From the time I was a little, I’ve always been envious of good sleepers. I would marvel at the kids who needed nothing more than their trusted sleeping bag on a sleepover to snooze effortlessly. At sleepaway camp, I was floored by how simple it was for my bunkmates to fall into a deep sleep while fellow campers stayed up late chatting loudly and laughing. Me? I would have to wait until every single conversation died down, the flashlights turned off and the rest of my bunk fell asleep to even have a chance at entering REM.
As an adult, my sleeping challenges have changed a bit. It’s no longer that I have anxiety about falling asleep, it’s that I have an exhausting time while asleep.
On the average night, I will have about four-to-five vivid dreams, rife with stories, experiences, people and emotion. At least three times a week, my dreams include living the day I am about to have. For example, when I fall asleep on a Tuesday night, there is great likelihood I will live out Wednesday while sleeping—starting from my 5:30 workout, coffee run, work meetings and tasks, and so on and so forth. The next day is nothing short of fascinating as I am often living out something I already experienced in my sleep. It is also incredibly confusing as I battle the déjà vu feeling all day long. For instance, I will often start at point C in a discussion with a colleague because in my dream we already talked about points A and B.
I have been experiencing this “day ahead” phenomenon for about five years. Sometimes I worry that my brain is never in rest because of this. Consider my husband, for example, who falls asleep the minute his head hits the pillow and doesn’t wake up once—let alone change position—in the middle of the night. I’ll often ask him what he dreams about and he seldom remembers. Sleep to him is peaceful, calming and restorative. Sleep to me can be draining, especially when I am doing my 5:30 workout at 1 am!
But on the other hand, my sleep patterns excite me. They even leave me wondering if I am borderline prophetic.
Three years ago, I took my Gallup StrengthsFinder Assessment, a powerful tool for unlocking your dominant strengths. The assessment helps you understand where you are most naturally skilled and talented so you can live a more engaged, empowered life. Gallup states there are 34 strengths that we all embody but that the order our strengths fall is incredibly important. In fact, the odds that you will find someone with the same top five strengths in the same order as you are one in 33.4 million. That’s how unique you are!
The test revealed that my No. 1 strength is Communication—no surprise to those who know me! What was most interesting, though, is that my No. 2 strength is Futuristic, or being able to peer over the horizon. According to Gallup, people who are Futuristic are utterly fascinated by the future:
“As if it were projected on the wall, you see in detail what the future might hold, and this detailed picture keeps pulling you forward, into tomorrow... You are a dreamer who sees visions of what could be and who cherishes those visions. When the present proves too frustrating and the people around you too pragmatic, you conjure up your visions of the future and they energize you. They can energize others, too. In fact, very often people look to you to describe your visions of the future. They want a picture that can raise their sights and thereby their spirits. You can paint it for them.”
Upon reading this, my dreaming patterns made perfect sense! I am living out my days before they happen because I get my energy from spending time in the future. I am a time-traveler, ever fascinated by what could be rather than what is.
Earlier this year, we brought in the dynamic and powerful Katie McDonald, self-care strategist and founder of bnourished, to speak with us at our Women in Leadership Nexus event. Katie shared so many poignant lessons with us, but namely the fact that we need to spend more time with our future self. She encouraged us to talk with her often and to make decisions every single day that are in service to her and where she desires to be. (My favorite way to apply this on the most basic of levels is to ask my wise future self if she wants that second glass of wine; she never does!)
When I think about these two concepts together—spending time in the future and consulting with my future self—I see the inherent connection between futuristic tendencies and transformative leaders. In fact, the leaders who can spend more time looking ahead than looking backwards will catapult their organizations and teams forward at greater speed.
As leaders, our teams look to us for the answers, vision and perspectives for what they can’t yet see. They want us to dream wildly, pursue fearlessly and show them how they can shape and expand the vision. They don’t want us to spend too much time in the here and now, or dwelling in the past. Rather, they are counting on us to steer the bus and bring them to unbelievable opportunity.
We all have Futuristic in our makeup, says Gallup… we just might not have it in our top five. But we can actively work on this muscle and strengthen it over time. Consider the following:
- Visualize what the future looks, feels, sounds and operates like. Free your mind to conjure up any image—no matter how outlandish! When we actively engage our mind to visualize the future, we start to get more comfortable seeing it.
- I’ve long believed the universe sends us signs about what we are supposed to do next, where we should head, how we should evolve. It’s our job to listen and see what the universe puts in front of us. This is how we start to become more visionary and evolutionary.
- Honor the past but keep a keen eye on the future. Though it’s incredibly important to pay homage to and visit with our past, it’s even more important to see around the bend. It can feel scary and ungrounded, but our future holds the greatest potential for us.
- The beauty of the future is that because it hasn’t yet happened, it can’t be right or wrong. It can only be the dream and promise of what tomorrow can bring.
I’ve always loved this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
We all have the power to achieve the extraordinary, to try something daring and to manifest our own realities. And spending time in the future allows us to inch closer to something greater. So try it yourself!
Start checking in with your future self. Engage with you dreams. And celebrate the beauty and power in time travel.
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Carrie Majewski is committed to affecting change. As Founder of the Women in Leadership Nexus, Carrie is fueled by a desire to create safe space for female luminaries to convene to redefine the notion of leadership. She has forged a career around strategic writing and storytelling, having led a digital marketing agency for almost three years and today working as VP of Marketing for Trilix. Carrie is a 2017 Rhode Island “40 Under 40” honoree and a 2016 Rhode Island Tech10 Winner. In her spare time you'll find her trying out a local hip-hop class, exploring parks with her rescue dog Tori, and sipping coffee with other powerhouse women.