” Being a member of the Dream Factory gave me the confidence and ambition to live my dreams.”
Julie Remele, Transforming Spaces

Testimonial from, Leslie Ackles, CDO of Dream Factory Concord Community

By: Leslie Ackles

April 13, 2018

Leslie was diagnosed with a debilitating a disease in 2004.

Leslie Ackles

One of the first things I did after managing my fibromyalgia through a massive change in lifestyle, was to join the Dream Factory. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2004 and I joined the Dream Factory in 2005.   I was still working fulltime as the Director of Training at the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute but wanted to start figuring out what would be fulfilling, what would energize me?  Before I could take the steps to live my dreams I needed to figure out what kind of life I wanted to lead, what dreams I had and then I would be able to take actions to get me there.

I came to the Dream Factory monthly lunches as often as I could and even to some of the extra events like the conference and a 6-month group offered by Nancy Cantor on Building Your Own Community.  By joining the Dream Factory I was giving that small light inside of me the message that I would eventually live my dreams. Every time I went to a meeting I knew that I had not given up on my dreams.  Being a member of the Dream Factory kept that hope, that light, that dream alive for me as I continued to work fulltime, waiting for the time when I could leave to launch my new life.

TURN OF EVENTS  My husband lets out a dramatic sigh as I once again launch into my enthusiastic ideas for my life post diagnosis.  I realized that he had sighed like that many times before but I had not paid attention.  I asked him what the sigh meant.  His shoulders slumped, his eyes searched mine gauging what I could bear to hear.  What he saw must have convinced him that I could handle what was on his mind.  He took my hand and shared with me that we could not afford to have me leave my job at this time.  This was not what I wanted to hear. I pictured myself as the “Hear no Evil” monkey when this news finally broke through my bubble of denial.  I was ready to move forward with my new life. I felt trapped.  I became frustrated and angry.

We were a blended family and had three college tuitions to pay and a hefty mortgage.  Over the next weeks and months we explored a multitude of options, including selling the house.  What finally became real for me was that I could not leave my job right away to leap into this journey to live my dreams.  We could not afford to have me quit my job.


NEW GOAL Over the next year my husband and I continued to talk about my dreams.  We reviewed our finances, our goals for life and retirement and determined that if we paid off the mortgage on our home and paid off the kid’s college loans, I could retire and start living into my dreams.  We both realized that by retiring at the young age of 55 I would be receiving far less in terms of a retirement income than if I stayed working another 10 years. We also knew that this lower income would change our current lifestyle. We went into this with our eyes open and we determined that having me be happy was more important than what that higher income would bring.

We determined that I would need to work another five to six years in order to meet our financial goals. So what to do for those six years? I realized that I had a choice of being grumpy and feeling out of control in my life or I could choose to take ownership of what I wanted and take the steps I needed.

You can see from above that one thing I did was to consistently attend the Dream Factory monthly luncheons. Hope was renewed every month.  This trust that I would someday step into my dream was critical to me emotionally.  I needed that hope to make it through these next six years.

I also started trying to figure out what exactly that dream might be. I knew that my job was not fulfilling for me.  I also knew that I was being called to use my talents in a different way, but I didn’t have a clue what that meant.  So I started taking classes that energized me.  It was a revelation to me that I could actually take steps towards figuring out and living my dreams while I was still working full time!

I took the Stress Reduction program at UMass Medical School created by Jon Kabat-Zin. Mindfulness and being present for your life was a foreign concept to me before my fibromyalgia diagnosis and these teachings.  It opened my consciousness to a whole new way of being. This program led directly to a Breath and Meditation class, which I created and offered for staff at the UMass President’s Office.  It also led me to create a yoga class at my church.  This yoga class is still running to this day.

I took the Deep River Within workshop and training certification program with Abby Seixas.  This led me to develop a seven-week program at the UMass President’s Office called Discovering Balance and Meaning.  Abby’s model is also the base of my seven-step program:  7-Steps to Choosing Joy.

These courses were resonating with me and leading me into my life’s work: supporting women in mid-life, modeling slowing down in order to awaken their own well of wisdom.  Each step I took opened new ideas, new opportunities, new creativity and shifted my path.

Finally it was time for me to retire! Together, with my husband, we paid off the mortgage and the college loans. I gave six months notice at my job and signed up to become a certified Yoga Dance instructor at Kripalu .  I set off for Kripalu two days after retiring.   At the same time, I also scheduled two workshops at the Wright Tavern (a spiritual center in my home town).  These were two workshops that had been quite successful at UMass.  I was ready to spread my wings and fly! I was free!

MAJOR REVERSAL So imagine my surprise when I came back from Kripalu and discovered that no one had signed up for my workshops!  I asked the heavens: “Don’t they know what a life changing experience these workshops will be? ”Don’t they know how wonderful I am? Everyone at UMass knows, why don’t they?”

This would be in the category of a huge awakening for me. I was shocked that no one signed up for my workshops.  Now what was I supposed to do?  Well, I decided that first I needed to rant and rave a little. That was of course not very helpful. Then I cried and listened to those inner critic voices: “No one will ever take your workshops”, “You are not good enough”, “Who do you think you are?” This also was not very helpful!

Finally, I realized that I needed to do something different.  This ranting, crying and beating myself up was not working. Maybe I was good enough, and maybe someone would take my workshops but I needed to find another way to proceed.  So back to the drawing board I go.

REDEFINE HERO’S GOALS The answer on how to proceed was sitting in front of me all along. Hello, Dream Factory!! Attending the Dream Factory during those six years kept my dream alive. Now it was time for me to become more integrated and to begin to absorb and learn the lessons necessary to start my business. The lessons that I needed to learn in order to be successful.

I attended the Chief Dream Officer training again and redefined by Vision, my Goals, identified my Saboteurs (those inner critic voices that pulled me down) and I was finally able to recognize what I needed to do in order to develop a community of support.  This program helped me to reassess my vision and figure out the steps I needed to take in order to be a successful Chief Dream Officer.

The major breakthrough for me came when I was approached by Nancy Cantor about purchasing a Dream Factory Publicity Package.  This is what launched me into the business I am running today.  Nancy coached me on my business, on my luncheon presentation and on what to offer participants as a sample. Nancy also helped me define what products I could create.  She did this by listening to my values and vision and then offering that vision back to me with a slightly different twist.  I was able to see my vision from multiple angles and became excited by the opportunities that were opening right in front of me.

Right there in a coaching session with Nancy, I created one of my first products: Oasis Interludes (20 minute breath and meditation exercise offered over the phone).  At the luncheon I walked the women through an Oasis Interlude so they could experience the calm and peace that was possible in their lives.  With just a five- minute Interlude they were hooked.  I offered free individual phone interludes to anyone who wanted to sign up.  I was off and running. I started offering Oasis Interludes over the phone every Tuesday at noon.

I also realized that I needed a community of support in order to launch my business. When I was at UMass, everyone knew who I was but very few people in my town and the surrounding communities knew who I was.  So I initiated a Concord Chief Dream Officer (CDO) Circle and recruited women to be part of this endeavor.  They did the CDO Training with Nancy to create their Dream Creation Plan first and  then joined the CDO Circle for accountability and support. We started meeting every month in order to support each other in taking steps towards our dreams.

The Chief Dream Officer Circle was so popular it was pointed out to me by Nancy that I could increase the buzz and energy of my business by starting a Concord Dream Factory Community.  I launched this Concord community in October of 2013.  We meet for breakfast every other month and routinely have 25 – 30 women in attendance from my town and surrounding communities.

RESOLUTION: I am now the proud Chief Dream Officer of the Concord Dream Factory; I facilitate one of the Chief Dream Officer Circles; and I have my own successful life coaching practice.  I send out a monthly newsletter to over 300 women and offer workshops that fill up.  To cap it all off, my 7-Steps to Choosing Joy was the basis of the last Dream Factory Conference.  I have arrived!

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