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A High Dream / Low Dream Coaching Scenario for Accountants

Gusto Editors  
Coaching and advise, two business woman working together.

Do you know what your high and low dreams are?

We all have crazy, wild, and wonderful dreams for our lives. However, we also have nightmares about where we might end up if things go wrong. As an accountant, it’s essential to consider the possibilities of what might happen without getting bogged down in fear. Instead, you can choose to strive toward your highest dream for yourself and create the world you want to live in.

Fortunately, Gusto, along with our partners at CPA Academy, presented an informative webinar that will take you through a valuable coaching model to help you understand the different realities of your life and how you can reach your highest reality. We hosted a  webinar, “A Coaching Experience: Envisioning a New Reality,” and you can watch the entire presentation here. The webinar featured the goal-setting expertise of non-practicing CPA and executive coach Amber Setter

For this presentation, Amber also invited one of her former coaching clients, Mike Maksymiw, to take part in a coaching demonstration. Together, they explored a high dream and a low dream, and Amber explained why each is important for an accountant working in the profession today.

Why it’s okay to ask for help when you’re not in the right place

Young woman on a session with her therapist.

Before launching into her full coaching exercise, Amber took a few moments with her guest, Mike, to offer the audience some encouragement. As accountants, it’s easy to focus on the concrete and the real. People who work with numbers tend to feel most comfortable when they are certain of the world around them, but, unfortunately, it’s not possible to know all the details all the time. Mike experienced this feeling of doubt and frustration when he began seeking to pivot in his accounting career, but through coaching, he was able to pursue his goals despite his uncertainty:

“I realized that there were a lot of things in the profession that we needed to work on, and I didn’t know exactly how to impact them. …  [But] not knowing the answer didn’t mean [I couldn’t] start down the path.”

Mike Maksymiw

If you’re looking for a change in your profession, it’s okay if you don’t know where to start. Fortunately, there are plenty of mentors, experts, and coaches out there who would be more than happy to help you find your way. Amber Setter is one of those people, and Mike went on to share how much he has progressed since working with her:

“The immediate change was I knew I wasn’t in the right place professionally, so I made a decision to no longer work as a tax partner. … I didn’t have anything else lined up, but I knew that I wasn’t in the right place. … Ultimately, I started working at Aprio [a CPA-led business advisory firm] as the alliance leader, which is a brand new position [for] them. … I’m really excited to be doing that now — it’s going to have the possibility of having the type of impact that I want.”

Mike Maksymiw

Mike gained clarity and confidence through his experience working with a coach, and you can too. If you feel stuck in your career or in the accounting profession in general, don’t be afraid to reach out to a coach — it may be exactly the right move for you.

What’s your high dream?

After discussing Mike’s own experiences with coaching, Amber led Mike — and the audience — through a full coaching experience. She started by asking Mike to identify his “high dream.”

It’s worth mentioning here that many accountants find the dream space uncomfortable. As professionals working in the realm of finances, dollar amounts, and bottom lines, accountants often prefer to focus on concrete details — specific numbers and real-world problems and solutions. However, for this coaching experience, it’s important to take a step back into your dream space. 

Take just a moment now to turn off anything making noise, close your eyes, and focus. Think about your wildest, most wonderful dream for yourself. 

“If you had a magic wand, what would you create? … The high dream is all in the possibilities.”

Amber Setter

For Mike, the high dream is all about having the freedom to travel and enjoy time with his family free of financial worries. So what is your high dream? Do you, like Mike, dream of financial freedom? Perhaps you dream of living in a certain city or of making a major purchase like a house or a boat. Your high dream can be anything as long as it’s authentic to you and your desires for your life.

Once you’ve considered your high dream in general terms, think about your high dream for your accounting career. Perhaps you hope to reach a certain level of revenue for your accounting firm? Maybe your high dream is all about bringing more diversity and inclusivity into your office place? What do you dream of, and what impact flows from it? How will you make work and life better for you and for your team?

Whatever your high dream is, it’s important to gain a clear sense of it. Imagine what it would feel like to live inside a world where your high dream has come true. Do you feel joyful, secure, or energetic?

Two people having a discussion.

Imagining your high dream and getting really clear on what it is is powerful. Your high dream should be the driving force behind your actions. By knowing what your high dream is, you can have confidence in where you are striving to go and take action to get there.

What’s your low dream?

After talking Mike and the audience through the high dream, Amber transitioned into the low dream. According to Amber, the low dream is all about probabilities. It’s not about what you want to happen — it’s more about what could happen.

For that reason, the low dream is rooted in fear. It’s the worst-case scenario. It’s everything you don’t want to happen, and it can feel like a rabbit hole. 

As an accountant, it’s likely you’re more comfortable focusing on the low dream because it’s all about the statistics. When you consider your low dream, you think of everything that could realistically go wrong. That’s why it’s essential not to spend too much time dwelling on the low dream. However, it’s still important to consider your low dream so that you can anticipate and overcome potential challenges.

For Mike, the low dream looks like an inability to create an impact in the accounting industry. He dreamed of creating an internal program to promote family initiatives and other helpful programs in his workplace, but in his low dream, he considered the possibility that management might decide the program wasn’t worth the necessary resources. That would lead to Mike feeling, in his words, “too exhausted to sleep,” and ashamed to share his profession with generations coming up behind him.

What’s your low dream? What do you imagine could go wrong on your journey to success?

If you’re concerned about spending too much time imaging your low dream, consider Amber’s reaction when her daughter experiences similar fear:

“Being a mom of a six-year-old, this is what I’ve come to learn: My daughter sometimes will have a fear, a psychological fear. ‘Mommy, there’s a monster under my bed.’ And when we go and we grab the flashlight and we look under the bed and she sees that that’s just a psychological fear, that that doesn’t exist, that monster is not there, it frees her up. So in this experience, you want to … let the fears out, but not … dwell in them.”

Amber Setter

It’s important to consider obstacles that may come your way, so focusing on the low dream is not all bad. However, it’s also important to remember not to dwell too much on the low dream because you don’t want to be operating from a place of fear. When you look at your low dream, you free yourself up to pursue your high dream with confidence that you can overcome any challenge that may come your way.

Learn more about high and low dreams

Imagining your high and low dreams is powerful. Your high dream is all about what you want to happen — it’s your wildest dream. Your low dream is rooted in probability and fear. When you dwell too much on the high dream, it’s easy to become over-optimistic or confident, but when you put all of your focus and energy into your low dream, you’re operating from a place of fear. That’s why it’s important to consider both dreams as you pursue your goals.

We’re grateful to Amber Setter for her fantastic presentation. If you’re interested in learning more about how considering your high and low dreams can help you achieve your goals, look out for Part One and Part Three of this webinar series. You can also check out the full presentation here.

If some of your goals include expanding your firm and improving your ability to serve your clients, consider signing up for Gusto. Gusto provides accountants with exceptional tools for helping their clients and offering new insights. We also provide small businesses with payroll, health insurance, and benefits, and we even automatically file and send payroll taxes for businesses under 100 employees. To learn more about how Gusto can help you achieve your accounting goals, visit our Gusto for accountants page.

Updated: June 1, 2022

Gusto Editors
Gusto Editors

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