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So often your son is advised to set SMART goals – ones that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. But what if there was a better way for your son to approach his dreams?

SMART goals still work

Goal setting should be an important part of everyone’s lives. Setting a goal gives us purpose and something to strive for. Working towards a goal gives your son a reason to get up early each morning to attend sport training or head to music rehearsal.

The SMART framework is a great way for your son to work out the finer details of his goal, and can ensure he has clearly defined objectives to work towards. A great example of a SMART goal might look like this:

“At the end of 2018 I will have achieved a yearly mark of 90 percent or more in music. I will rehearse seven times a week and attend each class fully prepared by completing all home learning.”

It’s a great goal – it gives your son a clear objective to work towards and outlines a timeframe in which to achieve it. It also identifies the actions he needs to take to achieve this goal.

SMART goals can be suffocating

While the above example is definitely worth pursuing, it lacks inspiration. A year end mark of 90 percent is great, and great results are always worth encouraging as a parent, but what about the bigger picture? What will achieving 90 percent do for your son and his future aspirations?

Brendon Burchard agrees that there is a better approach to thinking about our dreams and goals, and that we need to find a new approach to thinking big.

Without defining the bigger picture, it can sometimes be hard for your son to keep ‘grinding’ away through after school practice and private tutoring. He needs something inspiring to keep pushing him to be better.

This is where the DUMB goals framework can be extremely useful for your son.

How DUMB goals can help your son get results

The DUMB goals framework approaches goal setting by focusing on the ‘what’ rather than the ‘how’. It’s about setting large, sometimes scary goals that allow your son to dream big and pursue something that may take years to achieve. DUMB goals are:


Your son’s goal should be derived from his imagination. Perhaps it comes from a childhood dream, or maybe it has come about due to exposure to new ideas or people. Whatever the source, it needs to be a big dream.


Your son’s big dream needs to inspire and uplift him. Thinking about it should bring a mixture of joy and apprehension – if it doesn’t make him happy then perhaps it is not worth pursuing; if it doesn’t frighten him then perhaps he is not dreaming big enough.


To achieve his dream, your son needs to be able to actually obtain it. This means he needs the systems and methods in place to keep making progress. These systems may include the support of teachers and parents, or the habits he can build over time which will move him closer to achieving his dream.


Establishing behaviours that trigger action in your son is one of the most powerful ways to make progress towards his big dream. Attending certain classes may inspire action; reading about a role model or idol may be another.

Looking back to the music goal from earlier, we could revise this with the DUMB framework in mind:

“I want to be a world-class violinist, travelling the world and performing original pieces with leading orchestras in front of thousands of people. I want to inspire others to follow their dreams by sharing my success with children, students and adults. Eventually, I want to conduct an orchestra and teach others.”

That’s a big goal, and definitely not something that can be achieved in 12 months.

The Crossroads of SMART and DUMB Goals

Having set a large goal, your son now has something to strive for – a dream that will keep him waking up at 5:00am to attend rehearsals, and motivate him to constantly be better.

One of the greatest benefits of the DUMB approach is that it actually ties in with the SMART approach. Our young musician above has a few goals to accomplish:

  • Master the violin
  • Compose original music
  • Learn to play in an orchestra
  • Share his success with others
  • Become a conductor
  • Become a teacher

Each of these goals can now be approached using the SMART framework, allowing each objective to be broken down into achievable goals while ensuring your son continues moving towards a larger dream.

At The Scots College, we encourage boys to take ownership of their learning journey, pursuing interests unique to them as they edge closer to larger dreams. World-class teachers and coaches, and a variety of co-curricular and extracurricular activities, empowers Scots boys to face the world with brave hearts and bold minds.

To learn more about our education philosophy, download your copy of Brave Hearts Bold Minds.

The Scots College is a proud member of the following associations.

The Presbyterian Church (New South Wales) Property Trust T/A The Scots College, Sydney Australia
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William Elder


Mr Alan Elder was born in Scotland and migrated to Australia with his parents at a young age. He attended The Scots College for all his schooling, graduating in 1944. He played 1st XI Cricket and was a member of the College Cadet Unit. After leaving school Mr Elder studied accountancy and retained a life-long love of the College, especially the Pipes and Drums. Mr Elder never married, however the significant bequest he left will allow his Scots family to remember him through the Lang Walker Business Centre.