How Dreaming Changed My Life

How Dreaming Changed My Life

Were you one of those kids who was always told off for looking out of the window at school?

I wasn’t.

I was usually looking at the teacher.

You see, I’ve never been a natural dreamer. Dreaming wasn’t part of my upbringing. Security and down-to-earth practicality were. Dreaming was one of those indulgent, ‘waste of time’ activities.

Thing are different now though. Now I know that dreaming is one of the most powerful activities I can engage with.

No one told me about the power of dreaming. I had to figure it out for myself.

It’s the changes I have made in my life that have taught me this truth: If you want to change your life and go after the things that you really want, you need to dream.

How dreaming helped me lose half my body weight:

My introduction to the power of dreaming was at the age of 20, when I was over 20 stone (280lbs). I’d had a problem with weight throughout my childhood. It made me sad because I knew that the real me didn’t look like the one I saw in the mirror! Approaching my 21st birthday I saw my 20s stretching ahead of me and I thought, ‘I want my 20s to be fun, fun, fun! There are so many amazing, exciting things I could do.’ I used to imagine the fun that I could have. The people I could meet, the places I could go, the clothes I could wear, the men I could flirt with and how beautiful I could look.

It was dreaming – and how I felt when I thought about what could be- that gave me the strength to change. It directly informed the start of my weight loss process (refusing some chocolate raisins offered to me on Boxing Day). And my vision kept me going – when the last thing I wanted to do was get out that exercise tape, when I really wanted to eat chocolate, when I thought of the enormity of the task swamped me.

Of course, once I’d started changing, I saw the results – the looser clothes, the changes in my face, the increase in my energy…and as I got closer and closer to realising my dreams and my visions spurred me on even more.

How dreaming got me doing what I love:

At 26 I was well and truly entrenched in the corporate life. I’d successfully climbed the career ladder and was working for Microsoft. ‘Wow’, some might say. But I dreamt of a different life. One that was more fulfilling, more meaningful and more vital – where I really cared about what I was doing and I made a difference. I decided to take a 3 month sabbatical from my job and travel. I taught English in Brazil, trekked the Inca trail in Peru and visited Australia and New Zealand, before working with ethnomusicologists in deepest Russia.

These 3 joyous months really encouraged me to dream. I was seeing, feeling and living possibilities. I started to conjure up a another life – one where I was doing what I loved, using my own talents and fascinations – being myself and doing work that didn’t seem like work.

I returned from the trip and started to make the changes I needed to find another job. I left behind the golden Microsoft role and took a job with a music charity in London. I continued to dream and those dreams kept beckoning me onwards to more change. After a year in the music industry, I returned to college. The confidence I was gaining helped me get bolder and last year I set up Path Less Trodden, to help other people follow their passions and live their dreams. I’m now using all of my gifts to bring support and inspiration to others and doing work that I love every day.

Are you convinced about the power of dreaming yet?!

Let me hit you with one final example from my own change catalogue:

How dreaming moved me 1000 miles:

I love everything Italian: The sun, the food, the people, the music, the language. It didn’t actually visit Italy, however, until 2003. Following that first visit, which cemented my love, my visits became more frequent and longer, because I felt so great there…I felt more like me.

Along with this passion for Italy, I’ve always hankered after moving to a different country, but part of me used to think that I just ‘wasn’t the sort of person who did that kind of thing’.

In 2009 I moved to Italy and have made my home here in Tuscany. Again it was dreaming that got me here. This time, my dreams coincided with a period of illness. It lasted 6 months, and I was forced to move back in with my parents. It was during this period that my dreaming came into sharp focus – ‘If only I can get better, I’ll move to Italy…that’s what I really want’. I’d dream about the sun, the rolling hills and my beautiful Tuscan home.

I did get better, and as I did I slowly put the steps in place to enable me to get here. Now I’m surrounded by what I used to dream about: La Dolce Vita!

I learnt some useful things from looking at the teacher and my books at school, but dreaming wasn’t one of them. I’ve had to learn for myself and from my own experience just how important dreaming is to getting a life that you actually want.

Want to have a life you love? Visualise it. Flesh it out: Live it, breathe it, smell it and taste it. What does it look like? Who’s there? How do you feel?

Let’s make a stand for staring out of the window and give dreaming the credit it is due for the vital part it plays in bringing you a body, home and life that you love.

Photo by Atilla1000/a>

Alison Ottaway

Alison is the inspiration and guiding light to a generation longing to step out of the mainstream. She is founder of the life-change movement Path Less Trodden – her passionate, yet down-to-earth message being born out of the many successful transformations she's made in her own life. You can find out more about Alison and how you can walk your own Path Less Trodden at http://www.pathlesstrodden.com.

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30 Comments

  1. Thanks for this article. I am so glad I discovered this blog a few weeks ago.

    If I may, I’d like to succinctly state my problem with this, and would love some elaboration on your story if you can provide it:

    What happens if I get stopped at the dreaming stage? Forget trying to make the dream a reality, as your inspirational story details. I get stuck when I try to dream and I cannot solidify any goals or ideals that I want. I try to listen for what I’m passionate about, but for some reason, I don’t hear or feel anything.

    Do you have any recommendations for how to really get inside my dreams? I’ve tried a LOT, trust me…this is an issue I’ve been struggling with for my entire adult life (I’m 29).
    Thanks!

    Reply
      • Think about what you enjoy doing: Where and doing what do you feel most like you? When does time fly for you? What are you naturally good at that other’s aren’t? What makes you smile?

        I have an exercise in my free ebook (which you can download via http://www.pathlesstrodden.com) called ‘the perfect day’ which helps people with this particular problem – it really gets you thinking about what your ideal is. You should give it a go!

        Reply
        • I will thanks!

          Reply
    • The entire entrepreneurial spirit is based on dreams. Entrepreneurs thrive on the excitment of creating something new, taking a risk and the creativity of the adventure. It is the big picture, the big dream that motivates and keeps them inspired. Yet, even entrepreneurs use a process to implement and achieve their dreams.
      I feel it is not about waiting for a dream to evolve but how to make it grow, watching, nurturing and supporting it along the way. A saying I often use is – Without committing dreams to paper, they are mere intentions like seeds without soil.
      Many people get stuck in the dreamer stage simply because they are not process driven or know how to bring it down to the common denominator to get started. Feel free to contact me if you want assistance getting started.

      Reply
  2. Alison,

    I got “He is one of the world’s greatest daydreamers” written on one of my school reports. Intensely proud of that.

    We all need dreams to sustain us through the tough times and as a vision of something to aim for. The trick is moving from the dream world to real world action. You’re story is an inspiration to others to take action on their dreams

    Peter

    Reply
    • What a great comment! I always had notes about how much of a hard-worker I was, and how conscientious! I’ve developed my ‘dreamer’ since leaving education.

      I have, however, always been a natural planner. So, once I had committed to the changes, I relished the though of plutting the plans in place to make them real.

      Reply
  3. The more bored I get with the monotony of life the more dream-like I become. I am also practical and down to Earth as well. With age I learned to balance both aspects.

    Reply
  4. That’s such a nice dream. I think Italy is one of the nicest countries in the world. I’m not really too sure of Tuscany, but I know I want to visit the Cinque Terre. I could really see myself living there when I get older. :)

    Dreaming is something I’ve always loved. I guess I always thought it was just wishful thinking for the future, but it sure is fun lol.

    Reply
  5. Your post has touched me..
    I’m also working in the IT field.. And i know that i have the ability to take a lot of certificats and become very very successful at what i do.. But i dont feel like i have the passion to go on.. I dont feel like i’m doing something interesting.. But reality makes me look at so many people around me who are suffering to find a good job.. And that makes me stand at the same step each and every day.. To take a risk? Or to be content with what i do?

    Reply
    • Hi there. I know that exact feeling. At Microsoft I was on a training course for the top 5% of employees. I really had a golden career path laid out in front of me. And the work wasn’t terrible, and I liked the people. BUT I knew there was so much more to me and life than that…and the idea of looking back at my life when I was 80 and regretting staying there really beckoned me on.

      I have never regretted leaving. Not for one moment.

      I’d suggest that you get reading. Soak up some interesting takes on how to live a life. I remember Authentic by Neil Crofts really spoke to me at that time.

      Reply
      • Can u throw some light on this……sometimes our ambitions are not congruent with our reality…just as a perfect dream of flying during sleep ends up with one getting up from bed……

        things which we really like to do may not sustain our demands of life……

        Reply
        • It’s easy to push dreams away because a ‘reality’-check tells us that they won’t fit normality, pay the bills.

          Sometimes, it is like that – they won’t pay the bills TODAY. I pushed away my dream of going to Italy for a long time, because I didn’t think it was realistic.

          It’s important to remember that your dreams are not frivolities. They are there for a reason. They are there to show you what you need to explore to be a happy, fulfilled person who loves life.

          If your dreams are different to your current reality you need to be prepared to give them attention (i.e. time, effort) to enable a change. My experience, and belief, is that there is always a way. If you approach the task with that attitude, combined with curiosity, your path will be both enlightening and joyful.

          Reply
  6. Good article – If a person takes action in addition to their dreams, the sky is the limit. There isn’t a reason why you shouldn’t be able to accomplish a realistic goal. I think many times people will dream something and then take action for a brief period of time. When they don’t see instant results then they abandon everything and the dream becomes a waste. We all want instant success or instant results, but unfortunately it doesn’t work that way most of the time. You must plan the seeds and wait for it to grow. Waiting is the hardest part and I know how frustrating it can be. I just wish people would learn to stick with whatever their passions or dreams are and wait for it to come to fruition.
    Good stuff Alison

    Reply
  7. I’ve coached a number of people using the Appreciative Inquiry process

    http://www.systemsthinker.com/interests/appreciativeinquiry/

    One of the phases in the process is the Dream Phase. In that phase, we just let go of restrictions and imagine possibilities. In the later phases we come back down to earth so it isn’t as if we are making unrealistic plans.

    Still some people have the greatest struggles with letting go in that phase and just allowing their imagination to roam. At first this really surprised me because it seems like a fun, less intense phase compared to the others. But some of us were strongly discouraged from freeing our imaginations even for a short period.

    Of course, when this happens, it opens up a lot more work on considering why that blockage is occurring.

    Reply
  8. An inspiring story and life you are leading! Thanks Alison.

    Imagination is the beginning of everything…. and you have demonstrated the huge power there is in using our imaginations….

    Go well.

    Reply
  9. A great article Alison! I am a great believer in creative visualization and use it to focus on and achieve my dreams. But of course, it is important to have those dreams in the first place. I believe I do, and from time to time I re-visit them and make sure they really are what I want to achieve. But I know a lot of people won’t do this, and they should read your article to begin to see why they are wrong. And it was a good reminder to me too – perhaps now is a good time for me to enter my dream world again and align my dreams, values, and aspirations.

    Reply
  10. Wow, really cool story. You’ve been doing a lot of, ummm…living, haha.

    Definitely massively important, though, to have vision for who you want to be and the life you wanna lead. Or else, how would you get there.

    Reply
  11. Where would we be without the power of imagination or dreams? So many of our forefathers, explorers, scientists and inventors dreamed of better ways of doing things and we now live in a better world because of their thoughts, desires and dreams!

    Reply
  12. This is an awesome read. I am a dreamer too. I talk less, dream more, pray and try to work towards my dream. I believe I’d get there sometime soon.
    Thanks for this blog ma’am. Really inspired me. Plus the post about kEeping journals got me started yesterday. I really appreciate you.
    *hugs*

    Reply
    • Glad to be of inspiration to you and everyone else who’s commented on my writing so far. Keep up the rewarding work!

      Reply
  13. Alison, hi!

    Regarding the subhead “How dreaming got me doing what I love”, it seems like I’m going through the similar problem right now.

    I’ve got overwhelmed with my current occupation. I don’t enjoy my job anymore.

    So I’m taking sabbatical from my job too. For 2 months. I’m going to China. I hope the change of place and people will recharge my inner resources.

    Reply
    • It will! Such a different world. It’ll open you up in ways you can’t imagine. Have fun!

      Reply
  14. Dear Alison,

    Thank you for such an empowering article you’ve written. It really moves me to rethink about my dream.
    I’m a dreamer, and have been dreaming myself travelling the world since I was a kid. However, it never seems that my dream will come true since I’m not getting any closer to it. Moreover, due to financial problem, it seems impossible for me to leave everything behind just for the sake of fulfilling my dream.
    So is it still possible for me to live in my dream while the reality seems to hinder me?
    Thank you once again.

    Reply
    • Hi Lena,

      Glad the article hit the spot for you. As you’ve experienced, dreams remain dreams if we don’t take steps towards them. Action is a vital partner.

      It certainly is possible for you to live your dream. Three suggestions I have for you:

      1. Really flesh out the details of your travelling – what you want to do, where, who you will meet, what it will bring to your life? Think about it often. Let it get you excited.
      2. If you then feel that this dream is something you really want you must commit to it. Decide to start asking ‘How can I achieve this?’, rather than looking for obstacles.
      3. Take some small steps towards it – research, talk to people, think about ways you could find the money. Small steps aren’t that scary, but keep walking and you’ll get where you want.

      Go to my site and download the free ebook I have called ’7 Steps to the Life of Your Dreams’. It’ll really help you.

      Alison

      Reply
  15. This is truly inspiring it really touched me. Believing in our self and dreaming is some thing exceptional . I got influenced by you story.

    Really amazing..

    Reply
  16. This is incredible Alison. Loved every bit of your story. truly motivational.

    Reply
    • Thanks! There’s another part of my story now – I proved my doctors wrong and created a real miracle in my life. You can watch me talking about it here: http://youtu.be/hZ4J_YXtUmQ

      Reply
  17. Thanks for the inspiring story

    Reply

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