Review: Reclaim Your Dreams

I first encountered Jonathan Mead of Illuminated Mind via his guest posts on Zen Habits. I am a regular reader of his contributions on that blog as well as his own, as I find him one of the more practical and to-the point personal development bloggers I’ve come across.

So, when Jonathan was looking for reviewers for his new e-book entitled “Reclaim Your Dreams: An Uncommon Guide to Living on Your Own Terms”  (link), I was more than happy to offer a review in exchange for a gratis copy of the e-book. That said, here we go!

What’s It About

I simply love the first page — it sets a high expectation for the rest of the book,  establishes the tone and gives you an insight into the content.


First Page from Reclaim Your Dreams


The book itself is divided into two roughly equal sections. The first, a lengthy preamble entitled “Unbrainwashing: or Creating Room For Your Dreams to Grow”, presents an introduction to Mead’s philosophy.

In this section, he centres on the psychological side of personal development, inviting the reader to answer some tough questions: “Why do you live?” “Are [your thoughts] the type of thoughts you truly want?” and “Is this a decision that’s coming from my heart, or am I unnecessarily limiting myself in some way?”

For the most part, Mead avoids giving answers to the questions (from the outset, he acknowledges that what works for him may not work for everyone else. ). Instead, the writing stays on the higher, philosophical level, explaining a concept that will be familiar to many personal development readers: you are ultimately responsible for your thoughts, emotions and your happiness.


The second, meatier part of the book is entitled “Manifestation: or How to Make Your Dreams a Reality”. I was really excited about this section, as the first thing he discusses is how to solve the problem of not knowing what your dreams are. Mead then jumps into the most tangible exercise in the book. Writing, stream-of-consciousness-wise, the answer to these questions:

What does my heart desire? What do I really love with a passion? If money wasn’t an object, how would I spend the majority of my time? If I could have any career, regardless of my current experience and skills, what would I want to do?

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? This is a familiar exercise to anyone that’s spent time investigating personal development techniques.

But scanners, you’ll also recognize that answering these types of questions don’t do much for us. In fact, when I read those questions, my heart sunk a bit — I thought to myself “classic scanner trap.”

If you’re like me, you’ve tried answering those questions! But it’s impossible for a scanner to nail down any one thing that we “love with a passion”. In fact, we may love something with a passion for a few years, weeks or even just half an hour, never to love it again.

I won’t belabour the point; it’s just something I wanted my fellow scanners to be aware of, since the remainder of the section really pulls on the idea of “having a dream” and then making it reality. The emphasis on career choice is particularly sticky for scanners (for whom choosing a single career path can seem torturous!)

That being said, I did enjoy the section on getting past fear, a lesson that most of us need to learn at one point or another. Mostly, just be aware that while there are techniques that can be adapted to the scanner personality, it’s just not always immediately apparent how to do so.


Overall Thoughts

From the beginning, Mead makes it clear that this is a book with bold ideas, targetted to an audience focused on PD. At the same time, he’s aware of his responsibility as a writer, saying

It’s my hope that some of the things I’ve learned will work for you, as well. But most importantly, I don’t want to tell you what to do. That would go completely against everythign I’ve found to work in my life: listening to my own heart.

I think the book would have been stronger if the author had spent a bit more time actually telling us what to do. Not necessarily in the sense of giving us “all the answers” (no one can give all the answers when it comes to matters of the heart and mind), but in the sense of actually giving concrete ways and tools for listening to the heart.

Yes, there are exercises and “things to meditate on”, but I didn’t feel as though they were concrete or guided enough. Sometimes, I felt like saying “Jonathan, stop beating around the bush, and give us more tangibles and less philosophicals.” :-)

Not that this is unique Reclaim Your Dreams — it’s a trap that I find many, many PD books fall into.  This is just really unfortunate, since Mead’s blog posts are typically very grounded and very practical, and this felt like a departure from that formula.

That being said, I think that people who are either really new to personal development or really familiar with the techniques (who know what their dreams are and are experienced at listening to their hearts) would probably get more out of this book than I.

Those newer will find the concepts new, fresh and challenging. Those PD ‘gurus’ (I use the term lightly, of course!) will find Mead’s approach a twist on the familiar. But those who are familiar with the concepts but need more help with the concrete applications probably won’t get quite as much out of it.

PS. One bonus comment that has nothing to do with content, but because I’ve been doing a lot of work with typography lately, I wanted to comment on it. This book is beautifully laid out, with a smooth line for online reading. But! It is hard to read offline if you (like I) prefer to print things out. Just a small caveat to an otherwise nicely formatted book.

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