Think Big: Helping Your Family Be Goal-Getters

Studio 5 Clinical Psychologist Dr. Liz Hale shares some insight.


Dreams and goals are imperative for all of us! Dreams not only shape our lives, they influence the choices we make day everyday, and they determine the success we actually do achieve. They give life purpose, direction, and meaning. Our dreams not only encourage us to build toward the future, but offer a sense of control and hope! If our children don’t have any aspirations or dreams, let’s do everything in our power to help them discover them. As you mentioned, it is indeed the 3-D’s: help them to Discuss, Discover, and Do!

Dreams really do start at home with a parent first listening and then helping to make it happen. Dreams determine who we are.


You can even help little children determine who and what they are by creating Dream Chests out of cardboard boxes, and have your little ones fill them with newspaper/magazine articles, images, cartoons, quotes, and trinkets that inspire or interest them. Review the contents now and again to determine patterns about who they are and what drives them; these small steps lead to the determination that it takes to fulfill a dream.

With older kids, have them keep a dream board in their bedrooms with articles, pictures, and an image that represents their dream and deepens their determination! Encourage them to discover a historical hero – someone who has achieved success, perhaps even at great odds, and can serve as a positive role model. Make it a family project to learn more about that person; put up a poster of them in your child’s room; and encourage them to do a report on their hero or heroine for school.

Let your kids know they don’t have to do it alone. Remember that family, friends, coaches, and teachers WANT to help in whatever ways they can. Offer to introduce them to a role model or take them on a field trip to learn more about the career they’re interested in.


The best way to realize goals is to break them down into doable steps. Success is a marathon, not a sprint! Help children identify what they want to learn more about this school year, or determine a fear they want to overcome…then set about realizing it. Set goals that are S.M.A.R.T. = set goals that are

Savvy (easy to understand and meaningful)
Measurable (define exactly what you want to accomplish)
Active (decide what actions need to be taken to reach that goal)
Reachable (realistic, based on experience and skills)
Timed (have your child write their goals down, including a deadline for themselves and post it in their locker & bathroom mirror so they’ll see it often)

A not-so-smart goal would be “I want to be the best basketball player on the team.”
A smart goal would be, “I want to improve my shot percentage by 20% by practicing one hour more on non-game days, Wednesdays and Saturdays.”


This tip is for both kids and adults! As adults we need to constantly evaluate the words we use out loud and in our heads. Goal-buster words include “no,” “never,” “can’t,” “won’t,” and “maybe”. Watch your words and encourage your children to be aware of their words, as well. Goal-getter words are “yes,” “can,” “will,” and, “Hey, why not me!”

We also need to frequently evaluate the goals and dreams we do have; evaluate how close we’re getting and determine any adjustments that need to be made in our efforts and/or dreams themselves.

Children are also evaluating us! Talk to your kids about your specific goals and steps taken to achieve them. Practice what you preach; your can-do attitude will rub of on them!


Dreams teach us to assert ourselves into action! Some people dream of success while others wake up and word hard! Break goals down into doable steps and manageable tasks. Help your kids set Bronze, Silver, and Gold Goals. Bronze goals are easier to obtain in a shorter period of time, and Gold Goals are more of a stretch!

A child’s goal not only requires a lot of action from them, but also their parents. I marvel at all the time and effort that parents put into cheering from the sidelines, giving pep-talks late into the night, and practicing between practices, not to mention all the action needed monetarily to help some of these dreams come into fruition. They greatly need your assistance in order to realize their dreams.

Have kids try on dreams for size. If the goal is to be a singer, have them create a cover for their CD debut. Minds produce what they dwell on day in and day out. Ask your kids questions at dinner or while carpooling to get them dreaming about their goals.


Setting those Bronze Goals help us stay motivated for the Silver and Gold Goals, because they are within our grasp and can keep us motivated and inspired just enough to hang in there for the bigger picture. When your children take steps towards reaching their goals, reward them with a movie, weekend off of chores, or another incentive that will keep them motivated. Help them find joy in the process; these young men I interviewed look to their coaches as role models, and look to each other for friendships and support. They have a good time in the middle of working hard and going for the Gold.

There will be disappointments; welcome them – they are a part of life and such great teachers. Sometimes just saying, “I believe in you,” is enough to get someone through the tough times. You don’t have to fix disappointments for kids. Simply saying, “You worked so hard for that win – it’s so disappointing to not get it!” is enough!

Happiness doesn’t depend on what we have or who we are, it depends solely upon what you think. We will never go higher than we think. Kids are unstoppable as long as they keep taking the next step. Don’t wait for one more day to begin; get goaling!

Additional resource: “Dream,” by Susan Bosak


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