Often, lucid dreams are a lot more rewarding if you consciously plan to fulfill an objective before you go to sleep. This is called setting a lucid dream intention.
For instance, you may decide in advance to talk to your lucid dream characters and ask them what they represent. Or you may choose to travel through time and view the Earth in the year 3,000.
Without this kind of planning, my lucid dreams tend to fizzle out. I often find it difficult to think laterally in a lucid dream and am very focused on what's right in front of me. So if I don't plan what I want to do in advance, I end up roaming round the dreamscape looking for fun stuff, but which rarely materializes in a pleasing way.
The other night I was semi-lucid and I hadn't set any lucid dream intention. I found myself in a room full of instruments (I had been in a music shop the day before) and automatically tried to play the piano. But because of my impulsiveness and lack of clarity of thought, I didn't realize that half the black keys were missing. I played and played, but the sound was all wrong.
Other times, I just get distracted and forget I'm lucid at all. When this happens, the potential for an amazing lucid dream quickly dissolves and I'm left with a regular dream - albeit a little more vivid than usual. So the very first thing to do when you become lucid is to ground yourself in the dream (say "I'm lucid. I'm dreaming. This is all a dream.") and then recall your lucid dream intention...
This is a simple act of thinking about what you'd like to do before you go to sleep. Incorporate it into the MILD technique if you like. Let's say tonight I want to go diving in a tropical coral reef. The first thing I'll need to tackle is getting to the ocean. I decide in advance that I'll use a dream door to teleport myself onto a boat over Great Barrier Reef. I'll want to make sure it's daytime and the weather is nice, so I already have an image of myself on a boat in the sun.
Next, I'll envisage the ocean being nice and calm and sparkly. I don't want to go diving in murky, choppy waters. Finally, I'll imagine myself diving effortlessly into the water, feeling how refreshing it is, and swimming along with ease. I have no trouble breathing underwater as I have gills now - of course! You may want to wear an oxygen tank or you may be comfortable breathing naturally. It all comes down to your level of lucidity and your state of mind. I can stop planning my lucid dream intention here - or I can go on to imagine elaborate scenes of tropical fish and funky sea creatures. Since I have already set the scene, I will probably stop here and leave the rest up to my dreaming unconscious tonight.
Of course, you don't need to plan every single detail in advance - that would ruin the surprise. Think of it as looking up a route on a map before you take a journey. You need to know how to get from A to B or you'll get lost. This provides you with a helpful guide, but does not predict the entire experience of the journey itself, so there are still lots of surprises along the way. And because you checked your route in advance, you will more likely reach your destination.
At the same time - take it easy. There is no rush to fulfill your lucid dream intention and if, for whatever reason, you can't achieve it, take the pressure off yourself and move on to something else. If you can't find a dream door to teleport yourself - don't panic. You could fly to the sea instead, or spin around and create a new dream scene from scratch. Or if that's a complete dead end, create an alternative backup intention to make your lucid dream worthwhile.
My backup intention is to examine my surroundings and increase my lucidity until it's so solid and real I get kicks out of simply touching things and telling myself "this isn't even real, it's all in my head" (crazy eh?) I also seek out other dream figures and engage them in conversation. They can be very intriguing at times and offer fascinating insight into my own unconscious state of mind. It's also very easy to do - just grab someone and start talking. So if I can't go reef diving tonight I can at least get some cool unconscious insights instead.
So, whether you want to fly to the moon, morph into an animal, or just follow the unconscious action of the dream - the most fulfilling lucid dreams are the ones that achieve something you set out to do ahead of becoming lucid.
When you're setting a lucid dream intention, you have one major advantage. You can predict ahead of time that your dream will be illogical and you can plan appropriate ways of dealing with potential road blocks. This is really useful if your lucidity isn't turned up sharply - which is often the case for beginners. If you are going to fly to the moon tonight, you will need all the insight you can get, so plan ahead while you are awake and you won't be disappointed.
For step-by-step tutorials on lucid dream induction and exploration, check out The World of Lucid Dreaming Academy, our online learning platform for beginners and beyond.