Navigating Your Way To Thriving

Posted: September 1, 2011 in Monday Morning Message

“A Goal without a plan is just a wish”Larry Elder 

Recently, I did some consulting work for a group in Vacaville. The group was a partnership of adults and youth who were working on a project to clean up and clearly mark the bike trails throughout the city. Unfortunately they were eight months into their project and hadn’t really gotten anywhere when I was called in. After meeting with the program coordinator and their youth leadership team, it was clear that they were frustrated and ready to quit. The group had an overall vision of what they wanted to accomplish but had absolutely no idea how to get there.

As I’m writing this article, I am on a plane coming back from a leadership conference in Florida and it has been quite an adventure. None of us would ever think of getting on a plane if we had no idea where it was going or when it was supposed to reach it’s destination. On this particular flight, we were scheduled to have a 6:05pm departure with a transfer in Dallas, finally landing in Sacramento at 11:10pm. That was the goal, and a good goal it was. When I arrived at the airport, I was informed that the flight had been delayed by two hours and I would be missing my connecting flight from Dallas to Sacramento. I was then booked on a flight from Dallas to Sacramento for the next morning and given a hotel room at the airline’s expense. The boarding plane finally arrived at 8:45pm. We were told that there were mechanical issues with the plane and they would be getting another plane to take us to Dallas. We would now leave at approximately 11pm. At 11:45pm I was finally on my way to Dallas, a little tired, a little frustrated but knowing where I’m going and what it’s going to take to get to my final destination.

Goal management skills are used by almost all successful people in the world and a critical skill to teach our youth if we want them to thrive. It sure is easier to get somewhere when you know where you are going, how you’re going to get there and what you’re going to do when things get in your way.

My friends in Vacaville were frustrated and unproductive because although they knew where they wanted to go, they didn’t have a plan to get there and certainly didn’t know what to do when they hit a challenge. On the other hand, although I was a little frustrated about having to wait six hours in an airport, I not only knew where I was headed, I knew how I was getting there. Because the airline had a plan in place to deal with the challenges that came up along the way, I was able to make it to my final destination with minimal impact on my overall trip.

When it comes to goal management, 4-H is fortunate to have a simple tool to help youth learn the important skill of goal setting-our G.P.S. system! G is Goal Selection, it’s where we are going. Knowing where we want to go is the first step of bringing a goal to fruition. It allows us to picture the end that we are looking for. P is Pursuit of Strategies, it’s the steps we will take to get where we are going. Pursuit of strategies is a very critical piece and is where most people who struggle with goal setting get stuck. These strategies need to be very specific (I want to train 15 volunteers in Thrive this year), measurable (these people will be trained by November, 30, 2011) and attainable (leaders are within driving distance). Remember on this last point that aiming too low is just as ineffective as aiming too high. S is Shifting Gears when the going gets rough or how to modify goals or strategies to meet the challenge of obstacles. The road to achieving our goals is never a smooth path. Last minute challenges, overlooked details and unexpected opportunities will arise. When you have established clear and specific goals, you can be prepared to navigate through them rather than be paralyzed by them. Passing along this tool to both our volunteer leaders and our young people will not only improve the efficiency of our 4-H programs, it will help prepare our youth to thrive and succeed in life.


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