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What does it mean to thrive?

By Savannah Aanerud

Savannah Aanerud with youth in her local 4-H program
What does it mean to thrive? The 4-H Thriving Model is the root system for how 4-H programs successfully grow and cultivate positive experiences into the lives of our young people. It helps youth develop a growth mindset where key developmental outcomes are achieved. Karen Beranek explores this in her blog about how one must move beyond resilience to thrive. However, in order to truly help youth, volunteers and families thrive, we need to first consider how we as program staff are thriving.

I want to encourage you to sit back in your chair and ask yourself, "Am I thriving?". Many of us are in "survival" mode while trying to encourage our youth to "thrive". How does that work? We see ourselves taking on a plethora of tasks, adding to our already long to-do lists. Our work can then seem like a checklist that we have to do each day instead of something that we enjoy "getting" to do. We are constantly pouring into our programs because we want them to thrive, but have we asked ourselves, "What does it mean for me to thrive?"

Below are insights on how we as staff can experience sparks, belonging, relationships, and engagement to help us explore how we can thrive in our everyday lives.
  • Identify your own sparks. Discovering your spark through careful reflection and encouragement will help you become more passionate about your work. Everyone has a skill, talent, passion, or special quality that they are excited about. One of my sparks is engaging youth with the outdoors!
  • Prioritize your goals and wellbeing. Creating a routine chart of how you are spending your time will help you uncover what is taking the most time in your daily routine. This can also encourage you to reflect on your overall wellbeing and prioritize goals in a healthy manner.
  • Make time for yourself to perform well. Establishing buffer time in between meetings and projects can help you feel less overwhelmed and rushed. It will instead create breathable spaces for you to become the best version of yourself.
  • Model setting boundaries and saying "no". Saying "no" to the things that take away who you are is critical to a healthy version of you. To what extent are you sacrificing the quality of work that you are doing because you are taking too much on? 
  • Connect with co-workers. Connecting with others is essential for good health. Your physical and emotional health is improved through healthy interactions with friends, family members, co-workers, and others. How can you intentionally reach out to others this week?
  • Celebrate our successes with co-workers. Celebrating our successes in the right way increases confidence and motivation. Take time to stop, pause, and celebrate your and your co-workers successes (phone call, dance party, shoutout, brain break, email).
  • Consider writing a letter to yourself. Journaling can help you reflect on frustrations, joys, hardships, and positive experiences. Reading through these letters can help you reflect on where you have grown, or a problem that still needs to be solved.
  • Build in reflection. Performing healthy, critical and reflective thinking will help you be more open and prepared for a growth mindset. Consider: Am I open to challenge, discovery and growth? Does my work offer me a hopeful purpose? Do I feel happy and fulfilled?

We, as youth workers, play a critical role in modeling behavior and creating programs that help youth explore their sparks. In the words of Mariaane Williamson, "And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same." My hope is that as we discover and explore what we need to thrive, we will inspire our youth, volunteers, and families to do the same. Only then will they feel nourished to become the best versions of themselves.

The time is ours to redefine what thriving means to us. What does it mean to you? How can we encourage our co-workers to create a thriving environment for themselves? How can we thrive?

-- Savannah Aanerud, Extension educator

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  1. We are so lucky to have Savannah as part of our Extension team! Savannah cares deeply about everyone and this shows in this week's blog. Thanks for sharing such great insights, Sav! I've been working on identifying more personal sparks in my work. ~Anna Rose

  2. I love this!! Intentional time to connect with others out there doing the same work has been so essential to me as a 4-H educator. Thank you for this push to consider other ways of thriving! -- Alicia Webb

  3. I agree with both of the above comments. When adults are thriving, the youth they work with will thrive--this is something, we cannot forget. So grateful to be a colleague of Savannah Sunshine.


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