My dreams tell me that I’m feeling a little out of sorts these days. OK, maybe not just a little. Maybe a lot. Which makes a lot of sense, since I recently stepped way outside my comfort zone and dove headfirst into some very deep, dark entrepreneurial waters. Maybe I’m overstating that a bit, but apparently, that’s how it feels to me.

There are lots of ways to get in touch with yourself and your feelings; perhaps the clearest window into your subconscious opens every night when you sleep. People talk about interpreting dreams like it’s rocket science. Actually, it’s pretty straightforward. It’s not so much what happens in the dream but how you feel when it’s happening.

For example, if you’re literally flying all over the place saving the world in an elaborate action-adventure-type scenario, then you’re probably feeling pretty optimistic about the way things are going, maybe even a little grandiose.

If, on the other hand, you spend the entire dream searching for a classroom you can never find or showing up for an important meeting unprepared, that probably leaves you feeling frustrated, overwhelmed or in over your head.

I had two completely different dreams last night where I felt totally out of control and ill-equipped to handle the situation. One nightmare was downright terrifying. Demons everywhere. Bullseye! That’s how I feel much of the time these days.

Imagine what the positive psychology nuts would say about that. Think happy thoughts. Be optimistic. Don’t let it get you down or sap your enthusiasm. Indulge in some inspirational quotes or, better still, a self-help blog or book.

Yeah right. Sweep reality under a rug of happy happy, joy joy. Screw that. Feelings are not to be ignored or judged, and they’re certainly not to be manipulated, even if you could. They just are. They’re real. They’re critical signposts in the human condition. Mess with them at your own peril.

I’m going to stay right here where I am: in touch with myself and my feelings. And you know what? I don’t feel the slightest bit uninspired or down. I feel nervous, excited, scared and challenged. I’m not driven to win in spite of adversity, I’m driven to win because of it. That’s always been the ticket for me. And I’m certainly not alone.

The surest way to succeed is to work without a safety net. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a backup plan. You can and you should. It just means that some of us are inspired by the challenges we face. Some of us live to face our demons. For some of us, that’s when we feel most alive. That’s how I feel today. Most of all, I feel alive.

Image credit George C. Marshall European Center via Flickr