Academic Resolutions for 2017

Resolutions list

Note: I was recently asked to write a resolution challenge for students of a large online university in hopes of inspiring them to continue their academic journey. After reviewing what I wrote, I thought these applied to nearly any present goal or endeavor you might be facing with just a minor tweak here or there. With that in mind, I’d like to share these with you in hopes that you can find some value or application to your current circumstances.

Academic Resolution 2017

It’s that time of year again, when New Year’s resolutions abound. Too frequently, resolutions last about six weeks or so. Although the gyms are packed in January, by the second week of February they have quieted down and only the committed and dedicated remain.

As an academic coach, instructor, and former student, I know firsthand the challenge of balancing higher education with family and career. Trying to set goals through New Year’s resolutions is great, however these goals are often too lofty to be realistic or attainable (remember to keep your goals SMART). Most of us, when we make resolutions, make them with the future in mind – and rightfully so – we should always be making efforts to move forward, no matter how slowly. That said, I would like to challenge you toward the future by suggesting resolutions that remind you of the past.

In 2017, resolve to…

  • Remember the reason you chose to go back to school. Although earning a degree is honorable, our reasons for choosing to go to school are often much more practical. Especially when we make this decision while managing family, spouse, career, and other activities. You likely came back to school to finish what you started; to put yourself in position to earn a higher income; to provide a better future for you and your family; to give a foundation for being promoted; to learn more about your business or craft. Whatever the reason, keep it in mind. Your reason for starting isn’t to simply finish but to move your life forward…and what could be more gratifying than that?
  • Remember that going to school is your choice. You don’t have to be doing this. You could be doing something else. You don’t have to take these courses or earn this degree. You could be enjoying more time with the people around you. But you made this choice. This was your decision. Remember why you decided to go to college in the first place. Online education is hard – more challenging than being on campus – it takes more discipline and self-motivation. But you can do it. In fact, you’ve been doing it! Look at how far you’ve come. Yes, you have more to go but the end is closer than you think. This isn’t easy. If it were, everyone would have degrees and be moving their life forward. Stick it out.
  • Remember this is temporary. You didn’t decide to go to an online school because you thought it would be an easy degree. If you did, welcome to reality…it isn’t! You started this program with the end in mind – your future earnings, position, education…your family – you don’t plan to be in school forever. This is a temporary challenge. The sacrifices you’re making now to get course work completed, assessments taken, and your degree finished are all only temporary…for a short time. Yes, the months can seem to drag on when you’re amid deadlines and life stresses. But it won’t always be this way. You will finish and you will graduate. One day, sooner than later, you’ll be a graduate!
  • Remember you have support partners and cheerleaders. Your family and friends all know how challenging a time this can be for you. They knew what this meant when you first told them of your plans to go to school. They understand why you need to skip out early at family functions or stay up late to finish a chapter or get up early to take an assessment. They know you’re juggling a lot of plates. Gently remind them that you need their help and continued support. If they see you skipping your course work or not taking it seriously, then you shouldn’t be upset when they don’t either. Also, keep in mind that you have a team pulling for you and willing to make every effort for you to be successful. Your student mentor, course mentor, academic and financial advisors are all here for you to lean on and learn from.
  • Remember life is short, enjoy this experience. It can be difficult but don’t take yourself, your career, or your education too seriously. Don’t misunderstand, these are all serious and important aspects of our lives. But try to remember to enjoy the process, live the adventure of learning new things and discovering new facets of yourself. This is a step in the process of getting you to where you want to be. Make the most of it. Enjoy it as much as you can. Learn from your mistakes and laugh at your goofs. You’re developing and growing the greatest gift you have – yourself!
  • Remember that finishing is part of the process. One of my mentors during my doctorate program frequently reminded me, “The only good dissertation is a finished one!” At the doctorate level, the goal is to be called “Doctor” but the title is only awarded to those who complete all the work. Rebecca Schuman writes,

Only in the parallel universe of academia is it possible to log years of Herculean scholarship, write and defend a complex dissertation proposal, and – upon failing to complete one’s dissertation – come away with nothing to show but the humiliation of not being recognized by the academic industrial complex for one’s blood, sweat and uncompensated toil.[1]

The goal of your degree and the potential benefits it affords comes only upon its completion. Going through all the effort and making all the sacrifices to get through school only to come up short by not finishing is unacceptable. That’s not you and it doesn’t represent who you know yourself to be. Remembering why you started, the choice you made, the big-picture perspective, and that you have people pulling for you will help move you forward. Take each day as it comes. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Remember your fundamental goal and that obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off it. Finish what you started and finish strong!

Have a happy, healthy, and learning-filled year!

Live your potential,

Dave

[1] http://www.slate.com/articles/life/education/2014/08/abds_all_but_dissertation_ph_d_candidates_who_can_t_quite_finish.html

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