When I decided to start working toward a PhD I intentionally chose to leave my position at one organization and move into a non-management position that would provide me more time for school work. I needed to continue working while pursuing my PhD, so moving to a new job with less responsibility seemed like the right decision in order for me to focus a good amount of time on my studies.
Three months into that new position, and in the first month of the PhD program, I was offered a position working directly for the CEO. Since the PhD was in Organizational Leadership, there was no way that I could turn down the opportunity. What better way to learn the theories I was studying than to be able to observe them first-hand as a member of an executive team? However, I knew that moving into that position while working toward a PhD would require me to push myself harder than I ever had before.
During that 5-year journey there were some specific things I was intentional about that helped me go beyond my own limits and accomplish my goals.
Have Someone By Your Side
None of these decisions were made without total buy-in and support from my husband. I knew there was no way that I could achieve my goals without him partnering with me every step of the way. There were days that he grew tired of the routine, especially the ones where he stood for hours ironing my dress clothes. But, he knew that his support and help propelled me to press on.
Keep Focused on the Goal
Working 55+ hours a week plus another 20-30 hours on school work was not my idea of fun, but helping to grow a company from $730 million to $1 billion, and being able to help people further reach their potential as a result of having a PhD were. I was completely fixed on these, and nothing, aside from the hand of God, was going to take me off course. I kept focused on why I was working so hard, on what my desired outcome was. These gave me the drive to persevere and keep going.
Let Go of the Non-Essentials
I knew that it would be impossible to try and do everything, and that there were things that I would have to give up. The biggest things that I purposefully excluded were entertainment and social interactions. I didn’t watch more than 20 hours of television during that entire 5 years. That means that I missed the Olympics, two World Cups, and a ton of great movies. I didn’t have a Facebook page, and had no clue who or what Lady Antebellum was. These all served as distractions that I had to completely eliminate in order to stay focused on the essential.
One thing that is usually the first to go when we are pushing ourselves toward a huge goal is getting enough sleep. This was true for me during those years, as I usually only slept about five hours a night on weeknights. But, since I cut out so many extras in my life, and leaned on my husband to do a lot of things for us, I was able to make up for it on the weekends by sleeping 8-10 hours a night and taking regular naps in between reading and writing papers. Giving myself that grace on the weekends gave me the boosts of energy I needed to continue working toward my goals.
Get Some Cheerleaders
I was intentional about telling a lot of people (family, friends, and colleagues) what I was doing and where I was headed. This resulted in no more than a few days going by without someone asking me what I was working on, what theory I was studying, what applicability I was seeing to the workplace, etc. Their interest not only encouraged and motivated me, it also served as a means of accountability for me, pushing me to lean in to my goals even more.
I made it through those five years relatively unscathed. My husband still loves me and actually still, willingly, irons my clothes. I’m a little more connected to the world and am catching up on some of the movies I missed. I get more sleep now and still enjoy a good nap. The feelings that came with having achieved my goals have spurred me on to set new ones, like writing a book before the end of this year. Sharing those goals bolsters my resolve to make them come to pass.
People often comment to me that they’d like to pursue graduate studies. I always encourage them to go after it. Having pushed myself beyond my limits was one of the best things I’ve ever done, and I know the same will be true for you in whatever goal you decide to pursue!