Dreams are funny things.
I read the other day that advising someone to ‘follow their dreams’ in business is terrible advice. Your dreams do not take into account the market, interest rates, tax changes or even your skills and talents. Not every hobby is going to become a profitable business or even an enjoyable career.
In my working life I have found that to be true: For example, I enjoy throwing parties but was a fairly average event manager. I get joy from cooking, but would hate to be a caterer. I am passionate about theatre, but found day-to-day work of managing small arts companies overwhelming. I love films but would no more want to produce than fly to the moon.
Yet I still believe there is great value in knowing and embracing your dreams, even if we do not act on them. Without acknowledging our dreams, our passions and knowing what we love in life, we ignore a part of ourselves. Our energy is drained, and our satisfaction with what we have compromised.
I usually begin each coaching session by asking my clients what they would like to get out of the session. It is a chance for us to be clear about their intention and motivation for coaching. Sometimes the client has something urgent and immediate with which we can work. Other times it can take a little while to discover and refine what they want to take away.
This process is incredibly valuable as we often do not take the time to really clarify what we want – out of a meeting, a service, a relationship or life. Being clear about and naming what we truly want can be the first step to an authentic life.
One day I had a client respond to my question by collapsing in the chair and pulling her jacket up and over her head. She shrank down and was trying to hide from me. When she came out she voiced what she wanted: I want to be a professional actress.
This had been a long held desire of hers, shaping her choices at high school and university. However, she had never fully committed to the process, relying instead on her “back up plan” working in administrative and corporate world for nearly 20 years. Because of this, there was a sense that she had “failed” to reach her goal.
She had come to coaching not to be an actress, but to start her business, sort out her marketing, get clients. And she was well on that track. But in the process it was clear that this long held desire needed to be brought to the surface, given a hearing, to find out what was going on.
So we looked at her desire to be a professional actress and her doubts and fears of committing to that path. We found out that it was not her skills and ability that was holding her back, but her willingness to fully commit. As much as she wanted this outcome, she had not found the right time in her life to take that path.
She also discovered that whilst the desire was strong, she was also not willing to commit to that path at this point either. She was running a practice, starting her own business, studying for her Masters and a mother of two young girls. She participated in the community, spent time with her partner, family and friends.
Each of those projects and relationships filled and fulfilled her life. It was not that she was too “busy” to take on something new. But in following that dream she would have to give up something important, before she was ready to do so.
Most of us have dreams that are unfulfilled. Some of us may not allow them to be alive for us, forgotten as long ago passions that have no place in our daily lives. You might want to write, dance, or swim the English Channel. You might want to restore classic cars, raise goats or run for government. You might want to halve your golf handicap, climb Mt Everest or solve world hunger.
If we hold the goal too tightly we only have the option of success or failure, we do it or we don’t, there is nothing in between. We then may pursue the dream to our own and others cost, pushing when we could have been patient. Or we give up because it has not happened, calling ourselves a failure and judging ourselves unfairly. We may become resentful or afraid. The dream becomes supressed, taking energy from our waking life. We find it hard to be grateful and appreciate what we already have.
Any way you choose, these are not the paths to a happy and fulfilled life.
When last I spoke to my client she was still holding her intention to act professionally. She was open to opportunities and aware of the steps she may need to take. As there was nothing she had to DO at this moment, she was able to try on different scenarios to see what might fit. In this gentle holding she was able to bring her attention and energy to her work, family and professional development, and keep the door open and make room for her dream.
Making room for your dream in your waking life takes a willingness to be aware of our thoughts, feelings and inner life. It creates opportunities and opens up new paths. It might take some time for you to create the space in your life to follow those paths. It may not be appropriate to quit that job, sell your house, borrow that capital or go back to school. It may not happen today, tomorrow, this month or even next year. But if you are patient with yourself and others the paths will appear. And then you are on your journey.
That’s the funny thing about dreams.