On the Process of Thriving

On the Process of Thriving

Most of my serious writing is done in my branch office at Starbucks; I find the steady drum of conversation and the occasional hiss of an espresso machine to be just the right background noise for transferring my thoughts to paper. Most of my serious thinking, however, is done in my mobile office, on the back of my horse where my mind is calm and clarity and connections come more easily. We just had one of those glorious autumn weekends in Oregon, with cool nights and sunny warm days- perfect for a lot of riding and a lot of thinking.

I especially welcomed the chance to be outside after spending seven full days in Ohio at the NAE4-HA conference. While this conference is always busy, I found it especially so this year as considerable buzz about the 4-H Thriving Model begins to makes its way around the country. The interest, support, and affirmation for this work was evident (and yes, somewhat overwhelming, in a very positive way) throughout the week.

More than anything, I was delighted to hear peoples’ thoughts about the model, especially when they were wrestling with how to understand and put the model into practice. One was a 4-H program leader from the Northeast region whom I had the pleasure of chatting with before lunch one day. He was struggling with the graphic image of the model, and the portrayal of thriving indicators in particular. I, too, am dissatisfied with this image because it implies that the seven indicators are in a linear order, that one comes before the other, and that they increase in importance from one to the next. In fact, the thriving indicators are inter-related and not at all independent from each other. Other than some aspects of youth thriving that are developmental in nature, there is no linear progression across time between them. Instead, the thriving indicators taken together are a holistic description of what it means for youth to be doing well. I invited my friend to keep thinking of how we could better portray the model graphically, as I do all who have an interest in applying the model to 4-H youth development practice.

When I started this blog I deliberately did not start at one side of the model and work through it left to right. This type of presentation is better suited for a webinar, and we should have a newly recorded webinar on the 4-H Thriving Model website later this week. Rather, I wanted to jump in and explore the model in a very non-linear fashion, considering the nuances of connection and inter-relatedness between all of its parts. So that is what we will do next, beginning with the thriving indicator of Hopeful Purpose. That’s where we will start, and we will see where we go from there.

Thriving on,


Mary Arnold



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Mary, I appreciate your mobile office on the back of your horse! My mobile office is oftentimes walking alongside of my favorite being (besides my husband!) Shiva. Thanks for starting this blog and I look forward to participating in your webinar!

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