Smart moves: Day-dreams can lead to a fuller life

Day-dreams keep us going. As you struggle to remain alert during the management meeting, you might fantasise about opening an organic- food shop in Totnes, writing an Oscar-winning screenplay, or simply going freelance.

What, exactly, is stopping you? Mortgage, pension, partner and children could act as barriers. And, let's face it, you're established; you're good at what you do. Change could entail a loss of status and the need to start from scratch. Taking a step in a new direction demands energy, passion and commitment.

Excuses? Perhaps. But day-dreams can become nightmares if you kick things into touch. Besides, if you follow your heart and make your fantasy a reality, what will you dream about then? It's enough to make you stick to the day job.

Andrew Ferguson, founder of the Breakthrough Network, believes in making dreams real. He advocates encouraging people to create the life and work they want, rather than fitting into what he describes as "other people's job boxes". Change can be dramatic, but it can also be powerfully subtle.

Mr Ferguson set up the Breakthrough Network in 1988 to help people who had made changes in their lives - perhaps by going freelance or by setting up a business - to keep motivated. It offered support in those dodgy moments when the new, maverick spirit was feeling jaded and insecure. More than 8,000 people have benefited from moving through the Network, with 120 people involved at any one time - most of them self-employed, or aspiring to become self-employed.

Today, Mr Ferguson is running a series of mini-workshops called Life- Shift, with the objective of acting as a catalyst for people who want to identify their next step with life and work.

"The starting point is asking: `What is it you most want to happen?' " says Mr Ferguson. "If you're good at something, you don't necessarily recognise that you are good at it; you assume that everyone else can do it too."

The emphasis of Life-Shifting is on finding a balance, getting to your core and discovering a way of living and working that is right for you. This could be as subtle as keeping your existing job but doing it partly from home, or taking the skills you have learned and selling them back to the same industry, but as a freelancer.

Life-Shift equally helps people who do have an outline for a new direction to plan for a change. "Set a day, say one or five years in the future, and work back from it, asking yourself `What do I need in order to do this?' in terms of practical issues such as financial planning. A lot of people make assumptions about what their nearest and dearest might think," says Mr Ferguson. After all, in some couples, one partner might think twice before returning to the family home to announce, out of the blue, that he is giving it all up to study drama. Yet by talking and working things through, a new life plan can be hatched, often giving a much-needed shot in the arm to work-weary households.

And if you are struggling to form a game plan and get bogged down and confused, Mr Ferguson has a simple rule of thumb to follow: "Put joy first."

n Life-Shift mini-workshops (0181-347 7484). Jacksons Lane Community Centre, Highgate, London N6; Wed 7 April, 5 May or 2 June, 6.45pm; pounds 7.50 at door, pounds 6 in advance.