Your kids dreams aren't enough...


Some Notes Worth Keeping

Yes, "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams," in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt. Dreams enable us to imagine what could be possible without any limitations or expectations of reality. We are uninhibited in letting our minds run away with creativity, grand aspirations and worldly impact. As children, we dream the biggest. We've all dreamed of being the President or the first person on Mars or winning the Indianapolis 500 or something along those lines. And adults always encouraged us, but with slight semi-mocking laughter, 'you can be anything you want!'. This is where I believe the breakdown of a child's dreams begins. 


Dreams are just goals without restriction. They allow our imaginations to run wild and envision a new paradigm unencumbered by thoughts of how to pull them off -- and that has its value. But (and I believe a big but) there is nothing concrete about them and therefore don't, in and of themself, lend themselves to becoming a reality. They are 'top of the funnel' ideas that have not been vetted. They are not actionable nor accountable. You can say that you want to be an astronaut and adults pat you on the back for saying something lofty and encourage you -- but don't take the next step towards helping you see it reality. Kids are not stupid and they pick up on this quickly. We all want to (and should!) encourage big dreams because children will shape our future and change starts with a dream. But I believe that's not enough. 


Dreams are meant to shape a future version of ourselves and our world - a way we imagine what we can achieve. The implication is that we expect some of those dreams (or a version of them) to come to fruition. Kids are taught to dream, but not to weed out ideas or how to break down dreams into actionable bite-sized pieces. Some dreams aren't feasible right now or aren't things that they would ultimately enjoy dedicating time, energy and money toward. 


Of course a 4 year old isn't going to be able to create a plan on how to win the Indy 500, but the concept still applies.  Do you like cars? Do you have a high risk tolerance? Will you be timid? How do you break down a dream to determine what you truly want to pursue and then how to make it actionable.


It's similar to a sales cycle. By encouraging kids to dream, but with no follow-on action, you are creating a very top heavy 'dreams to achievements funnel' that doesn't qualify opportunities or have a process to get them to convert. As a result, dreams linger in 'idea' stage and don't get executed. Kids end up with a whole host of dreams and no understanding on which ones to pursue or how to tackle them. 


I understand why as parents and adults we do this. We never want to crush the dreams of a child. They are so creative and uninhibited by the constraints adults have come up against. They don't know what they don't know. As adults, we don't dream the same way since we are jaded by our past life experiences. Our dreams conversion funnel looks very different as a result. We 'convert' ideas at a higher rate, but it is generally because we have smaller, more actionable ideas which really aren't dreams. We simply no longer have lofty and creative dreams for the most part. The top of our 'dreams to achievements funnel' is small. We are not dreaming the same way that children do.


It seems the lesson goes both ways. As parents, we need to teach our children that dreams are important, but so is transforming them into goals. See if the idea has legs. Break it down into small tasks that can be achieved and determine if it's where you want to spend your time and energy. And then set timelines around achieving your dreams (now goals). I think that is what Eleanor meant by "believing in the beauty of our dreams".  For me, "believing" means breaking it down, assigning dates and actions and fully committing to a plan and process towards achieving them.  I don't think Eleanor meant to just blindly believe in your dreams.  I think she meant believing in the ability to achieve them through clearly defined steps.  


As adults, we need to take our own advice. Dream bigger. Put lots of ideas into the top of the 'dreams to achievements' funnel and know that you don't have to achieve at everything you strive for. But you won't achieve anything big if you don't dream it first. And then, make it actionable. And your children may just follow in your footsteps.