From the June 2003 issue of Entrepreneur

Can your dreams help guide you in business? Layne Dalfen thinks so. "We're problem-solving in our dreams," explains Dalfen, a dream analyst in Montreal and the author of Dreams Do Come True: Decoding Your Dreams to Discover Your Full Potential (Adams Media). "Whether you are soliciting the solution to an issue you are facing or one you are attempting not to face, dreams create scenarios that mirror the feelings and events we are experiencing in our current lives."

Mary Hamill, president of $6 million marketing and public relations company Global-5 Inc. in Orlando, Florida, has had a recurring dream for years. "I'm in high school, and [I] cannot get into my locker," says Hamill, 46. "Either I've forgotten the combination, or my locker is located down a long hallway or across a field [so] there's no way I can get to it in time for class. There is always a great need to get inside the locker."


"Dreams create scenarios that mirror the feelings and events we are experiencing in our current lives."

Dalfen says recurring dreams often alert us to real-life situations we are avoiding. When analyzing a dream, Dalfen looks for a metaphor for the symbolism in the dream. In this case, Hamill desperately needs to get into the locker, but can't. Dalfen suggests Hamill look at the timing of this dream. Does it happen the night before or after an important but difficult meeting, such as giving someone bad news?

The "things" in her locker could be things she wants to say that she is having trouble expressing. Or the locker could be a metaphor for a time in her life when Hamill was being "tested" in some way and wasn't sure if she would pass.

Once you explore the metaphors in your dream and what they could mean, look for solutions to the dream that can be useful in waking life. In this case, Dalfen says there may be two solutions, depending on what the dream symbolizes:

Hamill should express her inability to say what needs to be said. By admitting her difficulty, she may "find the combination," allowing her to access her message.

Hamill should focus on the locker as the place where she has what's needed to accomplish the task at hand. She may have to remind herself that she's already got what's necessary to get the job done.

To help in analyzing your dreams, keep a paper and pen near your bed to write them down as soon as you wake up. Dalfen suggests the following tips for uncovering a dream's meaning:

1. Write down how you felt in the dream. Is there a correlation between how you felt in the dream and something going on in your life?

2. Say the dream out loud. A dream's meaning can become clear when you verbalize it, because we often use plays on words to form pictures. For example, a woman who dreamed of snakes on the floor and said "I couldn't put my foot down" was unconsciously referring to an inability to "put her foot down" in a real situation.

3. Identify the symbols in your dream-people, places and things. What pops into your mind when you think about those symbols? Who or what in your life do they remind you of?

4. Look for the solution. Is the solution an action or inaction? What can you take away from the dream and use in your current situation? "Since our memories and associations are so unique," says Dalfen, "only the dreamer knows what the dream is about."