No one looks forward to dealing with adversity, especially when working to further their education. Sometimes the challenge is external, like job loss or financial troubles. Or the challenge could be internal, in the form of self-doubt when a course is particularly challenging. Then there’s the added challenge of working for a degree during a global pandemic.
The struggle is real. But so are the strategies you can use to overcome self-doubt and meet challenges head on. DeNeen K. Attard, executive dean of Strayer University, recommends these six strategies to stay motivated, and keep your academic and professional goals on track.
Get in a growth mindset
Too often, we think of our abilities as fixed. We believe there are some things we can achieve and some we simply can’t. In reality, abilities are flexible, and can be developed and strengthened over time. Having a growth mindset means choosing to see challenges as opportunities, not threats. Get excited about stretching outside of your comfort zone—that’s where life-changing growth often occurs. Learn to see mistakes and failures as learning opportunities. Don’t view an academic stumble as an inevitable failure. Instead, what can you learn from it? What can you do differently going forward?
Monitor your progress
As you advance toward your goals, periodically take stock of what you’re doing well and what you need to work on. Is your work/study/home life schedule in balance, or do you need to make some changes? Are you being as proactive as you can, or are there areas where you could do more? These check-ins can help you gain insight and perspective, modify your methods when necessary, and keep moving confidently in the direction of your dreams.
It’s also a good idea to keep a record of both large and small achievements. Jot them down in a notebook, on your phone, or in your laptop. When the going gets tough and you feel discouraged, look at this list to remember how far you’ve already come.
Seek inspiration and encouragement
Nothing keeps you going like the support of people who want you to succeed. Your cheering section can include colleagues, classmates, faculty, friends, and family. It doesn’t need to be huge—even knowing that you have one or two people rooting for you can sustain you when you hit a rough patch. For this reason, Strayer University pairs each student with a Student Services Coach. Your coach can help you implement a plan, motivate you to stay the course, and hold you accountable. You can also reach out to Strayer deans through DeanChat@strayer.edu.
If the thought of change makes you cringe, you’re not alone—and beginning a new academic program is a big change. Just like adversity, change is an unavoidable part of life. When you learn to ride it rather than resist it, you’re better able to reap the benefits of change. For example, getting laid off at work can feel like the end of the world. But if this change leads to a much better job with a bigger paycheck, getting laid off was a gift.
The transition from one career to another can be challenging, and education can be key to that change. But a change that initially seems negative might turn out to be best thing that could’ve happened, both professionally and personally
Celebrate small victories
Instead of seeing your professional and educational goals as one giant project, choose to view them as a series of smaller, more attainable goals. Reaching mini milestones makes it easier to pace yourself and stay motivated as you work toward a big goal. Break large projects into multiple steps, and focus on one step at a time rather than the daunting project itself. Reward yourself for each milestone you reach—take a night off to binge-watch your favorite show, or a indulge in a sweet treat. Take time to enjoy your small-but-mighty victory, then continue working towards the next milestone
Remember: It’s never too late
Think you’re too old to make your dreams come true? No way. As life expectancy in the U.S. increases, more people are pursuing professional goals in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and even 70s, including changing careers or shifting from employment to contracting. As long as you’re healthy and motivated, it’s never too late to go back to school, learn new skills, and land your dream job.
Do you want to change careers? Earning a degree can help. Explore Strayer University’s online degree programs .