Reclaim Your Dreams is an ebook by Jonathan Mead who is a liberation artist I’ve seen taking this field by storm lately. He runs his own website Illuminated Mind as well as writing for Zen Habits and Lateral Action, two prominent blogs in the field of simplicity, creativity and productivity. All of this while still working a normal job, having a wife and occasionally (I bet) a life offline.
Jonathan put out a call for reviews of his ebook and I took the opportunity after reading about it on Mind the Beginner and a few other sites.
One thing you’ll notice in almost all of Jonathan’s writing is he doesn’t stick to the normal productivity, life hack ideas that get pushed around all the time. He doesn’t let the standards of even the unconventional community dictate his words. He stays true to his values.
On to the book.
The opening pages kick right off with five hitting statements. My favorite two lines are “this is …. a call to live deliberately” and “this is a permission slip to be ridiculous”. Deliberate ridiculousness is the name of the game in lifestyle design. We have to choose to look like fools in the eyes of our friends and family because often they won’t understand the radical choices we choose to undertake to become the dreamers who create life on their own terms.
One of the root notions that Jonathan uses throughout the eBook is a contrast between heart and mind. Whether it is seeing with the mind vs. the heart or thinking with the mind vs. the heart, it is a constant dichotomy that he uses. The mind is often associated with the conventional, the conditioned, the practical and secure while the heart is associated with the free, the unconventional, the passionate, and the frivolous.
However, when I read a book for review the trained philosopher in me comes out and I start breaking things down. Why use such a typical dichotomy, perhaps it’s for the ease of understanding or that’s how Mead truly feels where the difference is and in the land of life it’s hard to argue with a persons feelings. In any case it’s a superfluous detail for most people but one that I noted.
Mead aims to help readers forge a bond between mind and heart. He begins with a simple question: Why do you live?
Why do we live? It’s easy enough to misplace our life by setting into autopilot. We graduate from school, get a job, get a partner, get married, buy a house, have a couple kids, a car garage… blah blah blah. It goes on into conventional style so overdone that it makes my brain hurt. It has gotten to the point where saying 2.5 kids in a judging tone has gone from being a critique of convention to becoming the convention.
Mead answers it in a broad stroke. If you don’t wake up happy what’s the point. Because you’ve missed it.
He redefines the notion of success as: the person that’s most alive.
Part 1: Unbrainwashing.
Here is where Mead starts to dive into the meat of reclaiming your dreams. First though you have to clear out all of that dredge holding you back. This is the unbrainwashing. The breaking down of the conventions that we have been domesticated with. There are three chapters in Part 1 each with a different intention.
The first calls for you to reclaim ownership of your mind. To get out of your own way and let yourself believe that you can do it. Often times our harshest critics are ourselves and we often ask permission and then deny ourselves rather than apologizing to ourselves when things don’t work out. Mead wants you to get around that.
The next calling is to stop caring. To stop preparing for what is coming up. To forget about the titles and statuses that define us in society as successful and go with living our life. “Sometimes the smartest way to solve a problem [e.g. caring too much] is to stop participating in the problem.” If you just let that care slip it liberates you to do with life as you will instead of getting the next level of life.
The last call for action in Part 1 is to undomesticate yourself. This chapter focuses on removing the limits we place on ourselves. If we want to do something in life we most likely can. I may not be a world famous musician if I’m 25 and have never picked up an instrument before but I can definitely learn to play a few songs on a guitar if I take the time to do it. To be interested in life rather than seeking out interesting things. This is a lot like my notion of engagement. You can’t live if you aren’t in your life.
Part 2: Manifestation
Now that Mead has helped you clear out the debris holding you back Part 2 is there to help you create your dreams.
My favorite part of Part 2 is right at the beginning. Mead gives you three exercises to do. Realize your dreams. Find your purpose. Understand your values. These become the tools and guidelines for liberating yourself from the conventional life that has held you from your dreams. I would recommend this book for this section alone, but even more so for the exercise that follows.
With the dreams, purpose and values in place Mead challenges you to write a personal manifesto and this is something I have taken to heart and started crafting. This personal manifesto becomes like your mission statement, what you can look to help guide you through your decisions and actions. I’ve read about personal statements or manifestos before and I think they are an excellent idea for anyone hoping to create change in their life.
One portion of the manifestation exercises I had not heard of before is the creation of a dream sanctuary. This is where you can keep your dreams safe and where you can go to immerse yourself in them. This is where you can find inspiration in times of drought or to go to when you feel your dreams are challenged by the world of circumstance. You can do this in a variety of ways which he details and I recommend it highly.
The last three chapters in Part 2 revolve around 3 Keys to Success in Reclaiming Your Dreams, but rather than extolling on each one I will offer a brief list.
Key Number 1: Give Up (or overcoming uncertainty).
Key Number 2: Quit (or reclaiming ownership of your time)
Key Number 3: Skills (or creating love money)
In conclusion Mead’s Reclaim Your Dreams dives into the basics of creating the vision for action. It is a way to blueprint your dreams into reality. While it leans towards belonging in the self help section of a Borders it provides some interesting tools to start you on your way into living your life on your terms.