“Dream Big”…Are You Sure?

I often hear parents tell their children, “Dream big; you can become anything you want.” This encouragement, although well intended, misses the mark. It provides incomplete and even inaccurate information to our children. Think about it. Can anyone really become anything they want? I suggest we continue to encourage our children to dream big, but modify that encouragement, expand it to include some helpful information. I suggest we try changing to sayings like these three…all three beginning with “Dream Big….”

  1. Dream Big and Be Prepared to Work Hard. Dreams do not bring success; hard work does. We need to encourage our children to work hard in reaching for their dreams. We need to teach them that reaching for the big dream requires tradeoffs and sacrifices. Effort invested in the area of any big dream will result in less effort in another area. Any big dream will demand sacrifices in time, energy, and even possibly lifestyle. The effort our children invest in their big dream deserves our acknowledgment and recognition. Their effort, not simplyKids on Victory Podium their dream, will move them closer to their goals.  Their effort, not the dream, brings success. So “dream big and work hard!”
  2. Dream Big and Celebrate Every Step. Our children need to learn that big dreams are achieved by taking one little step at a time. Teaching our children to set smaller goals that lead to bigger achievements will help them reach their big dream. Our children need to learn that each step toward the big dream, each little goal achieved, represents a significant accomplishment. Celebrate the effort it took to take that step.
  3. Dream Big but Be Realistic. “You can become anything you want” is not really true; it is inaccurate. For example, consider these stats from NCAA research:
    1. Only .03% of high school seniors playing basketball will get drafted by the NBA. That works out to 3 out of 10,000.
    2. Only .08% of high school seniors playing football will get drafted by the NFL. That means 8 out of every 10,000.

Face it, not everyone has what it takes to become a pro athlete…or musician, engineer, chef, or anything else. Our children cannot really become whatever they want. It is even less likely they will become what we want. Instead, we need to help them take a realistic look at their strengths, abilities, interests, and weaknesses. With a realistic self-concept, we can encourage them to dream big…in the right area. We can help them develop a big dream that coincides with their strengths, abilities, and interests.


Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for telling our children to dream big and shoot for the stars. But as we encourage our children to dream big, we need to give them the complete picture:

  • Dream big and be prepared to work hard.
  • Dream big and celebrate every step along the way.
  • Dream big, but be realistic.

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