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  • Writer's pictureAnna | Not Needing New

What's Wrong With 'Dream Big'?

Dream Big

Before we even get started on this, I want to make it clear that I am not anti-ambition, or progress, or the life-changing power of economic and social change through hard work. I am questioning why we are so obsessed with MORE.

I once taught English in a private boarding school. A very expensive school. It had its own award-winning marketing department who were tasked with bringing in new parents, particularly from 'The London Scene'. These were highly ambitious parents with 'top' jobs. They wanted a school which would ensure that their children would achieve top grades, win top sporting awards, be the main part in the play, and scale their way to a grade 8 music certificate. Achievement was crucial.

There was a time when the school, led by the award winning marketing department, needed to rebrand and attract more clients. The competition for parents is a BIG DEAL - I once taught at a different school which hosted a rugby tournament where a rival school, who were playing in the tournament, brought flyers about their own open day with them and stuck them under the windscreen wipers of all the big cars in the car park. Naughty.

Anyway, a small team of experts were brought in (and bought in, at a huge cost) to work with us over a couple in INSET days to come up with the new theme and the tag line for the school. These people had worked with Nike. They were leading us on creating the new marketing tool kit. The entire staff had to go on silent visualisation walks in the grounds, thrash out key ideas, draw on giant pieces of A2 and condense what it meant to be part of the world of that school.

3 days later the experts fed back and we had a new slogan.

Dream Big.

I was a bit underwhelmed. I could have got the bus down to WHSmiths and found them that printed on a pink sparkly pencil case for £3.99

Anyway, it was duly printed on walls and buses and leaflets and although it definitely no bad thing for our young people to be ambitious for their own hopes and dreams - I would say that that particular way of phrasing it actually does the opposite of what it appears to offer. It contradicts itself somewhat.

If we are taught to 'Dream Big', to always 'Think Big', we are in danger of missing the billions of small signals of wonder and joy that can do such a perfect job of holding your heart safe and keeping your spirits lifted and your existence grounded in priceless contentment. We can lose the pride in small things, the connection to our everyday blessings of health, nature, friends, family, pets - the extraordinary joys of the average.

I do worry about the ubiquitous narrative to always go bigger, bolder, better. To have more. To earn more. To be the best. What if your dream doesn't fit 'BIG' - what if your dream is modest? Is that still OK? Is it still a valid dream if it's seen as 'low status'? Are you allowed to dream of being a carer? a cleaner? a bricklayer? a shepherd?

A dream can be anything. It isn't linear. It doesn't always go up. It can be a sideways dream too.

Dream Wide. Or just Dream.

It doesn't always have to be big.

459 views11 comments


Apr 28

Yes, completely this. Society is seemingly pushing for more and higher achievement. We need to celebrate being content with what you already have achieved, doing your job well, being happy with what you have.


Apr 28

I feel your words 😊


Apr 28

Well said and my sentiments exactly!!


Apr 28

I couldn't agree more! If we lose our pleasure in the small things, then where does it end? Capitalism tells us that in order to be of worth we must always be productive and in order for anything to be of value to us it has to have cost a lot of money.

We have become a society which knows the cost of everything but the value of nothing.

Let's all be the change and realise that we are rich beyond measure if we have everything that we NEED. Everything else is just sprinkles; pretty but completely unnecessary and devoid of nutrition...


Apr 28

My school motto (when did that become a ‘strap line’?) was lampada vitae tradimus…hand on the lamp/light of life. As a student I loved the simplicity and complexity of those words, it spoke on many levels and suggested our paths would all be different but of equal value. Dream without the fear of judgement, dream happy, dream contentedly.

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