My imagination may just be my greatest enemy. I can’t tell you how many vacations I’ve ruined for myself — by thinking about them too much beforehand, by building them way up in my head before I travel.
And then I’ll get there — and the trip will be fun. Great! Spectacular, even! But somehow… it won’t match the picture that I cooked up in my head when I let my imagination run wild. And even though I had a BLAST, even though I had a wonderful trip, I’ll somehow end up disappointed.
No good, no good.
Thankfully, I realized this pattern a while ago and made a conscious decision to move away from it. I’ll get excited when I’m planning a trip and getting everything squared away for it. But I do my best in those exciting trip-planning moments to rein my enthusiasm in. I don’t let my imagination run wild.
I basically book the trip and then set the excitement aside. As much as I can of course. (I’m only human.)
The nice part about this approach is that when the time to take the trip comes, it’s almost like a present past self gave me. That emotional disconnect makes the departure very exciting.
And I absolutely have a much better time on the trips and don’t feel disappointed afterwards like I used to.
For real, my imagination is really tough competition. Reality just can’t keep up.
This Imagination Trap Is Not Just About Vacations Either
And this imagination trap I fall into isn’t just about vacations. I find it’s all over my life. It’s so easy for me to get wrapped up in thinking about something exciting that I have planned for later and building it up so far that reality can’t compete.
And not only am I disappointed when reality can’t possibly live up to my unrealistic imagination, but I realized somewhere along the way that I was robbing myself of the ability to fully experience and enjoy the present moment.
I think that’s another reason that mindfulness work has been so helpful for me the past several years (in addition to many others). It’s helped battle this tendency of mine to pit my imagination against reality — with often disappointing results.