After switching jobs just a few short months ago, I was fortunate to become part of my first women’s Mastermind group.  If you aren’t familiar with Mastermind groups, there are lots of varieties out there but basically, it’s a peer-to-peer mentoring group where members offer support, feedback, ideas and advice to help one another address and resolve personal and/or professional challenges.  Some groups gather informally, but most are a bit more structured to offer strategic support and specific resources to each member of the group as they manage major life and work decisions that impact their professional lives.  I was invited to join a group that had already been meeting regularly for a few years and was looking to add new members.  At first, I was hesitant to join, wondering if I’d be accepted into this group whose members already knew each other so well and if I really had the time and energy to attend monthly in-person sessions and offer meaningful support to people I didn’t even know.  I mean, I was already feeling overwhelmed and less than adequate at providing enough connection and support to my family, friends and colleagues whom I know and love!

Fast forward to COVID-19 and this new-found group of amazing women (all masterminds in their own right!) has given me a lifeline in an otherwise sleepless, over-worked, anxiety-filled world!  Our monthly meetings are now held virtually and due to the nature of a crisis, we’ve all bonded rather quickly even though we aren’t actually meeting in person for the foreseeable future.  Every meeting brings me new insights and a truly authentic sense of support knowing that this circle of women has my back as I confront learning how to home-school my children in a home office setting, take care of my older parents from afar, and still juggle a ton of new workplace challenges.

In our last session, the group members were discussing our jobs and whether it was better to stay focused on keeping our businesses afloat by limiting spending, taking care of current clients and just getting through the day or if it was more helpful to expand beyond the current crisis and start thinking bigger about our next new project idea, how to grow our business or how to take our work to the next level.  First instinct might be to hunker down, narrow focus and just stay the course.  And, that’s not a bad idea.  In fact, lots of advice out there right now will tell you to control what you can and not worry about what you can’t because many of us are in basic survival mode at this point.  So, it’s not a bad idea…but is it the best idea right now?

Survival mode is certainly where I’ve been parked for these past several weeks – just trying to get through each day and hope that things return to “normal” soon.  But one of the fabulous women in my Mastermind group said something that really changed my perspective in our session that day.  She was imagining what she might do if we weren’t in the middle of the current pandemic and she listed something on her bucket list that she’s always wanted to do to shift her career in another direction.  When she was done telling us, with a slow smile on her face, she said, “Dreams are free so why shouldn’t I say my idea out loud to you all?”  I’d never really heard anyone use that phrase before – “Dreams are free.”  And she’s right.  Dreams don’t cost anything.  You don’t have to consider the budget restrictions.  You don’t have to find the time.  You don’t need to do the data analysis.  You don’t have to get anyone’s approval.  You certainly don’t need to check with procurement, or Human Resources or the Board.  Yup – your dreams are free.  They are free for you to imagine what could be, what might be, what would bring you true joy, comfort, and happiness.

So, I’m asking all of us to take a moment to forget the limitations we have right now, to set aside your fears for tomorrow, if only for a moment, and dream.  Dream big!  This is especially true for leaders in any organization who are trying to keep their businesses afloat, keep their customers happy and keep putting one foot in front of the other.  In times of uncertainty and change, leaders are always balancing managing their response vs. leading through crisis.  In my case, remembering that “dreams are free” is about letting my mind imagine the best version of my business, envisioning the projects that would really motivate and inspire me, and dreaming of what’s possible, not just what’s doable right now.  If we don’t let ourselves imagine the best possible future – what we want to manifest coming out of the current crisis – then how can we expect anything better for ourselves and our employees?