During our lives, we need to be flexible and sense when the wind in our sails is changing. We cannot be so set in our ways and our goals that we don’t see the forest for the trees.
In my life, there have been a number of pivots that I couldn’t see coming if I had tried. I never thought I would live in Los Angeles, for example. Another thing I never thought was that I would be writing this today with an MBA under my belt. We must keep adjusting our goals as we move down our life paths.
While goal setting is key to guiding you down the path, take in the opportunities along the way and be open to your goals shifting. What once may have seemed important, may not be important in the future. Further, something not on your radar, like this story for me, may become a reality.
Never fear a changed perspective
I graduated from my undergraduate degree and worked immediately toward sitting for the CFP Designation. I loved college, but it was not necessarily because of the school part of it. I showed up to classes, I learned, and I did well. I was not, however, one of those kids (like Mark, cough) who was energized by school. I am energized by doing, by accomplishing things.
Once I completed my CFP exam, I felt like I had done enough in my career path to be credible. At the company at which I worked several of my superiors did not have advanced degrees past their undergraduate work. So, I didn’t feel like my upwards mobility was limited. I also traveled for work, so being in class at a specific place every Tuesday night was almost impossible.
So, getting a degree after completing my undergraduate was never on my list of goals.
Fast forward to about five years after I graduated from The University of Missouri where I received my undergraduate degree. We had moved to Los Angeles. The culture at Mark’s work was to arrive late (due to traffic) and work later (due to traffic). Mine was the opposite: get in early and leave early. So, most nights he didn’t get home until a couple of hours after I did.
On weekends, we hiked and toured Los Angeles, but we didn’t have a lot of time commitments. So, I had a lot of free time on my hands. After a few months, I needed something to fill my free time. I needed a project.
Mark, who already had an MBA, suggested I think about doing a graduate program. I thought, no, there is no way. I travel. I don’t need it. It would be expensive. But Mark kept nudging me.
With his sensibility, he would argue the following:
- We want to move back to Kansas City at some point. While you plan to stay with FINRA, what if that doesn’t work out? You may need an advanced degree.
- You could find an online program.
- You’ll never be sorry you did it. It can’t hurt you.
- Your employer has a tuition reimbursement plan, so we can leverage that to afford it.
- You’re more than capable of getting it done.
My resistance to school couldn’t negate his arguments and I ran out of my own arguments against it. So, I decided to start the process and see what happened.
I took the GMAT and did well without doing a lot of studying (I did do one self-led preparation book). Then I started researching programs and I found that Pepperdine in Malibu had an online program, but it cost an arm and a leg.
Then I found a program at Arizona State University. They had an all online MBA program, where all I had to be on-site for was a one-weekend orientation. It wasn’t cheap, but compared to Pepperdine, it felt like it.
My GMAT score was within their requirements, so before I knew it I was submitting an application.
I was accepted, and fast forward to today, I have my MBA. I am so glad Mark was encouraging. When I started that program, I was a lifer at the company at which I worked. Today, I am a small business owner who draws from the lessons taught in a number of the courses that I took during that program.
Did I love the process of the MBA while I was in it? No. But I am glad that I adjusted my goals in real-time.
The bottom line
At no point in advance did I ever plan specifically from a goals, financial, or otherwise perspective to complete an MBA program. But as discussions started happening, as I started to get the inkling that it felt right to continue my education, my goals needed to shift.
I needed to think about what knowledge I wanted to gain from completing an MBA program.
I needed to think about how I was going to be able to pay for what wasn’t covered by my employer because they didn’t pay all of it.
I needed to establish goals, and when I set goals the years I was in the midst of my program, you know there were goals related to my education.
- Your goals are a guide, not a rule. They can and should be reassessed as your path shifts or changes direction.
- Allow yourself to consider changes to your path, and change directions when it feels right.
- I will only set SMART goals for myself.