Following Your Dreams to Advance Your Accounting Career

Gusto Editors

Have you ever considered doing dream work to advance your career?

If your goal is to follow your dreams down a highly rewarding accounting career path, you might consider using coaching questions to reach your goals. Consciousness coaching might seem out of place in the accounting industry, but it’s a powerful tool for innovation.

Gusto is committed to bringing you high-quality advice beyond surviving any changes in the industry. We’re here to help you thrive. So we’re thrilled to partner with CPA Academy to bring you an exciting presentation with two experts in consciousness, accounting, and professional growth. They demonstrated the dialogue you’ll need to use when working on a dream.

Our webinar “Practicing Consciousness in Accounting” featured brilliant insights from Amber Setter and Neil Edwards. You can watch the full webinar here. The two coaching pros discussed what dream work is, what questions to ask yourself and your team to drive growth, and how to support yourself while working on a dream.

Amber Setter helps individuals and groups cultivate consciousness that expand what is possible in their personal and professional lives. A natural intuitive, she brings insight and compassion to all of her offerings. She is a certified, non practicing CPA who worked as an accounting recruiter before pursuing her coaching business.

Neil Edwards is a coach, wellness advocate, and athlete specializing in helping people overcome limiting mindsets. He is skilled in solving complex issues within relationships, including those that occur in organizations and teams. He trains other coaches and leaders to bridge awareness with action. 

What is dream work?

Dream work is a process coaches and their clients use to draw out inspiration, generate ideas, and create tangible ways to bring about a desired change. It involves a dialogue that can be done between two people or done by oneself. You don’t need to wait for a coach to participate in dream work, and you don’t need to coach another person. You can apply the process and dialogue of dream work to your inner dialogue in any area of life you choose.

The goal of dream work is discovery. You can discover what is called a “high dream,” or a positive wish around a situation that you may not even realize you had. You may also discover a “low dream” which is a fear or concern you have about that wish or situation. Amber and Neil’s approach involves identifying both the high dream and the low dream, as well as learning what supports both of the dreams. They then work to identify and shift barriers so that a person can more easily manifest their high dream using accountability, reminders, and other tools. 

Amber and Neil shared that they would model the dream work process for viewers. They explained:

“We’re going to take you all into the experience of what we call dream work. And this is going to present you with an opportunity to explore the dreams that you have for your life and your work. [Neil is] actually going to coach me right now. … I invited him to partner with me as dream maker. [We’re going to] … create a unique learning experience for you that will help you start to envision your own thriving world.”

– Amber Setter

In addition to modeling the dream process for viewers (who can then use this by themselves or with their teams), Amber shared that sometimes watching other people go through the process can provide insights in and of itself. She said:

“Dream sharing is powerful. … It amplifies your own dream or it illuminates something that you might not have seen. [So you can] upscale [into] a little more possibility there.”

– Amber Setter

Questions to ask when identifying the high dream

A high dream is a hope or a dream that you have about a certain situation. For example, you might hope that your firm will be able to make a transition to remote work. You may hope that you can reach a new type of client or niche. You may hope for a promotion. Neil and Amber modeled the process of questions. In their example, Amber shared her thoughts around the COVID-19 pandemic, but this exercise can be applied to anything you wish to manifest in your business, professional life, or even your personal life.

Owman sitting at her desk dreaming of how she will advance her career

Neil and Amber then dove into the process. He first asked Amber to close her eyes and breathe. Those are simple actions, but in fact, they are very important. Deep breathing helps get you into a relaxed state. It’s from this relaxed state that you’ll be able to tap into your imagination, intuition, and emotions more easily. Always begin a dream work process with deep breathing, relaxation, and closing the eyes.

Neil: “What is your high dream for your life and your work post-COVID-19, whatever that means to you? [What are] your highest hopes?”

Amber: “So when I hear you say that, it takes me back to the week that shelter-in-place went into effect where I live. … It went into effect on a Thursday, but that Monday proceeding it, [I felt it at] the essence level. I had this inner-knowing that this shift was coming, and I got really, really excited about it because I thought, ‘Things are going to stop. We’re going to stand still. We get to pause, and we get to see what we really need and what really matters most to us.’”

Amber shared that her intuitive feeling—the essence level—sparked excitement for her. From that intuitive gut feeling, she then began to dream of possibilities. They continued:

Neil: “And when you thought about what we really need and what matters most to us, what came to you?”

Amber: “I’m excited by organizations that are forced to give people the freedom to work from home and the possibility that they get to have more energy for themselves. … But I also know from personal experience in coaching others that people are either like, ‘I am so overwhelmed and I need support getting my head out of the sand,’ … or, ‘Wow, I’ve got so much capacity and space and I’m starting to notice that there’s things I’ve been doing in life I don’t even enjoy.’”

Neil: “Let’s try to capture the big ‘wow’ around this. I heard you’re imagining freedom. … People [you work with] having a greater capacity, [and] … you as a coach being able to provide a greater level [of] service to those folks. So when you take all of those and you imagine ‘Wow’… what would be a metaphor for it?” 

Amber: “So I’ve actually been personally working from home since 2005. … When I heard that ‘Wow’ it took me back to … working from home, [which] kind of happened because I resigned from my employer because I was going to graduate school and moving cities. My employer was like ‘Well, we really need you. Would you work from home for six months?’ Six months became eight years, and when I made that initial shift, I felt so much freedom. And the metaphor is that chapter of life where I was on the beach in San Diego, looking out at the ocean feeling so free. [I felt] so highly valued that the firm knew I was a strong contributor and totally committed and wanted to do whatever it took to fulfill those duties. And I could do it on my own terms.”

Neil guided Amber to clearly identify her dream. In her case, her high dream was that organizations allow people to work remotely, which would allow her to step more deeply into her role as a coach, to help organizations adjust. What are some high-level dreams that you want to achieve in your accounting career? For example, do you want to provide more people-focused advisory services to your clients? Would you like to shift away from a billable hour model into a value pricing model? If you’re not sure, ask yourself some questions to get at the heart of where your energy is at and how you want to serve. 

In addition, Neil also guided her to make an emotional connection to the dream—to tie it to her personal experience and to see why she felt so excited that organizations might go remote. In her case, it was based on her experience of feeling the freedom of being a valued member of an organization while still being able to do work on her own terms. He then guided her to create a strong metaphor, which she could picture in her mind and refer to later.

Identifying the low dream

The flip side of the high dream is the low dream. As you might guess, this is what could happen if things don’t go as you hoped for. Amber shared: 

“The low dream is … that there’s going to be a cover story [saying] that we can’t work from home. Because what I’m observing as there’s all these complex challenges right now—How do you do an audit when you can’t go to a client site—[and] all the complexity of businesses … right now, and [that we’re] going to say that we can’t get the work done because of the complexity. We’re going to blame it on working from home instead of acknowledging that there’s a lot of other forces in the system. I really fear that.”

– Amber Setter

Amber identified one part of the low dream, which was a very real challenge. She also went on to describe it further: 

“I very often hear at big meetings that we know we need non-technical skills. We know that’s important, but I don’t see people put their money where their mouth is. … But my real fear is [that organizations will say,] ‘Oh no, we don’t have a lot of money. We’ve got to reduce compensation. We might fire people. We can’t do any training.’ And now more than ever, I would advocate that there needs to be support with the non-technical over the technical.”

– Amber Setter

You’ll notice that Amber’s fear-based dream was in fact anchored in reality. That’s why it’s so important to understand and identify the low dream. Without confronting it, it remains in your awareness and potentially chipping away at your high dream vision.

What supports the dreams

After walking Amber through both the low and high dreams, Neil then went further to ask what supports the low dream. He explained that he was referring to both external evidence that Amber had as well as internal processes that were happening.

Team of people siting around table talking about dream careers

Neil: “What supports the low dream? I heard you begin to tell the story of what supports it: Your experience in the accounting profession—[that] this is going to be blamed on working from home. What else comes up for you? … What supports it for you? What’s the evidence that you’re holding?”

Amber discussed her email newsletter and how she filtered certain people out.

Amber: “I’ve got these little tags to target people, but I’ve created a tag called ‘Sticks in the mud.’ And that’s because there’s a piece of me that’s like, ‘Some of the stuff I might write or say might be a little too provocative or innovative, or out there for the stick-in-the-mud factor in the organizations.’”

After clarifying, he then went on to ask what supported the high dream. Amber shared:

“I couldn’t have imagined … a year or two ago … that I would say, ‘Let’s become conscious advisors’ and have 538 people show up to a webinar. So that, to me, is a quantitative metric.”

– Amber Setter

As you can see, Neil asked Amber clarifying questions at each stage. He also repeated what she said back to her. In this dialogue, he helped Amber to clarify both her dreams but also how to pivot towards the high dream. He continued: 

Neil: “What’s one action or one thing you can do to continue moving toward this high dream that you have?”

Amber: First, maybe I just need to get rid of that label ‘Stick in the mud’ and send newsletters and not filter out people [because] I think they might be afraid of my message. And then the second is … remembering this conversation.” 

Questions to ask when anchoring the high dream

After identifying the low dream and coming up with ways to move around obstacles, Neil then coached Amber to write down the shifts she would make. His example included writing down the fact that she would no longer use the label “Stick in the Mud” and avoid filtering her messages from those she didn’t feel would receive it well. He then instructed her to have a tangible way to lock the shift in.

Amber’s response? She would wire her tech so that she could not ever use the possibility of filtering based on these ideas. She would literally make it impossible to do so. 

He then asked how she would solidify the high dream, to which Amber shared that she would do vision work around the metaphor of the ocean and the feeling of freedom. Lastly, he held her accountable. He stated that she would need to text him once she had completed these tasks.

What is the purpose of this final step? The goal is to replace insight with action and to create accountability. Awareness won’t do anything unless you take concrete steps, and it’s always best to have someone to hold you accountable for the steps.

So, wherein your professional life can you apply this process? Is there a person you might do this exercise with? The possibilities are really endless.

Learn more about following your dreams to advance your accounting career

Dream work is a process coaches use to help clients realize their hopes and fears. It involves identifying a high dream (a hope) and a low dream (a fear). The dialogue between coach and client can be used by anyone and for any area of life. You can use it with your colleagues, team members, friends, or even your internal mentor.

After identifying high and low dreams, you’ll want to look at what internal and external factors are fueling these dreams. You’ll then want to find solutions and action steps to eliminate those that support low dreams and to enhance those that support high dreams. This takes awareness into action, which is key. Finally, having an accountability buddy is a great idea.

Here at Gusto, we’re thrilled to help you learn new ways of doing business. Be sure to check out our other two articles based on this webinar, “Practicing Consciousness in Accounting” and “Understanding Three Levels of Reality to Become a Conscious Advisor.” 

Joining Gusto Partners can help you manifest a more streamlined, simple way of doing business. You can also get a free payroll subscription for your firm if you join us.

As a Gusto partner, you’ll also get tools to help you expand your accounting practice and offer your clients new insights, plus a free payroll subscription for your own accounting firm. Sign up today!

Gusto Editors Gusto Editors, contributing authors on Gusto, provide actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
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