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Under-Appreciated Business Tool: Dreams

Spending time pondering your dreams isn't just for philosophers. It's actually a hard-nosed business necessity for entrepreneurs, argues one business school professor.
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You've got a great idea, market research, first-class collaborators and a rock-solid business plan, so you're all set to get the ball rolling as an entrepreneur then, right? Actually, argues a recent post in Instead Knowledge, you may be missing one often over-looked tool for start-up success: dreams.

No, not the kind where you can fly or show up at school naked. The kind of dreams the post by Grace Segran refers to are those that are central to your waking, not sleeping, hours. Segran references the work of Marc le Menestrel, a business professor at a university in Barcelona who is teaching ethics at Instead as a visiting professor. She explains,

[Le Menestrel] encourages business people to integrate different parts of their identity into their professional outlook. He says the framework of dreaming can be a useful tool that allows people to activate the non-cognitive parts of themselves into their business lives. “Dreaming and visioning are techniques that connect the rational framework with the non-cognitive dimensions such as the spiritual, cultural and personal dimensions,” he elaborates.

Through his work, le Menestrel found that the majority of people dream of being deeply loved, of being part of a community that reflects their values, and of contributing to the lives of other people in some way. Yet, to date, management practice has tended to separate the personal from the professional. Le Menestrel shows executives how to incorporate these dreams into their professional lives.

All of which may sound a bit touchy feely to the more hard-nosed entrepreneurs, but le Menestrel insists contemplating your overall dreams for your life is of real practical benefit to business people in three key ways.

Maintain motivation

Taking the time to think holistically about your life dreams and how your business fits into them keeps conflict between different areas of your life to a minimum, and this can mean fewer distractions and greater consistent motivation for entrepreneurs.

"It does not have to be a trade-off between [an entrepreneur's] personal life and his professional project. To make sure the two are aligned and nurture each other, we connect the entrepreneurship plan with other aspects of his life, such as his family or passions. This ensures that he is able to keep an eagle eye on his entrepreneurship project, while remaining emotionally nourished," Le Menestral is quoted as saying in the post.

Take the long view

According to the post: "Dreaming… forces us to take a long view of our lives, beyond our immediate project or job, says Le Menestrel. He argues that success in life is not just achieving the next immediate goal, but rather, as finding satisfaction in the many dimensions of your life."

Forget to take the time to ponder and pin down what's important in your life overall, and it's easier to get distracted by short-term issues and immediate crises, this thinking goes.

Stay nimble

Every adult knows that the only sure bet in entrepreneurship (and in life) is change, and being familiar with your dreams helps you respond positively and quickly to whatever circumstance throws at you. Think of your life dream as analogous to your destination--if you find a boulder in the road, you're more likely to quickly find a way around this obstacle and successfully re-orientate yourself if you have a clear picture of where you're trying to end up, rather than if you are simply putting one foot in front of another on the path immediately in front of you.

“By having a clear sense of your dreams and your personality, you can be prepared for unexpected situations, and reassess your goals when things don’t go according to plan. You want to be the master of your goal, not the prisoner of your goal," says Le Menestrel.

Do you have a good fix on your larger life dreams as well as your immediate business goals?

Last updated: Jul 30, 2012

JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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