You’ve probably had this dream before.
You’re in a cap and gown, marching across a stage. The spotlight hits your eyes as you reach for your diploma. The certificate in your hands holds all of the hope for your future.
Then reality hits, and the dream fades away. Your child pulls on your arm, asking for dinner. You have to wake up early tomorrow because your work schedule changed unexpectedly. Bills are due in a week, which means picking up extra shifts. And not for the first time, you think: “I just don’t have time to go back to school right now.”
So you tuck that dream away.
And nothing changes.
Have you experienced this cycle before? If so, here’s the truth: It’s never going to be the perfect time. There will always be other factors in life that threaten to get in the way. And if you let them, they’ll pull you off track forever.
But there’s good news!
If there’s never a perfect time, that means any time can be the right time. You don’t have to wait for your life to change. You can change it right now by going back to school.
But how do you stay motivated to work toward your new future with all of the distractions of everyday life?
The right kind of motivator
Chances are, you have a million reasons to go back to school. Not least of all for a better salary and a real career path. But can you drill down into the one thing that motivates you, above all else?
If you have children, you’re probably motivated to provide for them. That’s a great reason for returning to school. But what about inspiring them? What about showing them that they can be successful, no matter what obstacles stand in the way? Watching you succeed can help set a positive example for them. And that’s something you’ll likely want to do, regardless of the monetary benefits attached.
These are called intrinsic motivators, and studies show they can be even more powerful than extrinsic motivators (which include things like salaries, bonuses and benefits).
Another big intrinsic motivator is mastery of craft. Getting an education will open more doors for opportunity, which is great, but going back to school and improving your skills also feels good. It’s rewarding to challenge yourself and learn new things.
It’s also rewarding to find a sense of purpose, which is another intrinsic way to stay motivated. Imagine waking up every day and knowing that this is what you’re supposed to be doing with your life. That’s powerful. And it can keep you working toward your goals, even when things get difficult.
Here’s the truth: It’s going to get hard. There will be times when you feel caught between life responsibilities and finishing that medical terminology assignment by Monday. And in those moments, you’ll need your strongest motivator, the one that reminds you quitting isn’t an option—that this is the most important thing you’ve ever done.
Go back to that vision of yourself. In your cap and gown, reaching for your diploma. What’s your thought in that triumphant moment?
Maybe it’s I’ve found my purpose in life.
Maybe it’s I’ve mastered my craft.
Maybe it’s I’ve set an example for my children.
Whatever it is, it’s the reason you’re doing this. And it’s the reason you need to stay motivated, no matter what. Hold onto that thought, and you can pull through. We believe in you!