CC360 Blog

Deliberate Reflection

“The value of dreams is not that they give a specific answer, but that they open up new areas of reality, shake us out of our customary ruts, and throw light on a new segment of our lives” (Rollo May, The Courage to Create)

How do dreams – whether visiting us while eyes opened or closed (or perhaps a combination of the two) – influence our days? What role do such “dreams” play in our health, wellness & performance as we traverse this journey of life?

Dreams and their interpretation date back to at least 3100 BC in Mesopotamia, and likely back much further. Joseph (1590 BC) is a key figure in both the Bible and Quran, where his own dreams and ability to interpret that of others are highlighted. In modern times, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and Carl Jung (1875 – 1961) wrote extensively on the role of dreams in therapy and elsewhere. In a recent column, we even highlighted the little-known story of Mahalia Jackson’s “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” that launched Dr. King’s dream and changed history.

So, what does that have to do with me… today… in my role as a leader, coach, parent, athlete, etc.? I’m just trying to get by, to make it through each day with my head above water. I’m no prophet. Dreams? I’m just happy to get some actual sleep and avoid any nightmares along the way…

Enter deliberate reflection.

At first glance, the two words appear to form an oxymoron. “Reflection” generally involves a quieting of the mind to consider a particular experience, opportunity, or situation. “Deliberate,” on the other hand, is a purposeful, dynamic approach or course of action. Dreams offer the opportunity to merge the two, with Dr. May’s words providing the fuel: “The value of dreams is that they open up new areas of reality, shake us out of our customary ruts, and throw light on a new segment of our lives.”

Phew! Did you catch that? Dreams – if we don’t simply brush them aside as nonsensical or meaningless – open new areas… shake us out of ruts… and throw light on new segments for living – fully living! But the gold embedded in our dreams doesn’t bubble to the surface organically. It requires deliberate reflection.

Dreams flow through each of us. Perhaps it’s a recurring vision while sleeping, or maybe an eyes open dream about how our lives could create more meaningful impact. For most, we awake from (either version of) the dream only to sleepwalk through our days. Deliberate reflection offers an alternative.

Consider (reflect upon) a dream you’ve left untapped. Big or small – it doesn’t matter. The key is to start the process. What message might it be bringing you? What ideas come into focus? What tensions do you sense? What possibilities do you see? Begin to (deliberately) capture these, whether as words in a journal, sketches on a page, or discussions with your coach or friend. Sit or walk with them, visiting repeatedly over time. Play with them as you would a lump of modeling clay on the table in front of you. Our purpose is not so much to concern ourselves with the resultant artwork but rather to gradually shift from sleepwalking to daydreaming to fully living. In that process, our lives and our impact become that artwork.

Dr. May goes on to remind us “imagination…is the individual’s capacity to accept the bombardment of the conscious mind with ideas, impulses, images…welling up from the preconscious.” As we open ourselves up to imagination, as we deliberately reflect on our dreams, rather than seeking a destination on a map, we can instead tune into the northern star pointing us home. I have a feeling it’s a journey you will not regret.

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