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Dreams not just for movers and shakers

22 April 2016

Ann Morisy considers insights into life from the world of coaching


Wake Up and Dream: Stepping into your future

Peter Shaw

Canterbury Press £12.99


Church Times Bookshop £11.70


THE challenge to “dream into different possibilities” provides Peter Shaw with a platform from which to demonstrate the application and effectiveness of coaching.

He generously imparts his coaching acumen in relation to individuals, organisations, and teams, and he does this in 25 short chapters, using waking and dreaming as metaphors for the ways in which we can approach our life. Each chapter concludes with questions to reflect on; and, to emphasise the practicality of what is on offer, there is a summary section that Shaw commends as a basis for regular and methodical life review.

There is a case study provided in each chapter, illustrating the shift in attitude that was achieved as a result of coaching. These examples are decidedly middle-class, mostly focusing on career-related dilemmas. This reflects the place that coaching has come to occupy in professional life. It doesn’t have to be like this, however. For example, the Church of Scotland’s work in priority areas has harnessed coaching to enable people to get some control and personal agency in their lives. The outcomes have been impressive and worthy of replication.

Shaw uses manifold variations on the themes of sleeping, waking up, dreaming, and even the alarm clock as the focus of each chapter. This makes for occasional banality and repetition. This is rescued by some memorable one-liners: for example, “all careers end in partial failure,” or, “as soon as you have children you dream on their behalf.” In the second half of the book, Shaw takes on some of the non-negotiable unhappy events that we have to battle through, and addresses issues such as bereavement and ageing with compassion and realism.

Coaching takes seriously the notion that we can shape our destiny, but, in a world that has come to believe that “we can have it all,” there is a serious risk of unhealthy collusion. Shaw endeavours to avoid this danger. Nevertheless, his conventional focus does not match the rigour of Viktor Frankl’s insight as a result of three years in a concentration camp — that the last of human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude to one’s circumstances.


Ann Morisy is a freelance community theologian and lecturer.


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