Most people dream on average for about 20% of their entire lives. Makes sense. We spend 20% of our 24 hours asleep, so just add that up over a lifetime.
But that number is skewed.
How often do you spend dreaming during the day?
Sure, there are those moments of pure daydream, when you’re staring off into the distance and you’re either conscious of it, or you quickly become conscious of it. But how often do you think about your dreams and desires in small doses? How often do you worry about your problems?
It’s hard to quantify, and it’s been theorized that if you tally up all the dreams we have with all the moments we spend in temporary dream states during consciousness, we actually spend a large portion of our lives dreaming.
This brings us to the language of dreams. Not dream analysis. Just how they work in relation to human behavior, and an understanding of their duality:
There are dreams, and then there are nightmares.
What are the people in your market dreaming about when they stare off at the clock in the middle of the day and say to themselves, “Ah, that’d be nice”?
What are they dreading?
A divorced corporate executive, for example, may be dreaming about spending time alone on the balcony reading over the weekend. He may also be dreading what his drug-addicted son has been up to, since he’s been missing for two weeks.
Dreams have a different quality to them than, say, a vision of desire. If you ask most people what they hope to accomplish in life, they’ll explain it to you in concrete terms. Ask them what they dream about, and you often receive thoughts filtered through a haze.
Val Kilmer released a documentary in 2021 about his life, and not only is it incredibly fascinating, but in one clip, the late James Lipton interviewed Val for Inside The Actors Studio. When James asked, “If heaven exists, what would you like to hear god say when you arrive?” Val said he’d dreamed about it:
“I had this dream once, and this happened. And she opened what would be her arms, and I just had this feeling, and she enveloped me, and said, ‘I love you.’”
This is why some leaders and experts can seem so omnipotent at times. It feels like they’re in both conscious and unconscious states with us. When they speak to us in a certain way, it’s almost hypnotic, as if they’re saying, “I know what you’re looking for, because I’ve seen it. And I know what you’re running from, because we’ve been there together.”
And what of nightmares? No fear is quite as paralyzing as that of our own mind attacking itself.
I’ll give you another example of myself:
I dream a lot about a partner. The ideal. Us together, and me meeting her family. It’s likely the reason I’ve spent the last two years working on myself and my business, getting in shape and sharing this lesson with you now. I’m also dreading my next moves in life. They’re unclear, and I have to make some scary decisions about my career and I have to make them fast, but I continue to put them off because I'm terrified of certain responsibilities.
But Im mostly terrified of giving up on my art—my fiction writing—and what it might mean for my mental state. I can imagine walking off stage after a paid speaking engagement, on a marketing research initiative that I’m proud of, unhappy because the time I spent in the trenches was time I could have spent on the novel I’d shelved. My unhappiness affects the relationship with my partner. We fight. She doesn’t understand. So she leaves, and my pursuit of career success inevitably ruins the partnership of my dreams, and my artistic ambitions.
A nightmare I live with, even in a waking state.
Many gurus of the spiritual or healer variety can have this effect on us. It’s how calm and slow and serene they seem.
There are some less-than-savory characters who attempt to practice outright hypnosis on people; with spiritual influencers abounding all over social media, some vulnerable minds are at risk of falling into a rabbit hole with a charlatan full of gimmickry and nonsense.
But let’s consider people like Dr. Judith Orloff, author of The Empath’s Survival Guide, spreading wisdom so sensitive people can thrive in insensitive environments. Or Deepak Chopra’s making the mysteries of existence engaging and accessible for those who may feel lost. Or Chani Nicholas, the popular astrologer and activist. All of whom can bounce between the abstract realms of emotion, and the gritty concrete realities of life.
I once reached out to a very popular personal development leader, with millions of followers on YouTube. I have to keep their name a secret for privacy reasons. My intent was to offer copywriting services, so I recorded a video of myself breaking down the sales page for their course. I walked them through what I’d do differently and why. It was very audacious of me, and led to a great connection.
What I didn’t know was that an incredibly successful copywriter (who I’d learned a lot from by that time) wrote that sales page. It’s a bit embarrassing now looking back: tearing down the copy of someone who knew so much more than me at the time. And while I can’t share what was written verbatim, it was similar to this:
My Heart Pounded As I Clicked On The Email…
I Didn’t Get The Job, They Offered It To Someone Else.
“What’d they say???” my phone buzzed with a text from Lydia, my girlfriend. I sighed and didn’t respond. I wasn’t sure how much more I could take.
You know that feeling of frustration? The one that kicks in when you’ve worked so hard for so long to achieve something—just to watch someone else:
Get the job… The promotion… The girl’s phone number…
Now imagine he wakes up to remember he doesn’t have a girlfriend named Lydia. What a nightmare.
Copywriting & Messaging Principle #7: Define Pain
A hard lesson to swallow. Even if the external pain of your market does not reflect the underlying cause, you still must address their pain. If you can't, go back to principle #2 and humble yourself.