How to dream as an adult

Executive Coach gives tips on career changes as an adult

Joanne Smith was 62.

She was nearing the time when most would consider retirement, when starting a new business might seem unrealistic or too nervy. But Joanne’s dream wouldn’t leave her be. So she launched Crowne Comforteur, an incredibly successful line of women’s shoes, that year.

Joanne’s story, so rare and refreshing that Forbes wrote an article on it, highlights the extraordinary effort it takes to dream as an adult.

There are responsibilities to consider, after all. We have mortgages, student loans, and family obligations—not to mention the perception of those around us. Dreams are often a disruption to those everyday realities. We view it as a privilege that simply isn’t ours.

In her book, DARE, DREAM, DO, author and leadership coach Whitney Johnson aligns the process of dreaming with the idea of accepting a dare:

Unfortunately, as adults we often put our dearest dreams away, as life hands us unexpected challenges or circumstances and the harsh realities of economic necessity whittle away at our energy and our hopes. Dreaming truly becomes a dare.

It’s also essential to our continued growth.

Consider what it’s like to watch a child dream. It comes so naturally to them. They make believe, hurling themselves into impossible (albeit, imaginary) situations every day, knowing with so much certainty that they will emerge triumphant. In the process, they’re discovering dormant interests and skills, letting passion play out and exercising their creativity.

Dreaming as an adult may look a little different, but its benefits remain.

Research led by Benjamin Baird and Jonathan Schooler, psychologists at the University of California, Santa Barbara, showed that allowing our minds to wander massages our creative capabilities. We can more easily solve problems and generate new ideas.

But let’s take it a step farther. It’s one thing to daydream, and it’s another entirely to make moves toward pursuing a new career, or entrepreneurship, or exponential growth for your business.

In DARE, DREAM, DO, Johnson writes that discovering and “doing” our dreams requires us to claim a central place in our lives, to accept not only a supporting role but a leading role.

For many of the clients I work with, we start by carving out the necessary time to write down their dreams. Seeing them on paper adds a layer of accountability. Just that simple step of scrawling down dreams makes anyone more likely to take those first few scary steps toward making them happen.

There’s also incredible value in surrounding yourself with a tribe of mentors—people doing the thing you want to be doing the way you want to be doing it. We often admire others because they help us realize possibility in ourselves. Communicating that admiration and seeking out their guidance is an investment in our dreams.

Joanne Smith accepted the dare.

As should we all.

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