Skipping her way to the stars – helping our kids to dream BIG

My daughter Mischa is teaching herself to skip. We had weeks of – thump, thump, awwww! as she tried and tried but didn’t get anywhere fast. You could feel her frustration as the rope got tangled in her hair, her ankles, her brother. But she was determined to learn how to do it and so kept on trying. And then something clicked. On Sunday, she skipped 4 in a row, and then 9 the next day and 11 the following.

So being the social researcher that I am, I suggested we draw a graph to record her best score each day so she could see she was improving. When drawing the Y axis I asked her “How many skips do you want to be able to do and we’ll make that your target?” Without hesitation she said 100.

Now I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about dreaming BIG and not letting anyone tell you can’t do it, etc. And yet I caught myself about to say, “Ooh, that’s quite a lot – how about we start at 50?”

Luckily I stopped those words before they came out of my mouth but it got me thinking about how easy it is to have a dream crush by very well-meaning people. People don’t tend to poo-poo our ideas because they’re rubbish or stupid. They often think, just as I did with Mischa, that they are protecting us from disappointment. So instead of shooting for the stars, we end up aiming for the top of the lamp-post.

But where do you go from there? To the top of the building, the moon perhaps? This kind of thinking suggests that we have to take an incremental approach to getting what we want. You work hard at school and get into a good uni or college, which then gets you a good job, in which you work for X years before getting promoted. However, the people who are really successful in their lives (like how did they do that?!! successful) tend not to think like that. They dream BIG and amazing things happen. It has many names – the law of attraction or The Secret. I call it the “law of putting it out there”. You get back what you put out (both positive and negative). You tell yourself you can’t do it and, surprise, surprise, you can’t. A great example of putting it out there is The Buried Life – four guys who turned knocking items off their bucket list like playing ball with the President and kissing the Stanley Cup into a book and TV show.

By putting out her goal to the world, Mischa has assembled a willing bunch of people to help her reach it. Every morning this week she has had at least one person help her count as she strives to better her score. It will not all be plain sailing. There are risks in taking this approach. For example, she had a complete meltdown last night because she couldn’t repeat her earlier performance. But I personally believe that letting her set herself a seemingly impossible target, she will learn a valuable lesson about dealing with risk, coping with failure and relying on others to help her through those times (and also to celebrate when she succeeds).

And you know what? This morning, after only 6 days, she broke her first milestone and achieved 55 skips in a row. Even as her proud mother, I couldn’t believe it!  Hats off – I was wrong and very happy I was too.  Would she have reached 55 this quick if I’d convinced her to aim for 50?  I’m not so sure.

So, some reflection for you. How often do you gently prompt a friends or relative (or yourself) to aim for the safety of the top of the lamp post? Instead, are there ways you can support that person to reach for the stars instead? Feel free to leave me a note 🙂 


*** Update!!!  She’s done it!  101 skips in a row completed this morning and in under a week. We are all so proud of her but that’s nothing compared to how proud she is of herself. She was beaming all day and almost forgot about the little party I’d promised her when she reached her target. Getting there was reward enough it seems, well for a wee while at least.  Then she recovered and remembered. Need to start organising that party then :)


4 thoughts on “Skipping her way to the stars – helping our kids to dream BIG

  1. Great article, and one that really made me think… about my own behaviour more than anything else. I’ve been trying really hard recently to dream big and see the huge possibilities that are out there, and in some respects I’ve been bemoaning the fact that I didn’t always get those ‘reach for the stars’ messages when I was growing up (as you say Keira, for very well-intentioned reasons). But now I realise that in my desire to help my friends feel good about themselves and avoid disappointment, I do exactly what I don’t want others to do for me, namely give them ‘aim for the top of the lamp-post’ messages. I suppose it’s that I don’t want people around me to be frustrated or annoyed, but that’s doing them a disservice and limiting their ability to achieve something extraordinary. So I’m going to try not to limit anyone’s ambition, but instead actively encourage it… whether they’re little kids or big kids!

    Oh – and good luck to Mischa. It’ll take effort and determination, and might involve her Mum helping her cope with the occasional meltdown, but she’ll smash that 100 skip target eventually!

  2. Thanks Craig! Would be very interested to hear you get on supporting your friends and in dreaming big yourself.

    Breaking news! Mischa smashed her second milestone this afternoon – 77! So now I owe her a magazine and a trip to the cinema.

  3. I heard a great saying recently: “shoot for the stars and you might reach the sky”. It really spoke to me, because so often we have it the other way around. Like you say, we don’t want people to be disappointed, so if they want to reach the sky, we tell them to aim for the top of the lamppost and if they get higher then that is a bonus. But in reality they are far more likely to reach the sky if they are aiming for the stars. Just because they don’t get to the stars at the first attempt doesn’t mean the sky isn’t a great achievement, or that it isn’t just a stop on the way to the stars 🙂

    • I think we all struggle with what’s the best way to approach this. I’ve been really struggling with dreaming BIG and it really annoys me! But it’s not the way we tend to approach life. I saw Ted Turner on Oprah’s Masterclass (I LOVE that programme, although I admit, I’d never heard of Ted Turner before that) and he said something that really stuck with me. His dad said that he should set his sights beyond all possible reach because he had set himself what felt like a big dream but then achieved it and didn’t know where to go from there. So instead of enjoying it, he felt disappointed. You can see a small piece of the programme here: So I vote for setting your sights as high as you can, and then enjoying the journey rather than focusing on the destination too much!

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