Why I Decided to go Back to School

 

Wgraduationhen I graduated from college in 2009 with my bachelor’s degree, I was so happy to be done with school and start my career. I began working as an event manager for a country club, where I stayed and grew to oversee many departments over my 5 years as a manager. In 2013 my husband and I found out we were expecting our first baby, and although we couldn’t have been happier, I wondered about my career and what I would want as a mom.  I grew up with my mom staying home with me and my three siblings. I always loved having my mom there for us all the time, but I had planned to have a career and a family, and hopefully find a good balance.

 

I continued working once my son was born, and leaving him each day was heartbreaking. I came to a point in my career where there was no growth opportunities within the company. I wasn’t challenged anymore and working late nights and weekends made it hard for me to stay engaged. I decided to leave my job and take some time to figure out my next step while staying home with my son in the meantime.  The longer I wasn’t working, the more I felt like I was losing out on potential jobs in the future because of my gap in employment. I thought about going back to school; I always wanted to get my MBA, but it was one of those things I always said I wanted to do but for some reason knew that I probably would never actually do it.

I went through a period where I started calling myself out on making plans and not following through on them. I started writing things down, keeping a journal of ideas, goals and gratitude. Writing it down made it more real for me and I felt more accountable to myself as I could see all the things I was wanting to do, but wasn’t following through with.  I decided to take the GMAT, and once I was accepted to the MBA program at the University of Nevada, Reno, it felt like a weight had been lifted from me.  Actually following through on something I had been thinking about for so long felt like a relief. I wondered what else I could accomplish by holding myself accountable to my goals.

Going back to school felt strange to me. I was a non-traditional student, married with two kids and would be graduating when I was 30 years old. It was scary at first because it was new and different, but as I continued through the program I was learning so much valuable information, making many new friends, and became part of a network of resources that I never would have had access to otherwise.

Here are 5 reasons I went back to school:

  1. To acquire skills for a better job in the future. I value my time with my kids while they are babies and toddlers, but I want to provide a good life and financial start for them in the future as well. When I return to work, I want it to be something I am proud to be investing my time in.
  1. Personal fulfillment. Learning is exciting, especially when you are making the choice to be there for yourself. Challenging myself to develop new skills and perspectives has opened so many doors for me, and is the reason why I am so focused on personal development. It is an endless endeavor that builds confidence, character and gives a feeling of accomplishment that can’t be beat.
  1. Setting an example. Although my kids are very young now, it is important for them to see me studying and excited to learn and go to class each week. I want them to see from a young age that education is important, and as they grow older I hope they are encouraged to continue learning and engaging in personal development.
  1. Self-reliance and security. I have no doubts about the future of my marriage, but at a young age my grandfather encouraged me as a woman to be self-reliant and to create my own safety net so that I would not have to rely on anyone to take care of my family and myself. If something were to happen to my husband and he was unable to work, I know that I could provide for our family, and that is very valuable to me.  I am in charge of my own future and my own happiness, and continuing to develop myself gives me the ability to ensure that I am creating the life that I want.
  1. Keeping the balance. I love kids. I love the chaos and the funny things they say, their sweet innocence and unconditional love. I have to admit though, being with them all day every day makes me crave intellectual conversations, adult interactions, and challenges that don’t involve toddler tantrums. It is important to have your own time doing something you are passionate about, and school gives me that. It is the bridge between me as a mom and as a professional, which creates a balance that gives me the satisfaction of both worlds.

Being a graduate student has changed my life in many positive ways, I can’t even imagine where I would be if I hadn’t chose this path. As we get older and have more responsibilities it gets harder to find the time to go back to school or to start anything new for that matter, but it is never too late! The American Council on Education report, Framing New Terrain: Older Adults & Higher Education, shows more older adults are starting to return to college, pursue new career directions, start new businesses, and realize lifelong dreams. Over a lifetime, the gap in earning potential between the high school graduate and those holding a bachelor’s degree or higher exceeds $1 million, according to the College Board.

If anything, I encourage people to start a journal and begin writing down their goals, ideas and gratitude. What are you grateful for? How can you build on that to create and realize your own goals? Start small or go big, you don’t have to get a master’s degree, but hold yourself accountable to your ideas and plans, I promise that great things can happen!

Developing Business Skills on the Go

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Personal development comes in many forms and is a lifelong process of assessing your skills and qualities while setting goals so that you can maximize your potential. Self-actualization is the desire that everyone has “to become everything that they are capable of becoming”, and identifying what it is that a person needs to do to reach their full unique potential.

Creating the time to learn or experience something new can open many doors for people and may help them learn things about themselves, others or the world by changing perspectives and encouraging the continuation of growth. It can be difficult to commit to an immense change in life such as going back to school or changing careers, especially later in life, but exploring classes and seminars to build skills requires little commitment and can motivate you to continue your path of personal development.

There is an online career training portal called “Train Up”, which offers seminars and courses on business skills and personal development training throughout the year. They offer live courses which are either web based classes, traditional classroom settings, or a mix of both. They also provide courses that are self-paced and include e-learning, online and video courses. Classrooms are located throughout every state in the U.S. and Canada; and in Reno, NV alone there were ten 1-day courses available for developing business skills.

In their online “Personal Development” section, they offer everything from leadership training, project management, presentation skills, time management, working with difficult people, and many more topics that you can learn at your own pace. Some topics such as customer service and business writing are only an hour long while others like Microsoft Office skills can be up to 7 hours. Here is a sample of the industries they cover:

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If you are looking to strengthen your business skills or learn something new with little commitment, this is a great tool to get started. Taking the first step can motivate you to take another, and soon you will realize not only how beneficial it is to keep “sharpening the knife” and learning new skills, but you will also recognize your capacity to do so. Check with your company to see if they already have a personal development program in place, or see if they would be willing to pay for or reimburse you for your courses if they relate to your industry. You will be benefitting your own personal development journey, showing initiative, and making yourself more valuable to employers.

Check out the website HERE. Have you taken a personal development course or seminar? Feel free to share your own experience and if it was beneficial to you. I would love to hear your experience!

Being “Busy” is Holding You Back

How many times have you heard someone use the excuse “I can’t, I’m too busy” or “I just don’t have time”? I am sure we have all caught ourselves using these excuses, and probably fairly often in our lives, but when you think about it, why are we so busy? And what makes us so busy that we can’t find time to do things that others who are just as busy, if not more, can?

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This is probably most common when it comes to relationships and dating, but when it becomes our go-to excuse to get out of doing things out of our routines, it can hold us back from personal growth in a way in which we don’t even realize is happening. Everyone is busy! Of course, there are days where we just cannot or do not want to fit another item on the agenda because we are just completely swamped, but that is not the busy I am talking about. It is the “busy” that surrounds our day to day lives that makes us feel like we don’t have time to take on anything new, such as start a new project, learn a new skill or even make a new friend. We all have times where we just don’t feel like doing something, and being busy is the easiest thing to say where others won’t question your excuse, but the more you do it, the more you fall into the routine of actually believing that you don’t have the time to do things and you create a habit of saying “no” to people and experiences.

Time Management

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When I was just out of college, all of my time went towards working full time, overtime, buying a house, having a relationship, making time for my family and friends, and trying to squeeze everything in so that I made time for everyone in my life. Busy, no doubt. At another point in my life I was not working but staying home with my 1 year old son while pregnant with my second. There just weren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish all of the things I wanted to, not to mention time for myself. Staying home with a child was extremely demanding and I looked back and felt like I had it so easy before, when I had no one to take care of everyday and had all of the time in the world to do what I wanted. Now, as a grad student with two kids, I look back again and think, “Wow, I had no idea what busy was”. It is so easy to look back and think about how it wasn’t really that hectic compared to what you are doing now, and that is because we survived that chapter of our lives and still made time to do more. Resilience builds up and we learn to manage our time so that we can do what we need to do and still have time to do what we want to
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Time is precious and everyone’s time is valuable. The important thing is to recognize that you are only too busy for the things you don’t want to make time for. If you care about something, you have to find the time to make it happen. Don’t believe that you are too busy to catch up with friends, take a trip, or go back to school. You will only set yourself up to miss out on something that could have been really fun or memorable, or even something that could have changed your path. There is a lot of power in taking control of our own time, and there are always ways to work smarter or faster to accomplish your goals. Here is a really helpful blog about time management that is definitely worth a read if you are looking to maximize the time in your day.

No Excuses

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We are all busy because we are all students, teachers, business owners, employees, volunteers, parents, friends, athletes, and all of the other roles we play every single day. Make the time to develop yourself personally, socially, physically, etc.  Text your friends back, show up to girl’s night, call your mom, do the things you have been meaning to do but didn’t make the time. Recognize the times when you don’t have to be trying to do a million things at once and just be present.

Be truthful to yourself about what your priorities are so that you don’t have to use “busy” as an excuse.”

My challenge to everyone is to try and go a full day without using the word “busy”! Be conscious of how and when you are using it and notice how often others use it too.

Let the World Know You’re Here: How to Express Yourself Authentically

Recently I took a personality test, which asked me about 144 questions about myself and how I view or feel about different situations. Some of the questions were spot on, easy to answer, and I was sure of how I felt. Others made me think a lot more, and some made me a feel a little uncomfortable because my honest answer wasn’t the answer that I hoped would reflect the real me. There was one question in particular that stood out to me in terms of who I am and who I hope to be. It had two statements to choose from and looked like this:

  • I have preferred to inhabit my own little world.
  • I have preferred to let the world know I am here.

This question really stuck with me. I am someone who has definitely inhabited my own little world! Of course I want to be recognized, accomplished and make my mark on the world, but I am also a mom of two boys under 4 years old, a grad student, volunteer, daughter, sister, friend; and sometimes just getting through the day and getting everything done is a “win” in my world. Although it is chaotic, it is also my comfort zone, and sometimes it takes just one experience outside of your comfort zone to open up a whole new perspective for you.

I was asked for a class to Google myself and see what came up. According to Google I pretty much didn’t exist in the world.  Of course, not everyone wants to be found online, but if I am going to show up at all, I want to be found for the things that matter to me, my contributions to others and that reflect my own voice, not just my Facebook profile. I am more than my day to day life, and I want express myself in a way that represents the bigger picture of who I am.  So how do we stand out and make our voices heard in a way that represents ourselves authentically? First we need to identify our values and how we want to connect with others, and then express ourselves in a real way that adds value to your presence.

Representing yourself and finding achievement through self-expression can be inspiring, creative, and can help you find emotional energy and freedom in your work. Self-expression is being aware of your true self; what you value, care about, and what gives you energy and motivation. Once you define this in your life, you can control when and how to present it to the world in a way that represents you.

Here are three ways to start expressing yourself authentically:

  1. Do it for you: You don’t need to impress anyone. Don’t be afraid of how others might react to when and how you express yourself. You don’t need anyone to validate or approve of you, especially when you are being authentic. Sometimes we take so long to create the perfect message in our minds that when we are ready to share it, the moment to do so has passed. Try and live in the moment and nurture your own voice. Don’t base your value on the number of people who “like” what you have to say.
  2. Find your passions: What do you love to do? How do you want to help people? Maybe it is something you want to do but don’t take the time to, or are afraid to do it because of where it might lead you. Experiment with different hobbies, sports and classes to find what outlet allows you to feel like you can be true to yourself.
  3. Let go of the outcome: We can’t control how others are going to express themselves and it is not always going to be positive or supportive. Be truthful to yourself and let the real you shine through. People will appreciate your genuine thoughts whether they agree with you or not.

Everyone has something to say, and expressing yourself in person and online can allow you to have a real connection with people who appreciate you for more than what’s on the surface. Having a presence online allows you to be found and attributed to the things that you care about. You are probably going to be found one way or another, so why not control that information yourself? You can be seen for the real you and the messages you want to send to people. Find your voice and an outlet to express yourself in a way that makes a difference in your life and in your community. Let the world know you are here!

Traveling for Change

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Alright guys, I am taking my own advice and going way out of my comfort zone this week. A little over a month ago, a lovely classmate and friend, encouraged me to go to Australia with the Nevada Global Business program. I kept thinking about how amazing it would be, but had a feeling it wouldn’t happen because first off, I would be travelling by myself, or without my closest family members or friends, and second, I would be leaving my husband and two kids for two weeks which made me uncomfortable only because I knew I would miss them so much.  I had about a day to decide because the deadline was passing, so I just went for it and said, “Yes!”

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Tomorrow I leave for Australia, and although I am anxious and incredibly nervous, I know that travel is such a great way to open your eyes to different cultures and perspectives. Equally as important to me will be the confidence that I build from stepping out of my comfort zone. Sometimes I can get in my own head about what to expect, but the only thing I can do is really to just DO it. Then I will know that it isn’t as scary as I thought it would be and I’ll find that the benefits of my personal growth outweigh the temporary anxiety of stepping out of my bubble.
Traveling gives you confidence to know that you can cope with new and challenging situations, whether it is a language barrier, losing your luggage, or getting lost. Overcoming the unexpected is very rewarding and shows yourself that you are more than capable of finding solutions. I am going into this adventure with an open mind and I am hoping to learn more about myself and others by getting out of my usual environment for two whole weeks. Maybe that isn’t a big deal for some, but for me it is substantial!

Social media makes the world feel much smaller than it is, and according to Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat, globalization will continue to shrink and flatten the world through insourcing and outsourcing, global supply chains, and the rise of digital and mobile technology. After my 18 hour flight, I will let you guys know if that feels true. Any tips on traveling around Sydney is greatly appreciated! I challenge everyone to say “Yes” this week to something that feels scary, or out of reach. You don’t have to travel around the world to grow yourself, but in the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take. I’d also like to note that without my friend’s encouragement, there would be no way that I would have embarked on this adventure. So I urge everyone to find someone that pushes them out of their comfort zone and inspires you to be adventurous.

Running for Resilience

My mom running the RTO

It seems like every week there is a different running event going on in Reno. In April, there are going to be at least 9 different races, each with different themes and charities to benefit, and that is not even including the Tahoe area.  The running community in Reno has exploded in the last 10 years. Participate in one 5k and it will all make sense why.

I grew up running in sports, but after high school it was harder to find the motivation without a coach telling you what to do and a team who you would let down if you slacked in your practice. I decided to run my first 5k when I was about 3 months pregnant with my first son. It was the Leprechaun Chase in downtown Reno and I felt confident because I had the best excuse ever if I needed to walk or was taking it slow. I was pretty intimidated and had no idea what to expect.  What I found was that there were a lot of really fast runners, but also slow runners, walkers, parents pushing strollers, kids, and grandparents all running together. Families and friends cheered on strangers from the sidelines with motivational signs and chants. When I finished, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment and I felt like part of this incredibly supportive community of people who were all doing this thing together.

Reno Tahoe Odyssey

Since then I have ran numerous races in Reno and Tahoe, and this will be my 5th year running the Reno Tahoe Odyssey, a 178 mile, 12 person relay race around the Reno/Tahoe area. Running has given me a sense of empowerment over my health, happiness and my ability to meet goals. I have learned to accept failures and to praise myself for my efforts. Overall I have become much more resilient, and that has given me confidence to take on other goals that I might have otherwise felt were out of my reach.

Here are just a few of the ways that running adds value to your personal development journey:

Community

Our RTO team crossing the finish line together.

There are a lot of factors (technology, careers, families, busy lifestyles) that contribute to making it harder for us to find the time and confidence to connect with others. We naturally crave connections with others, and it is so important to invest your time into something where you feel a sense of belonging; where you are part of a tribe. They push you to be your best and elp lift you back up when you are at your worst. In a running community, everyone is at a different level and no one judges your speed or your process, but rather they praise you for just being there and giving your best. It is a great discipline to teach yourself strength, not only physically to push through when you feel weak, but also mentally to talk yourself through it and believe that you can succeed. Belonging to a group lets you see that people are not judging you, and that they value your presence, and helps you work on accepting others and letting go of your own judgments.


Accountability

There are a lot of curve balls that life throws at us, but with running, you are in complete control. You set your goals, find motivation from within, and tell yourself when it is time to push harder, take it easy, or call it a day. Your performance is the outcome that comes solely from the motivation you give yourself and the actions you take. There’s no one else to blame if the outcome isn’t what you expected, and there is a lot of personal accountability that comes from that. There’s also a lot of personal gratification and there’s nothing like the feeling of running that last stretch to the finish line and knowing that all of your hard work has paid off. The best part; the only way to fail is to give up. You ran 5 miles yesterday and only a half mile today? Awesome! You got out there and did it. Small efforts still make a contribution to your goals; don’t give up.

Resilience and Confidence

My sister and I after running up to Virginia City on the RTO

Running isn’t easy, especially if you are just getting started. Every season when I start to train for the Odyssey, I am dying trying to run a few miles. It is something that you work on day after day and you can definitely set yourself up for failure if your goals aren’t realistic or if your negative self-talk is overpowering you. When you come across something that is physically and mentally difficult and you are able to push through that and keep going, that resiliency that you build up spreads to other aspects of your life. You start to see that you are strong and what you are capable of if you really apply yourself, and that is a powerful feeling.

If you live in Reno, check out a list of upcoming races here, and even more are listed at www.race178.com. Regardless of the level you are at now, I encourage you to sign up for a 5k in your city, even if you want to walk it. You might surprise yourself how much fun you have while setting goals for yourself, building strong transferrable skills and most likely benefitting some local charities too.

Building Self-Reliance Through Experience

Few things feel more amazing than accomplishing something on our own that we didn’t think was possible. Have you ever known someone who is really handy and can fix or figure out anything? Or maybe they are the kind of person that can travel on their own to unknown places almost fearlessly? Many of us would describe ourselves as self-reliant and open to learning new things, but in reality, self-reliance is diminishing.  We live in a time where we have such a vast amount of resources available that sometimes it may be easier or more convenient for someone else to do things for us. Life skills build on experiences that we have and people that we meet, while putting us in a position to better serve and help others who we care about.

How do we build self-reliance? It happens through investing in our own skills and abilities. It comes from asking questions and seeking out answers in new experiences. Comfort and stability drives us to maintain our lifestyles through day after day routines and habits. When a daily routine turns into monthly and yearly routines, it makes it harder and harder for us to step out of our comfort zones and try something new. The less that we make a conscious effort to make a change and continuously improve ourselves, we lose the confidence in our capacity to do something else; something better.

Through my own experiences of becoming a mom, a wife, a student and a professional, I have learned the powerful effects of breaking the habits that were holding me back from success. I used to be someone who made plans all the time. I would agree to any crazy idea that was thrown out there, and then when it came time to actually make it happen, I backed out. I loved the idea of going on adventurous trips and dreaming about what my life was going to be like in the future once I had accomplished something big, but I could never put it into action. I felt like I just didn’t have time, but later I realized that I was uncomfortable and afraid, and holding myself back. Growth can come from facing anxiety, discomfort and even pain, but overcoming those feelings once you have accomplished that new task is one of the best feelings in the world. The more new and uncomfortable experiences you have, you will gain the confidence to trust in your intuition and your own skills to shape your path for your future.

I hope to use my own experiences and new experiments along the way to help people find their paths and create new habits that lead to resilience, wellness, self-respect and confidence. Follow along with me as we explore baby steps to life changers in the world of self-improvement. Ask yourself, what if you could do more? We all have the capability to obtain what we need, especially happiness.