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Returning To School While Facing Adversity: Goal Setting Strategies For Success

For as long as I could remember, I struggled in school.  As a kid, processing lectures and participating in labs made me feel like an imposter.  Because of my social anxiety, walking down the halls and collaborating on group projects was downright painful.  What I didn’t know as a young girl was that I had […]

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Goal Setting Strategies For Going Back To School But Struggle With Adversity

For as long as I could remember, I struggled in school.  As a kid, processing lectures and participating in labs made me feel like an imposter.  Because of my social anxiety, walking down the halls and collaborating on group projects was downright painful.  What I didn’t know as a young girl was that I had a learning disability, as well as depression, that went undiagnosed until I was an adult. 

I now have a Masters degree in Occupational Therapy, and a career that is meaningful and fulfilling.  It took me 5 years to earn this degree, when you count the prerequisites I needed to complete. If that seems like a long time, I will tell you it was worth it and I enjoyed the process.  I started this journey with three small kids; two of them were still in diapers. 

Many parents can attest to this…I wanted to be everything that my little kids saw, when they looked at me.   I wanted to succeed and set a good example for them. If they ever found themselves in similar circumstances, they would know that there was a path to a better life, and that I helped pave the way.  

I want to share what helped me, should you find yourself facing adversity, or simply struggle to know where to begin.

Begin with Love

Just as a skyscraper requires a solid foundation to soar to breathtaking heights, it’s important to have a solid foundation for your goals. It begins by telling yourself that you are worthy of love, achievement, and opportunity. Even if the universe has not given you these things, it does not mean that you are not worthy.  It’s your turn.  

Determine Your Goal

To be successful, ask yourself this.  Is your goal :

  • Meaningful to you
  • Something that has progress you can track over time
  • Achievable. Based on opportunities available 
  • Real. Based on your current situation and realities of your life.
  • Something with and End Date (example: I will earn my Bachelors Degree 3 years from today)

List Your Strengths

Here are some examples:

  • I can be very focused, even when hectic things are happening around me
  • I am organized
  • My years have given me wisdom and experience
  • I work hard

List Your Obstacles

These are attributes that you can work on (if you allow yourself to face them) to help you reach your goals. Examples:

  • I have a learning disability
  • I am easily distracted
  • I don’t know where to begin this process.
  • My kids are still small.

List Your Opportunities

Examples:

  • I have a community college nearby. I could speak with a guidance counselor to determine the first steps to my academic goal. 
  • I can speak with a healthcare professional, if my anxiety or depression are interfering with my ability to do my work effectively.  
  • I can determine I am eligible to receive 504 accommodations (such as extended time to complete tests) or an individualized education plan.   
  • I can take classes online at night, while my kids sleep.

Break Up Long Term Goals Into Smaller First Steps. 

Examples:

  • 3 month goal: Will research the degree I want, what schools I can apply to, and what are the requirements
  • 6 months: Will have a game plan for budgeting my time and money while I’m in school
  • 9 months: Will enroll in school full-time, part-time, online, etc.
  • 1 year: Will be done with my first semester, and will have a handle on how to carry forward, over the next 3 years

Track Your Progress

Keep a calendar or planner to track short and long term goals. Write each accomplishment and milestone in this book as well. 

This Is Your Journey

Go at your own pace, and do not compare your journey to others.  To create a plan that is tailored to your needs and circumstances, is not only valid – it is smart and strategic.   

If you are discouraged by the investment of time, I will tell you this.  When I laid out my plan, and determined my goals, I realized it would be a 5-year journey.   I would be 42 by the time I was done! But then I realized…wasn’t I going to 42 anyway?  Wouldn’t I be happier at 42 with a degree? And more importantly, my kids would be 5 years older. Think of the pride your loved ones will have, seeing you accomplish your goals? Think of the opportunities you will be able to provide them, as a result of your investment.  

Journeys have Rest Areas and Stop Signs

Expect bumps along the way and make time for real life. Take the kids to the park. Go to dinner with your friends. Don’t pass on invitations for family gatherings. Look up, feel the sun. Sleep. Laugh. This is your life. Your people, your surroundings, your health, and your sleep are all vital to your success. 

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