Putting first things first is likely one of the most important and most difficult challenges we face as adults. There are so many pressures and all of them come with the insistence that they are the MOST important. When everything is the MOST important, paralysis ensues and nothing gets done.
Earlier this week I was speaking with a student in the elevator about her day. She commented that it was a busy day, but that she was there to finish a degree she had delayed years earlier. She went on to explain that when she had her daughter, she stopped school to focus on her daughter with the intent of starting back when her daughter started Kindergarten. Her daughter started Kindergarten this fall and she started back on her degree, determined to get it finished. She obviously knows how to prioritize her life and understands how to put first things first. While her choices may not be the same for you, it is still up to you to make conscious choices about your priorities.
While you are in the season of getting your degree, don’t be easily pulled away. Jesus, in talking about the cost of discipleship in Luke 14:25ff, urges those listening to count the cost with the realization that following him will be costly, but will also be worth everything.
The same concept applies, although with obviously lesser consequences, regarding the pursuit of your academic goals. You have counted the cost and started your degree. Don’t treat this casually by missing nights unnecessarily, or coming late unless unavoidable, by not completing your homework, or plagiarizing your work. This is YOURfuture; Put first things first.
Everything is not of equal importance, and the importance of different priorities changes over time. Keeping the first things first is the surest path to success. Take the time at least yearly, but preferably once a quarter to evaluate the different priorities in your life. You can always find an excuse to delay your goals and procrastinate, but the one who suffers when you do that, in the long-run, is you and potentially your family. Put first things first.
No one wants to be labeled a “quitter,” but there are times when EVERYONE has felt the pull to quit. It could be a job, a friendship, a project, an educational program, even a marriage. If you are human, you have fell the temptation to quit. Sometimes quitting is the right answer, but most of the time real victory and growth take place when you are willing to persevere; to stick with it, in spite of the temptation to quit.
I’m sitting at my desk this morning and receive a phone call. It was from a student. She was surprised that I answered the phone and was prepared to leave a message, so it caught her off guard for a minute. We chatted a bit and then she got down to what she called about.
It seems she received a letter in the mail from me yesterday. She picked up her mail and pulled into her drive and pondered whether or not to open it, thinking it was a bill or some other kind of bad news. She has been going through some difficult challenges and didn’t know if she could handle another piece of bad news. Still, she steeled herself and opened the letter, only to discover it was a congratulatory letter for her making the Dean’s List. She said she sat there cried happy tears and has read and re-read the letter several times.
All I did was send the letter, she was the one who put in the hard work to achieve this honor, but she was so appreciative of my acknowledgment of her effort. I have to be honest I got a little teary listening to her.
The faster we go the less there seems time to give a compliment or recognize the efforts of those who are truly giving their best . . . and the more these kind of encouragements are needed. I know I like to feel appreciated, and I suspect we all do. So, be a Leader, let your people know you recognize the work they are doing and make it your goal to be an encourager to someone every day. We don’t have to allow our culture or society to drive us to be cogs in some machine determined to use us up and leave us empty. We are created in the image of God and that is all about relationship. Relationships are built and nurtured when we take the time to value each other.
This seems obvious, but you can’t really be a great leader until you have learned how to be a great follower. There are several types of followers: the actively disengaged, the slacker, the confronter, the “yes” man and the fully engaged. Each one has specific characteristics, however, it is the fully engaged Follower who rises to become the great Leader.
My understanding of resilience prior to this week was that it was something that people were just gifted with, like good eyesight or height. You either had it or you didn’t. Yet, in researching resilience I have learned that isn’t the case. Sure, some people tend to be more resilient because they are naturally optimistic. But what I have found is that resilience is a skill, something that can be honed. Read the full article HERE.
Captain Piccard on the Starship Enterprise gives the order “Engage!” and once again they are all moving into another adventure.
In the classroom Engageis also the beginning of an adventure. Sure, it doesn’t involve the Borg, nor does it come down to life and death, BUT, it is the starting point for change that could very well spell the difference between success and failure.
Engaging in the classroom is an action that students choose. When the choice is to engage you can see it in their willingness to ask questions, to respond to questions when called upon and to actively volunteer to demonstrate their grasp of the material. These are the students who actually read the assignments and ask questions about what they don’t understand . . . and keep asking until the Instructor can make it clear. Those who engage always demonstrate a better grasp of the course material and are better able to make the leap to higher orders of creative thinking.
Contrast this with those who just show up for class, sit quietly, and wait to be “filled-up” by the Instructor. Sadly, they are usually disappointed in the class and the Instructor, leaving the class having checked off a box, but gained very little in actual knowledge or the ability to use the information to better themselves or their situation.
You get to choose – sit in the back or the front, sit quietly or speak up, doodle or take notes, skim the material or actually read the assignments, fluff your writing or actually strive to answer the questions at depth.
So, I’m going to encourage you to engage! To apply yourself in the classroom and see what a difference it makes.
EVERYTHING!! It is easy to see this wherever you go. If something in your life is not going well, assume you have the ability to improve the situation. Ask yourself, “what can I do to lead myself, and or others to a different and better solution or practice.” If good things are happening, it is because someone is exercising leadership (it might be you!). If mediocrity prevails, it is because someone isn’t leading very effectively (it might be you!).
Shortly out of college, many years ago, I found myself as Pastor of a small congregation in Pennsylvania. In that role I learned a few things which have definitely contributed to my life since then. One of those has to do with public speaking.
Preaching, even to a small crowd, can be intimidating. This is true on so many levels, but the one which crosses over to the student experience is the fact that the more you do anything, the better you typically get at it. Preaching two or three times a week honed my presentation skills. I read additional books on how to preach effectively and practiced different styles. When God led me into higher education I was easily able to transition into the classroom, because I had become comfortable in front of an audience.
The Growth Mindset indicates that while some may have a natural talent for something, like public speaking, anyone can develop skills and abilities to excel and even surpass those with more talent, who refuse to apply themselves. My experience as a Pastor demonstrated the truth of that to me. But, becoming better at public speaking or anything else requires effort.
That takes me to the title of this post: “Seek Opportunities to Present.” Volunteering to present in class about any subject will do two things, it will continue to improve your ability to make effective presentations, and you will learn the material better, and retain the information longer. Really, apart from the nerves, it is a win-win proposition.
A colleague of mine often stated that higher education is the only business where the customers are willing to take less than they paid for, and actually ask to be short-changed. By that he was referring to the fact that students will almost always jump at a chance to get out of class early, or have their assignments shortened. I know this to be true, because I was once a student too, and that was part of my perspective.
I was talking with a young lady a few months ago about her educational goals. I asked where she planned to go to college. She indicated a school more than an hour away, even though there were schools locally that had the same program. When I inquired why she would drive that far for the same program, she said that the school she wanted to go to had a reputation for being easier. She was enrolling in a nursing program . . . think about it.
Another student I talked to indicated she never read the assignments and was doing just fine. A different student in a more advanced class also wasn’t reading the assignments but was struggling to grasp the material. I often hear the statement “we are having to teach ourselves,” and it occured to me that you might not understand the dynamics of Adult Degree Completion programs, which is what Belhaven University’s Adult Studies is based on, so I thought I’d explain it.
If you were a traditional undergraduate student you would be attending class two or three times a week over a 16 week semester for a total of 40 seat hours. The Adult Studies model has you in class for the same 3 credit hour course for only 20 hours condensed into 5 weeks. We can do this for two reasons:
By having you read the material ahead of time and attempt the homework, you come to class better prepared to ask questions and with a better understanding of what you need to have clarified. This is a crucial piece and what is often confused with “teaching yourself.” Of course, that means to get the fullest benefit from your course you need to read the assigned material, attempt the assignments to the best of your ability, and meet in class for the full time. Your engagement in the class sessions makes a big difference in what you learn. This model effectively saves you 20 extra hours of sitting in a classroom setting!
Because you are adults, your experiences increase your ability to take the material and integrate it into your life better than an 18-22 year old could. You are better able to see connections between what you are learning and real-life applications; which makes it possible to shorten the learning process, again, saving you many additional hours in the classroom.
I hope this has helped put things into perspective for you. I want you to succeed, but it won’t happen accidentally. It will require real effort on your part and you will benefit most from a passion to get ALLyou paid for by fully applying yourself.