, or they just have always thought they'd want to be a writer.

But until you've actually experienced the day-to-day life of being a writer and you've accepted the actual downsides of that, there's a chance that you just might like the idea of being a writer. So, for instance, how do you feel about wrestling with certain ideas that aren't falling into place in the outline or getting a bunch of red edits from your editor and then having to rework it, or just sitting by yourself and doing the fifth draft after the fourth draft was pretty grueling. Or having to promote a book that you don't even necessarily like the cover of, however your publisher really wanted it, and now you still need to do the legwork to promote it.

How do you feel about the actual day-to-day life of being a writer, which includes some of the glamorous and fun parts that you're imagining, but then also a lot of this grunt work that's in reality. And this applies to anything. This is not just goals or careers or even lofty, creative, ambitious goals like that.

It even could be something as simple as a certain person that you've gone on and off with for a while. Maybe you both really like the idea of that relationship, more than that relationship in actuality. Or maybe there's a person that you've had a crush on from afar and you have all of these ideas of what this person is like. You sort of think about the kinds of dates you might go on and what you might talk about and what it might be like to kiss them. You have all these ideas about what this person is like because maybe you like certain ideas,about them. Maybe they're very attractive. Maybe they have certain skill sets or attributes that you admire and wish that you had.

couple looking at one another lovingly

And so it's much easier to like them from afar because if you got to know them in reality, that might pierce that bubble and you would deal with the first fight you all had, or the ways that they're really not that perfect, such as they're not so great breath in the morning, or the fact that they're a little bit neurotic when a deadline is coming up.

You can stay liking that idea when you don't have to let that idea get pierced by what the day-to-day would actually be like. And this applies to anything. It could be just living in a certain city that you've always felt that you wanted to live in. And then maybe you move there, but you're just not happy. Maybe you liked the idea of living in the city more than you liked the city. Maybe it was fun to visit with your friends, but that's very different than the day to day of living there.

Maybe you like the idea of waking up at 6:00 AM to work out or eating extremely clean and being all or nothing with your food and fitness, because that feels like it makes sense. It's something you can really picture in your mind, “Oh, I'm going to be this person who wakes up and has a big glass of water and hits the gym and then has my eggs and never eats any junk food…” And it's this idea of a person that may or may not be who you really want to be.

And if you did want to be them, you could ask yourself, why haven't you done it yet?

If you really want it, you're going to have to approach it in a way of, “What would it be like tomorrow to actually be living that thing?” So instead of thinking of what it's like to be an attorney from the show Suits, or a doctor from the show, Grey's Anatomy, where all the boring bits are cut out and all the exciting parts are amped up – the court cases, and the steamy love scenes, or the exciting one-liners. Versus simply having a bunch of paperwork that you're dealing with or having to sit alone for hours reading research. I realize a lot of you know that. But there might be just one area of your life where you're doing this.

There might just be one little area where you're stuck in a cycle. That is a big clue, if you're stuck in a repeating cycle. I am going to give you an example from my life. When it comes to making videos on YouTube, I think for a long time I liked the idea of being a YouTuber. It's like, “Wow, some of these people make money, they work from home, they have a flexible schedule, they get to talk about things that they're passionate about, and sometimes meet other people passionate about those same things. And then you get to be creative with video editing and writing scripts.”

But then I, for a lot of time, would take time off because I didn't actually want the reality of that work (at least at that time in my life). Which is often being in a room, talking to yourself. Kind of. I mean, right now I'm very much present communicating with you reader and viewer actually. * With a specific kind of person in mind, but, what I mean is you're by yourself a lot. So if you are an extrovert or just someone that likes external structure, it's again, very easy to get caught up in the idea rather than reality of what the day to day is like.

Now, you may be noticing a similar trend. That the idea is about focusing more on the good parts about an endeavor, a city, a person, a hobby, a lifestyle, versus the not as good parts. That's true. You have to accept the bad parts of an endeavor or path, but it's also about accepting the boring bits of it too. Further, it's also just seeing how well does this thing that you are thinking about coincide with your personality, your preferences, or just the, the unique way that you are. And here's how you know:

It's not that complicated and it's not going to surprise you.

You try it. You have to try it.

It's dating the person versus idealizing about them. And it's the same thing with careers. It's trying the career, moving to the city. You really will not know until you put both feet in.

Sometimes giving yourself a length of time to try something can be helpful.

For instance, I know that this is strange, but I've had multiple friends give themselves sort of a timeline in relationships. Saying to themselves, "Okay, I'm not sure how I feel about this relationship. It's good enough to stay, but I don't know if they're necessarily my long-term partner and I feel anxious about committing indefinitely."

So, the idea of, “Okay, I'm just going to stick it out for three more months and then see how I feel,” then helps them be fully present in it. Instead of having one foot out, it's saying, “No, let me be fully present and invested and see how I feel then.” Because here's the other thing, if you're not sure how you feel about something and you only have one foot in, one toe in, you don't really know how something is, experientially in reality.

(Note - when I say “thing,” I know it sounds weird because I'm sometimes talking about relationships, which are people, and then sometimes I'm talking about careers or lifestyles or habits. And so I know that that's a little bit weird, but you, I trust that you're smart enough to understand that, a lot of these points apply to a lot of these things, but not all of them will apply to all of the examples)

Now, as we were discussing, you have to have both feet in and fully commit to really know what it's like in reality. For instance, how we were talking about visiting a city. I really like this example with cities. If you go to New York, for a bachelorette party or something, and you have the best time, you don't really know what it's like to live there. Then let's say that you decide, “You know what? I'm going to move there for a few months to see if I like it.” But the whole time you're there, you're not really building a community. You're not focusing on building friendships, which can be hard in a big city. You are mostly into your job, but only around 75%. because again, you don't know if you're going to stay, so you're kind of saving a bit of yourself, that effort, that energy. Versus throwing yourself all in.

New York City buildings

In that case you will never really know if it worked. And again, won't know if you like the idea versus it in actuality. So one, it takes time. Two, it works best if you just throw yourself all in. Three sometimes you need to push to the other side of the hard part. There will probably be some sort of hard part. The part Seth Godin talks about calling it the dip. A lot of other people talk about a kind of “sticking point” where they may realize, “Oh, this is really not pleasant.” And you don't know if it's not pleasant because it's naturally harder than you thought in actuality. Meaning you just hadn't anticipated the difficulties until you're in it. OR if it's just not for you. You don't know. So that's why sometimes picking a certain amount of time that is appropriate to try the given thing that you're sizing up is often helpful. And then at the end of that time, you will likely know. So, for whatever you are thinking about, what is the amount of time that you need to give it to see if it's for you?

If we just go with the writing example from the beginning, whether it's a hobby or you really would like to do something in that field that as a career, what is an amount of time that you could realistically give that to see if it's for you? And the cool part about something such as writing is that it is not all or nothing. It's not like a city which is kind of binary. You live in one city. But with writing that’s very easy. Go write for 30 minutes tomorrow. How do you feel? Did you like it? Do you want to go back and do it again soon?

It's very simple. I think sometimes also we don't approach these things with enough experimentation and playfulness to know if we like them either. Because we're so scared to try. Because we think if we will try it, we're going to marry it. For example, “I'm scared to fully invest myself in this relationship because what if it doesn't work out?” What if it doesn't work out? It's okay. You'll be okay. You were okay before you dated this person. You'll be okay after. And it's kind of the same thing with a lot of career stuff. What if it this career doesn't work out? You'll be just fine. You'll be in the same place as before – except for better because you tried it, and now you know, and then you can go do something else with that information and the skills you learn. Because you're learning every day, if you're fully conscious and invested. And that's why I keep talking about two feet in. You're going to learn more about yourself and the world that way and pick up more skillsets that way versus all of this deliberating planning, research, and stalling. I'm going to talk about that idea a lot in the channel because that stalling through deliberation plagued me for years and I would love for it not to plague you for years.

So you have to try it to know, AND maybe you can try it with more playfulness, more experimentation, more of, “Let's see what happens if I try this.”

Of course, there's certain things that have more or less of an investment. Signing up for an MFA program in writing would not be the best example of trying something out playfully or with ease because you would be going into debt to try the thing. See if you can try it for a period of time without making some sort of large investment. There's always a way to do that. For instance, even if it was some sort of graduate school thing, there's a way to try that out FIRST through internships, part-time jobs, or just doing coffee with people working in that field to see what it's like. There's always a way to dip your toe in first. It's kind of like the first date versus will they be your girlfriend or boyfriend, etc.

Do the first date metaphorically with what you are considering first. So kind of like with the city example - yes, the first step is visiting the city, even if, as we covered, that's different than moving there. First dip your toe in. Then maybe dip a foot in. And then dip both feet in iyou still are getting positive signals back that this is for you. And then keep going for a set amount of time.

Remember, you can always re-decide later. I think in relationships for this example we think, oh, I've committed to this person. That means I have to be with them forever. No, if they turn into a complete jerk (or insert your favorite expletive here) in 5 years, no you do not have to be with them. You don't owe them that, especially if they are being abusive or toxic. So same thing with a career. You might think, I can't commit because what if this is not for me. I don't know if I want to do this in 10 years!”

Yeah, of course you don't know if you want to do that in 10 years. Nobody really knows what they want to do in 10 years. Everyone either thinks they do or they're acting like they do, but life's complicated. It changes. So you can think of it as if you are renting this time. You're doing what seems best right now, and then you can always make a new decision later. Renting might not be the best example, but I guess I just mean that you can always make a new decision later, even if you do commit. Because I think that that's people's biggest fear of commitment is because they're not sure, what about 5 years, 10 years, 20 years down the line?

You don't have to know. You can always make a new decision later. Even if you did commit for the next 10 years to something. You could live in a city for 10 years and then move to another city. You can do a job for 10 years and then get another job. You can date a person for 10 years, marry them. It may work out, it may not. None of us know. That's the other thing is we're so hungry for certainty that we forget that life is uncertain by nature. We need to be confident enough in ourselves that we're strong enough to handle what comes with uncertainty. This is the root of much of this fear.

Two more notes.

One is, if you are not going for what you want, or in a repeating cycle, doesn't mean that it's not right for you necessarily. It might just mean that it's not right for you right now. Maybe you want to wait till your kid starts school and then you have a little bit more time and then you can go try this thing. So just because you haven't done something yet doesn't mean that you don't actually want to. It could mean that it just wasn't the right time.

Also it could just mean you're going about it the wrong way. For instance, with the fitness, food, and health example from earlier.. The idea of waking up at 6:00 AM and living this extremely fit and healthy life, that's very all or nothing. Again, maybe you like that idea more than it in actuality, but that doesn't mean that health and fitness are not for you. Maybe doing three times a week, for an hour of exercise at 3:00 PM on the days you work from home, is good for you. You add to that salads a few times a week. And that's a big enough change that you feel better, you feel good, and you're still dedicating yourself to health and fitness. It's just not the way it looks on Instagram where people have the yoga pants advertisements and they're walking with their protein shakes out of the building and they're so fit and their glutes are popping and their biceps and whatnot. You see this and think, “That could be me.” Yeah, maybe, but… maybe it looks different for you and maybe that's okay.

More and more I think that we're going to like the idea of things, the more digital our lives become, the more media there is. Because we're just seeing these highlight reels. We're seeing the glamorous parts, we're seeing what people want us to see. This is talked about all the time. This isn't new. I know this isn't new. But I want you to connect that idea to this concept that we're talking about here. Which is when you see (I'm going to go with the example of the writer just to close this loop in a consistent way from earlier, but it could apply to any career) - When you see a writer being interviewed on some podcasts that you love, or when they're talking about their great relationship with their editor and how they get coffee every week and talk about ideas and you see all of the parts that are wonderful. It's easy to get swept up into liking the idea of something versus it in actuality.

I'll say in a lot of blog posts: Try the thing. Let us know in the comments what you're looking to try. And go for it as long as it's safe and it doesn't hurt anybody, and you invest in a way that you feel comfortable – not over investing like we were talking about. There's a way to first dip the toe in, then dip the foot in, then dip two feet in if you still want it. That's the thing, you're going to get information. You might dip the toe in and realize, "This is not for me." Well, great. Great. You did the first date with the thing and now you know. So do it that way. Do it smart. And that's it guys and gals. I will see you in the next video / blog post! <3

And as usual, here is the video version of the blog post!


* I say reader / viewer because these blog posts are transcripts edited from the YouTube version. I make small alterations for the blog format to make it more reader friendly


bottom of page