Dare to Dream: Family Goal Setting Tips

Ginger Carlson
January 5, 2016

Just as we may set goals for ourselves, guiding our children in goal setting is valuable to their own creative development. Studies show that children (and adults) who define their own goals and reflect on their struggles and accomplishments are more likely to have success with what they are trying to achieve.

Goal setting is an important link in the family chain that binds us all together. Through mindful self-reflection and daring to dream together, creativity and the family partnership towards it will grow in its own unique and creative way.

Mindful Self-Reflection

Mindful self-reflection, a crucial step in goal setting, is the place of calm we don't necessarily will ourselves to be in but rather find ourselves in when we are truly ready for a creative leap. Being able to reflect mindfully is to enter a place of calm clear thought so that ideas can flow through us, and we are then able to pull a few out for our use. Teaching mindful self-reflection to children takes patience and good modeling. We want our children to hold onto their spontaneity and creative energy, and one way they can do that is to have plenty of moments of calm and quiet, and ultimately self-reflection.

Dare to Dream

Many people who advocate goal setting insist that a goal must be realistic. While the sentiment is valid, we must also realize that goals in the mind of a child will not always sound realistic, but are actually very possible with imagination and creativity. So when your child says that she wants to ride a unicorn over the rainbow so she can dance with the giggle fairy in Lompa Land, take it seriously and embrace it as a part of her goals. It is only by encouraging thinking VERY BIG that we will raise the creators and thinkers of the world.

Monitor Progress

As your family begins to breathe life into your stated goals, you might often find yourselves straying from project to project or new ideas might be spurned by the original plan. In our family, one of the many reasons we like to write them down is so that we can bring our focus back when needed. For children and adults alike, every two months is a good interval in which to reevaluate goals. If that feels like too often, try sitting down with your goals at the change of seasons.


Like any other aspect of creativity, the more we model ourselves in the act of reflection, goal setting, and evaluation of our own progress, the more likely our children will give it importance. In our house, goal setting takes on many forms: simple daily goals and plans made at the start of each day, to a monthly calendar of activities, to even larger project boards that show goals we want to accomplish within a season or the whole year. But modeling goal setting means even more than that.

Children need to see the adults in their lives both setting goals and working to attain them. For me, this has meant consciously changing my routine. I used to try hard to get all my exercise and writing in before the household awoke so my energies could be focused on them. That meant getting up very early, which was fine and even enjoyable. What I realized though was that some of my most important goals and their processes were never being witnessed by my family. So while I don't want to write the entire novel in the presence of my child, he now knows what I am working towards and gets to witness the hard work involved in my own varied personal projects. It even means that he willingly joins in my yoga practice and sits down to write alongside me. It's an added bonus when we get to create together.

So think of yourself as a facilitator of wonder. Reflect mindfully. Define your goals together. Model. Most of all, dare to dream!

Originally published in 2009; excerpted from Ginger Carlson's book Child of Wonder

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