Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech illustrates a number of important dream principles we can apply to the life coaching process.
Dream Principles #1: Dreams are Visual Images
Notice the abundant imagery in King’s speech. He carries you to “the red hills of Georgia,” to a future where “little black boys and girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and girls and walk together as brothers.” You don’t hear King’s speech so much as you see it. Visual images affect us much more deeply and are more powerfully motivating than words. Therefore, we encourage clients to use the process of visualization to turn the skeleton of important dreams into fleshed-out pictures.
Dream Principles #2: Dreams Reveal Desires
King’s touches us at a visceral, emotional level because he expresses the heart-cry of an entire people for freedom and justice. Dreams are like that: they resonate with the passions of our hearts. One service coaches offer our clients is to help them find the deep desires that lie beneath their dreams.
Dream Principles #3: Dreams Motivate
Martin Luther King spoke about a better future to motivate African Americans to keep working for equality and keep hoping for non-violent change. Dreams motivate because visualizing them activates the hope that they can be reached. A well-pictured dream makes the desired future real enough that we are willing to do pay a price to have it.
Dream Principles #4: Dreams Ignore Obstacles
Part of the power of dreams in the coaching process is that they overlook present obstacles. Notice how King urges his audience to “Go back… knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.” The dream is that inequality will be changed somehow; that we don’t know how it will happen is immaterial to the fact that this is a dream worth pursuing. This dream principle leads us to an important coaching technique. When a client is stymied by present obstacles (like a lack of time or resources), ignoring the obstacle and picturing the dreamed-of future has an amazing power to re-motivate people and help them engage their creativity to get unstuck.
Dream Principles #5: Dreams Connect Us to Heaven
Because they describe an ideal world, dreams have a certain otherworldly quality. King states, “…we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.’” An imperfect world doesn’t lend itself to the perfection of dreams. King’s dream is in fact a picture of heaven. And in that sense, every true dream is grounded in heaven, because every true desire was created to find its ultimate fulfillment there (Hebs. 11:16).
Tony Stoltzfus is a best-selling author, leadership coach, master coach trainer and director of the Leadership Metaformation Institute. Additional information on this topic can be found in Tony’s book, The Christian Life Coaching Handbook.