It happened again. I taught a class one evening this week, and it was a presentation I’ve been preparing for and looking forward to for quite a while. But two nights before the program, I had a dream in which the class was about to begin, and I suddenly realized that I didn’t have any of my notes or materials with me.

In a moment of panic, I briefly considered driving home and returning with everything I needed, but I didn’t have enough time to do that. I quickly started to mentally organize and outline the program. Since it was on a subject I knew well and spoke of often, I knew I could still do a good job of teaching the class, even without any of the materials and handouts I was planning to use, and without any notes to guide me. Once I realized that, I started to relax. And that’s when I woke up.

It took me a few seconds to get my bearings. First came the relief at realizing it was only a dream, and I still had two days before I’d be teaching the class. Next came the recognition that this was a variation of a recurring dream I often have before a speech, class, or presentation of any kind. Then came the curiosity about what the dream may have been trying to tell me.

I’m always fascinated – as well as a bit nervous – when I have a dream like this. I wonder how much of the dream is simply a matter of my brain processing everything that is going on in my life during the day when I’m wide awake, and how much is a reflection of any thoughts, concerns, or doubts I may have about them.

Of the three main activities that make up my professional life – writing, coaching, and speaking – I have to say that I am much more comfortable with the first two than with the third. There’s a familiarity and a routine that settles in when I sit down to write my column every week, even though I’m writing about a different subject each time. And there’s a set of procedures and priorities that I go through with my coaching clients, even though every person is different, as are the goals and dreams they are working on.

But each speaking engagement is brand new in many ways. Even if it’s on a subject I’m passionate about and experienced in presenting, it’s always in a different venue, with a different size and type of audience. It can be at different times of day, and in a variety of lengths and formats.

That’s probably why it is only in speaking that these dreams often precede my presentations. And why they contain elements that are both foreign and familiar at the same time. As long as they continue, I’ll take them as a reminder of something I learned years ago from a teacher and trainer I greatly admire: to be 100% prepared, and 100% flexible.

Which is pretty good advice, no matter what in life we are doing – or dream of doing.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on December 10, 2015.
©Betty Liedtke, 2015

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