How Dreaming Changed My Life
By Alison Ottaway
Were you one of those kids who was always told off for looking out of the window at school?
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.
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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.