What are you dreaming about, but not doing?

In my book Visioning, I essentially encourage readers to ask (and answer) a simple yet potentially profound question: “What are you dreaming about, but not doing?”

I ask the question in several different ways. I discuss the difficulty many people have in dealing with themselves, when it comes to answering this question. I provide practical advice about how best to ask this question of oneself. Furthermore, I include some examples of what my clients produced through reflecting more deeply about what they truly wished for their lives, careers and businesses. The following is an additional example, one of many drawn from my own life, of the power of this question to precipitate a pivotal shift that changed the direction I was taking.

Taking the Inner Journey to Personal Leadership

One sunny Monday morning, a voice spoke to me. It asked me a simple but profound question: "What are you dreaming about, but not doing?".

I'm not in the habit of hearing voices. And this was not another person's voice - it was my own. It wasn't just a thought, though. It was like my inner self was speaking to my outer self, if that makes sense. I wasn't unnerved by the question; I just felt like I was observing myself, witnessing my own life momentarily.

It was a still morning, in the spring of 1999. Unusually, I was driving to work without any music playing in the background on the car stereo. I was feeling relaxed and very much in the moment. It was one of those rare occasions in life where, despite the busyness around me, time seemed to slow down. My senses felt heightened. I felt more connected to myself as well as to what was happening around me.

“What are you dreaming about, but not doing?” the voice asked.

"I want to go to France and study my MBA on exchange”, some part of me responded.

"Sorry, what was that?", another part of me protested.

"I said, I want to go to France and study my MBA on exchange, and I want to go now!"

Whilst the question had not startled me at all, the response took me by surprise.

"But what is going on here? Who authorised this dialogue, between my inner self and outer self? What about what I think? Don't forget I'm the one making the decisions around here!" I timidly interjected.

It only takes a moment to change the course of your life

However, I heard with unusual conviction the prophetic truth in those first ten words: "I want to go to France and study my MBA". This was not the realm of fantasy. This was the domain of a dream - one that was about to be fulfilled. I had declared the future and it mirrored a "knowingness" back at me.

In that moment, a shift occurred in my spirit. An idea got enlivened. A possibility transformed into a commitment. A tipping point in my inner life occurred, soon to be mirrored by a tipping point in my outer life.

At nLIVEn, we call these personal tipping points “enliven moments”. They are the moments at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important shift, as part of the first stage of the four-stage process of adapting to change.

Meanwhile, back to my story…

On an icy cold, wet, dark Monday morning, eight weeks later, a different voice asked me a different but equally exciting question: "Où voulez-vous aller?" (Where would you like to go?)

I replied: "Le Marais, à Paris, s'il vous plait." (The Marais, in Paris, please.)

"How did this happen?" I wondered a few weeks later, as I gazed out at lights blurred by the misty rain on the rear passenger window of my taxi. What miracle had chauffeured my swift arrival into the surreal city of lights?

In less than eight weeks I had secured a place at one of France's three leading business schools, thrown caution to the wind and resigned from my middle management job, rented out my home to help cover my mortgage, taken a student loan to help finance my three month student exchange program, secured an apartment in Paris, farewelled my family at the airport and managed to successfully clear customs at Charles de Gaulle airport with my limited high school French.

Was this folly or fortune?

Had I created a definitive fork in the road of my life, a pathway to prosperity? Or had I gotten carried away on a whim?

As my head and heart wrestled with a confusing cocktail or thoughts and feelings, I sat back and tried to relax. I started to breathe more deeply and calmly.

Somewhere deep inside, I knew with confidence that I was in exactly the right place, at exactly the right time.

Again, that voice spoke to me, from within: "Thank you. You listened."

“You’re welcome”, I replied.

Advance Praise for Visioning

“In his book, Visioning, Glenn has distilled years of experience coaching and mentoring leaders from across the sectors into a powerful and practical process to help us discover and embody our higher dream and purpose, to make a positive contribution in the world around us. An inspiring book!”

Diana Renner, author of Not Knowing: The Art of Turning Uncertainty into Possibility


Book: Visioning
Essay: Adapting to Change
Book: Not Knowing:  The Art of Turning Uncertainty into Possibility