At least once a week I find myself saying the phrase, “A PhD is, first and foremost, a research degree.” In my role and simply as an advocate for my program I often get asked about my experience in the Leadership Studies doctoral program and why I chose it. I usually begin with the aforementioned phrase.
I often advise people to start with the end in mind, “At the end of the day,” I ask, “What is it you want to be doing?” I follow up with, “So why do you feel a [fill in the blank degree] the way to get there?” I feel strongly that more school is not always the best option, and if you are going to invest your time/energy/blood/sweat/
tears into a Graduate degree program, you want to enter into it with clear goals and via sound decision making process. That being said, I put on Christmas music this morning. Yes, in October. Before Thanksgiving, before even Halloween and I was met with many people questioning my timing
I look at my decision to pump Mariah Carey’s Merry Christmas as parallel to the one I made to enter my current degree program, from the end. I needed my mood bright, cheery, and I needed to be motivated. Nothing quite lifts my spirits like the smell of cranberries and holly, my mom’s world famous (in small circles) pecan cookies, and perhaps most important: soulful Christmas music. Sure, I asked myself, “Is it too early? Isn’t there anything else you can do to get there?” But ultimately I decided that the quickest way to brighten my mood would be to lip sync in my office to All I want for Christmas (is you). So I did.
When I decided to get my Masters I knew I wanted to work in student development on a college campus. I wanted to help make people better people according to his or her own standards. That was it, that simple…or that hard. So I knew that obtaining my Masters would give me a piece of that, but that I would need to enter a PhD program in order to create the kind of change I wanted to create within the university setting. Not only that, I want to be a mother. And I thought, having a PhD will allow me to teach part time at the university level have flexible schedule and raise my children. I considered the kind of life I wanted and I looked at what could get me there.
Now, that is not to say that once I got into my programs that things did not change. I have gained more information and my professional goals are a bit more specific and tangible, but nevertheless I began with the end in mind and it got me where I need to be. I have so many friends with very expensive degrees they don’t use, and while sure the experiences taught them something, they are not sure they’d make the same decision again. I, however, would.
Stephen Covey said it best in his best seller 7 habits of highly effective people:
If you don’t make a conscious effort to visualize who you are and what you want in life, then you empower other people and circumstances to shape you and your life by default. It’s about connecting again with your own uniqueness and then defining the personal, moral, and ethical guidelines within which you can most happily express and fulfill yourself. Begin with the End in Mind means to begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination, and then continue by flexing your proactive muscles to make things happen.
All that being said, if it takes Christmas music to bring joy to your hump day, then turn it on and play it loud. And if it takes obtaining a Masters or Doctoral degree to reach your professional (and sometimes personal) goals, then indulge yourself, attend an open house, talk to someone in admissions, be in touch with current students, and then get your application in. Timing is what you make it…if it feels right to you then do it, and make no apologize for it.