Mental wealth: Don't fall asleep to your dreams

If we fall asleep to our dreams, we are in danger of losing our sense of self and becoming overpowered by other people's desires.

Don't fall asleep to your dreams, warns Adrian Reith
Don't fall asleep to your dreams, warns Adrian Reith

Frank sits opposite me in the consulting room. We are talking about his desire for a new career. He wants me to help him clarify the direction.

Frank is soon to be 30, recently married with a baby on the way. He is intelligent and has held jobs abroad where he learned and spoke the language. At some point, app­arently, he had a job interview for the Secret Service. (No-one is supposed to know this, but it seems everybody does…)

His arms are crossed for most of our two-hour session; moreover his left leg is crossed over the top of his right knee for all of it. He would need to be a contortionist to put any more of himself between him and me. Is he is building a defensive barrier? Probably. But he probably does this with everyone.

"What fires you up? Things you can’t live without, energy, passions, enthusiasms?’" I ask.

When he speaks the words are quiet, hesitant, his speaking style lacks energy and enthusiasm. His words are not easy to catch and often tail off into silence.

Does he think I am not worthy of receiving his precious thoughts? That I’m not helping him one bit? Maybe I’m not.

Or has he changed his mind about the answer he was going to give, and will now come up with a better one?

Er… no. He does not. Again his words fade into silence. Maybe he’s decided what he was going to say isn’t worth saying. Or maybe he is thinking deep down without realising that he himself is not worthy of the thought.

Does Frank even know what he thinks or wants? I think he doesn’t.

Frank cannot be frank with himself. So if he cannot own up to himself about what he wants, how could he possibly own up to me? It makes sense.

Frank is the man who has fallen asleep to himself and his dreams.

To be fully ourselves we need to be able to come clean about what it is that we ourselves want in life. What motivates us.

But this is not always as easy as it sounds, as Frank is demonstrating. His inner motivating core has become a vacuum filled with other people’s influences. This could be from family, friends or society. He has surrendered responsibility for his desires so completely he is literally ‘not himself’. And never has been.

Frank has fallen asleep to his own dreams and has got used to being driven by others – it’s disastrous.

But not completely. Frank is here. He is in front of me, half-awake maybe, but working with me as best he can to find his own mind, maybe for the first time. I think he knows he is fighting for his life.

He agrees he is a negative person and describes his default setting on the positivity scale as 2/10 and that this needs to improve for him to see any benefit. Now we are getting somewhere.

Over the next few weeks and ever so slowly, he chooses to practise behaving positively in order to get positive outcomes. He walks to the corner shop and initiates conversations with strangers in order to listen positively and without judgement. It’s like a withered muscle that needs to be worked. He turns up. He grapples. He begins to exude more energy.

I think Frank might be waking up to himself.

Adrian Reith is executive coach to media and creative industries. Visit

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