‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’  This inter-generational opening gambit to elicit a conversation from a reluctant niece, nephew or grandchild can be a high-risk tactic.  For my jungle obsessed younger brother, the response for many years was ‘a gorilla’.

But should we reserve dreaming for the fantasies of childhood?  Do we accept a social taboo against exercising our imaginations for a different future?  I become sad, disappointed and sometimes angry, when I talk to employees who have allowed the ‘must’, ‘should’ and ‘ought’ of everyday life to drive out the dreams they nurtured in younger days.  Too often, their only hope is the promise of ‘retirement’ with an income that will allow them to recoup all the pleasures forgone over the earlier thirty or forty years.

For several years, I ran a Dream Journey programme developed by Andy and Janine Mason with young professionals.  For most of them, dreaming was a lost art.  Challenged to write a list of a hundred dreams (or desires) across a range of categories, they would get stuck after four or five.  With one couple, they were trapped in the ‘must’ and ‘ought’ of relatives and peers that were holding them in rented accommodation, endless work and no hope of doing what they loved best.  For him, his joy had been car racing, but he had given it up to do the right thing.  For her, having a family and home were sacrificed for a high-powered career.

When we caught up with them a year later, he had returned to car racing with a Lotus Esprit (weekends only) and she was celebrating the birth of their first child.  Three years on, they live with three children in a farm cottage they own, she works part-time on clinical trials from home and he is working for the Lotus motor racing team in a job he loves.

Only by daring to dream, could see the opportunities to shape the future they could truly love and enjoy.  In order to dream, they had to risk disapproval and disappointment and dig deep into some dreams of the past to understand what they really wanted.

Make the most of the future and dare to dream for fresh love at work.

This article was originally written for KCW London.

Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.