Setting Your Own Pace ... Or Not

So I am sitting out on the deck, reclining on a lounge chair with my feet up. I've got a coffee in one hand, and am balancing my laptop in another. It's 80 degrees here in Orlando, and I am loving being on vacation. It's almost as if time stands still. No pressures, no commitments, no obligation...it's a great feeling to set your own pace. Unfortunately, "setting your own pace" is not a luxury that most people have in their day to day lives. There are too many controls in place; too many restrictions and too many obligations that negotiate for a part of our day. When I was an 18 year old undergraduate student, I COULD NOT WAIT to finish my degree as quickly as possible and start living life in the "real world." For me, graduating one day more than the traditional four-year enrollment block for a Bachelors degree was completely unacceptable. And I remember my college advisor telling me each semester, "Stay on track with your course sequence, or you won't be able to graduate in four years!" So I did exactly that. I stayed on track, finished all of my coursework in the correct order and finished up my undergraduate program in four years.

However, several years later when I started graduate school, my perspective had completely changed. My career was in full swing, and I had full time job that required a ton of hours. Moreover, I was about to get married and had just moved into a new condo, which meant that I was paying my first mortgage! I really wanted to get my Masters degree, but I knew I was not going to be able to do it at the expense of "real life." So although the part-time program that I started could have been finished in two full years, it ended up taking me almost four to complete. I didn't set my own pace...life set it for me. I am sure many of you can relate, and that my situation is not unique. In fact, there was a a spotlight story in the Chronicle of Higher Education about a woman who took nearly 30 years to complete her Bachelors degree, simply because "life happened."

When it comes to education, sometimes we set our own pace, and sometimes it gets set for us. But once you begin, the most important thing is to keep moving forward. As a former Dean of a small college myself, I know first-hand that colleges and universities want their students to graduate, and will go to great lengths to help them stay on track. So just remember this: For every unmarked exit ramp that comes along as you travel down the highway towards a degree...there are just as many on-ramps ahead that will get you back on track. Uh-oh. I think I hear my daughter crying in the other room. So much for setting my own pace today!

Written by: Bright Horizons Blog Editor

About the Author

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The Bright Horizons Blog Editor frequently posts on the real solutions that meaningfully support employees, advance careers, and drive the world’s leading brands. The Editor curates the latest news, trends, and challenges facing HR pros because your time is scarce. Follow the Bright Horizons Blog to receive this insight in your inbox.