A rather personal post today, after an unintentionally long absence. Read on and you’ll understand why.
“You can’t do that. You’re insane”
I have deliberately messed up my work-life balance this year, adding study to my already hectic life. And of all things, I’m attempting a law degree. Yes, it’s one more ball in the air, and a really big one. Friends and acquaintances who have heard of my endeavour have fallen into two camps – the first who think I’m crazy and the second who’ve congratulated me on my lofty scheme. Both camps having valid concerns and I admit to wondering myself whether I had lost my marbles, but now that I’m about three quarters of the way through the semester and still chugging along, I think I might not be so crazy after all. So why did I do it?
Living without regret
It was not easy, making this decision. I reviewed the variables, tried in my perfectly rational way to assess the cost-benefit, worked through the logistics. But there was no clear cut answer. The turning point came when I thought about the issue in a completely different way, asking myself whether I would regret doing this? Then it became perfectly clear. Even if the decision to proceed was not the right one, I wouldn’t regret having tried. At worst, I’d decide it wasn’t right for me and I’d have incurred some fees, but it would be another stepping stone in life’s journey. On the other hand, I would almost certainly regret NOT doing it.
Testing the boundaries of “impossible”
In attempting the slightly insane, I wanted to test the boundaries of “impossible” and wanted to prove to myself that they are that little bit further that I think. This was unknown territory. The last time I did formal study was doing a post-graduate diploma fifteen years ago, and I coasted along one subject at a time. I say “coasted’ because I didn’t have half the commitments I do now. Today, I’m older, I’m a parent of young children, I run a business and most of the time, I’m tired.
I had doubts and I was afraid. Still, I decided to go ahead and I started the semester with a full load of four subjects. The rationale being, that I don’t know what I’m capable of until I actually give it a go. Four weeks into the course, I hit a wall and realised that I had taken on more than I could chew. Four subjects was too much and I was paying too steep a price for it.
The greatest danger for most of us is not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim low and reaching our mark ~ Michelangelo
Knowing your limits
I decided to drop a subject and carry on and while it is still a challenge, it is a manageable challenge. It made me wonder about all the helpful comments I got at the beginning, about taking it easy, about easing myself into it one or two subjects at the time. I have a contrary view. I believe that once we get stuck in a comfort zone, it is incredibly difficult to get out.
I had one chance to use ignorance to my advantage. If I start on one or two subjects, that’s where I would stay. Conscious also that time is not on my side, I realised that plodding along at one or two subjects per semester would mean a degree that would take up to ten years to complete – a thought I couldn’t bear!
So my strategy was to jump in with both feet and eyes closed! The result is that I know what my genuine limit is, and it’s not an imaginary one constructed by my mind – a little less than I aimed for but more that I and everyone else thought was reasonable in my circumstances. And, I’m happy with that outcome.
On reflection, I wonder how often our comfort zones define what we think are our limits. What do you think?