In the real world of quarterly reports and rain streaked corporate windows there seems to be no space or time for our dreams. Everything has to be defined and measured. We are instructed that if we can’t measure it then we can’t manage it. If it’s not colour coded in the plan or bar coded in the inventory, then it simply doesn’t exist. As we struggle to meet our budgets and targets we are constantly coerced and implored to be rational and analytical. To have all the answers and none of the questions. To make everything known and to know everything.
But as we try to stay in the domain of what we know, as we follow pre-planned procedures and company codes in an attempt to keep everything rational and real, we often become aware of something beyond the known. Something exciting. Something scary. Something full of potential. Something mysterious. An opportunity to step into the unknown to make a dream come true. And then we run away. And hide behind our walls of facts and figures.
The unknown can be scary for all of us and there are as many reasons for avoiding it as being seduced by it. The downsides and the upsides. The risks and rewards. The dangers and the delights. The paradoxes and the possibilities. But the main reason that so many of us find the unknown scary is that it offers us a choice. And when we have a choice we tend to stop asking ‘How?’ And begin to start asking ‘Why?’
We stop asking ‘How does this work?’ and begin asking ‘Why am I doing this? And that’s when our alarm bells start ringing. We begin to wake up to a space beyond plans and procedures and instead of obsessively searching for inconsistent data in a Six Sigma quality report, we begin to constantly search for meaning in everything we do. ‘Why?’ is one of the most powerful questions we can ever ask.
But when we start looking for meaning we soon begin to long for the cast iron certainties and concrete facts of the known. Searching for what really matters to us can be confusing, ambiguous and paradoxical. However, there is one absolutely guaranteed way to find out what holds most meaning for us, and that is to explore our dreams. What we dream about, both in our night time explorations and our waking life, is what holds most meaning for us. And as Friedrich Nietzsche said, ‘If you have a ‘Why’, you will always find a ‘How’. So how do our dreams help us answer ‘Why’?