On Grit and Goals

I had the most lovely of surprises this week when Dr. Shauna Tominey stopped by my office to give me a copy of her hot-off-the-press new book entitled Creating Compassionate Kids: Essential Conversations to Have with Young Children. I can’t wait to read it, and I hope you will too! Dr. Tominey is a parenting education specialist at Oregon State University who, like me, is fascinated by the process of human development, especially in understanding the things that help – or hinder- positive development. Also like me, Dr. Tominey has a keen desire to ensure that the important research generated through the sciences of learning and development is shared with others and put to good use making a difference in the lives of youth and families.

One of the greatest things about my position as a 4-H Youth Development specialist is that I get to live in that liminal place between research and practice, which means I work daily with youth development practitioners as they work directly with youth, families and communities. On the academic side, I also get to work with and learn from lead researchers who generate the critical information we need to do our youth development practice well.

So as we find ourselves in the middle of the Season of Goals (how are those New Years’ resolutions going, by the way?), I thought we would turn our blog attention for a bit to the thriving indicator of Intentional Self Regulation. As it turns out we have not one, but two leading researchers in this area at Oregon State University, Dr. Megan McClelland and Dr. John Geldhof, whose work will inform a great deal of what we explore in the coming weeks. Who knows, maybe I will even get them to write a post for the blog!

So, bear with me a minute while I set the stage to make the translation from research to practice. One of the steps of translation is to “operationalize” a term such as self-regulation. To operationalize simply means to define something and give it practical use. As operationalized in the 4-H Thriving Model, intentional self-regulation is defined as goal setting and management. Why? Because setting and achieving goals is a key sub-concept of the larger construct of self regulation, and something that 4-H has long included in its programming with youth. While we are going to consider the broader picture of self-regulation, we are also going to zero in on the practical nature of goal setting and management for our work with youth. In this way we will translate the research on self-regulation into our daily practice as youth development educators.

For those of you who read along last fall as we talked about Grit, we learned about the importance of developing grit as part of positive youth development. A key part of grit development, according to Dr. Duckworth, is setting, managing and achieving goals. Without goals there will be little grit.

As the old year moves into this new one, so we will move from grit to goals as we continue to explore the key ingredients of youth thriving. Now that the scene has been set, let’s spend a few blog posts looking at goal setting and management as a form of self-regulation and thriving, and consider ways we can put this research into practice with youth.

Thriving On,

Mary Arnold

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