Helping Kids Find Their Future Through Targeted Daydreaming


Researchers in the social sciences have found a powerful visualization tool that brings both short-term and long-term benefits to young people. It is an exercise that takes just twenty minutes and is easy and enjoyable to do. It gives people an immediate mood boost and is a kind of targeted daydreaming.

Everyone can benefit from this exercise, but it’s particularly empowering for youth because it gives them a sense of control and a forward-looking, futuristic (also known as a goal-setting) mindset. Yet this exercise does not carry the heavy baggage of goal-setting in the form of others’ (read: parental) expectations, pressures to achieve, competitiveness, etcetera.

The exercise was developed and tested by social scientists Kennon M. Sheldon and Sonja Lyubomirsky. The researchers found that, in addition to an immediate lift in spirits, the exercise also caused participants to gain a sense of control over their lives, to feel that some of their goals were crystallizing in their minds, and to feel more competent. Participants even performed more competently at tasks! Talk about a lift!

What’s more, the participants were still feeling pretty good about themselves three weeks later. Five months later, the participants were sick less often than the control group, who, rather than practicing targeted daydreaming, wrote down the details of their daily lives.

Related: One-Track Mind: How to Break Out of the Single-Thought Mindset and Open Your Mind

How do you perform this targeted daydreaming exercise? It’s quite simple.

The exercise consists of taking twenty minutes, a pen or pencil, and piece of paper (or a computer file) and writing a little story about one’s best possible self in the future. The sky’s the limit.

Imagining one’s best possible self, the person doing the exercise should visualize the answers to such questions as, “What kind of a person does he or she want to be, say, five years from now? Who does he or she want to be with? What kind of a living situation does he or she want to be in? Location? Country? Job or occupation? Wealth level? Marital status?”

Because BPS is fun to do — allowing one’s self to dream uninhibitedly of the perfect future — most people are willing to do it on a regular basis. This may set the deep inner psychological processes in motion to actually achieve the lifestyle envisioned — or to have a whale of a good time working toward it and reaping the rewards of doing so. Increased psychological and physical well-being makes this an exercise worth doing, even if all of the imagined circumstances don’t actually materialize in real life.

The exercise is particularly effective for young people because it carries them into a future world where they’re in command and control. It empowers them, helping them to believe in the possibility of a happy future full of accomplishment and satisfaction.

It was Walt Disney who said, “If you can dream it, you can become it.” The master of fantasy knew what he was talking about. Fantasizing a fantastic future through doing the BPS exercise can help young people in particular focus on what they really want out of life as well as beginning to generate the psychological energy to achieve their most precious secret wishes born out of their fondest dreams.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens is a great book to help teens achieve their dreams.

One Response to Helping Kids Find Their Future Through Targeted Daydreaming

  1. Chris D January 22, 2015 at 4:33 pm #

    Greetings…not sure where I would post this..but viewed your credentials and was interested in getting some feedback. Initially, I was looking for a resource for social child development for my 3rd grader. I am fairly savvy with searches and yet could not find what I was looking for. In any event, here is where I ended up. Thanks for hopefully taking the time the to read.

    As I have stated, I have a son (two but concerned about the older), a third grader. He seems to be having issues with developing friendships with his peers. From conversations with him, he said that he does not seem to have the same interests as his peers. He has told me and his mother (and yes we are married have been throughout his life…23 years to be exact), that his peers are often involved in conversation that he is “not interested in” ie video games (minecraft), tv shows that he does not watch (and according to him “inappropriate subjects”) etc. His interests are more academic (books about science, volcanoes, Discover Channel, how the universe works, etc. He also loves the 3 Stooges). He does not play video games as we do not have them. We have never been fanatically against them…we just do not own them. He has had some exposure to a bit more mature content such as Transformers movie. Indiana Jones and the like. He is well aware that “movie” content is make believe.

    When i had a conversation with him regarding his friends, I was a bit concerned. I have asked him how he feels about not being as active with his peers as others appear to be. He has told me that when he speaks to them that they seem dismissive or not interested in the subjects he is interested in. After discussing “lonely” vs. “alone” he had told me that he speaks to his teachers often during free social time, such as recess or other extra curricular school activities when the other students socialize. When asked if he was feeling lonely or alone..(explaining that lonely…meaning that he wishes he was engaged with others and is not happy about it…and “alone” meaning that he may not be socializing but doing his own activities), he stated he was sometimes “lonely”. This goes to the crux of my concern.

    I certainly understand that there are different stages of social development, and that they are not all easy. However, my concern is letting this become a “norm” for him socially, and exacerbating a possible social development issue that gets more difficult to address as he gets older.

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