A Goal without a Plan is Just a Wish

Posted: March 2, 2012 in Monday Morning Message, Youth Development
Tags: ,

Without goals, and plans to reach them,  you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.

Fitzhugh Dodson


I love Disney movies!!! I watch them all the time with my girls and think they really tap into  where every leader needs to start…with a dream. In Disney’s classic movie Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket sings:

When you wish upon a star

Makes no difference who you are

Anything your heart desires will come to you


Though these words are a fantastic and empowering starting point for anyone, they are incomplete. As we grow up, we realize that wishing isn’t enough; hard work and planning are key to moving our dreams into reality.

This has never been more true for us in 4-H, as we seek to help young people reach their fullest potential. Thankfully, with the help of the principles of thriving, we have the tools to help our 4-H youth learn to analyze their dreams and develop plans to reach them.

Dr. Richard Lerner and his team at Tufts University are the world’s experts in this topic of youth goal management, which we summarize in the acronym GPS. The GPS model is a simple goal management system that helps youth:

  • know where they are going through careful Goal selection
  • determine how they are going to get there by Pursuing strategies to reach that goal
  • Shift gears when challenges or roadblocks get in the way of their goals

The scientists have proven that youth who grow and apply these GPS skills to indicators of thriving are much more likely to have a hopeful future than those who don’t. Youth develop these skills when caring adults model the behavior and encourage them to practice these GPS skills in contexts that they find meaningful.

What will this take from us as 4-H leaders? It’s going to take an INTENTIONAL and STRATEGIC focus on our part. Many of us practice the above concept in some way, fashion, or form. Whether it is for something we are doing at work, for buying a house, or saving for a trip-goal development and management are critical skills to achieving those dreams. Intentionally subdividing and simplifying the process by means of the GPS system allows us to better teach young people how to use it independently and understand it earlier in life rather than later (like many of us have done). This is good mentoring in action. So keep encouraging your youth to dream and then work alongside them to help them succeed!

For a great GPS resource, check out the GPS Project from Tuff’s University by clicking here.


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