Not as Planned

by | August 15, 2008

A number of years ago a high school buddy and I decided to run a marathon. We were both fairly active and figured completing a marathon wouldn’t necessarily be THAT much of a challenge. If that delusion wasn’t enough, we set a goal for ourselves to qualify for the Boston Marathon, which for the age group we were in, meant we would need to run a three hour and fifteen minute marathon.

I spent a good portion of the Winter researching and developing a training program. I hadn’t run competitively for many years and figured I would need to have a number of phases of build-up even before starting a formal training routine. Through the Winter I worked on my flexibility, watched what I ate, and started running on a semi regular basis. By the time June came around I started my running program and was feeling pretty good.

Things went as scheduled at first. I looked forward to the workouts and was hitting my weekly mileage without any problem. Then some bumps in the road started to come up. The first bump was a sprained ankle, which progressed into a longer lasting injury. The next couple bumps consisted of a family vacation, extra time needed at work, other hobbies and interests, etc. Before I knew it, the training program that I had come up with seemed very unmanageable and was a source of frustration more than anything. After taking some time off to reevaluate WHAT I was doing, and more specifically WHY I was doing it, I was able to start training again with some new found energy and excitement. A final bump that all but derailed my marathon plans happened two weeks before the event. The Union that I belonged to at the time called for a strike. I was able to find a temporary job with a neighbor down the street that owned his own siding company. For the two weeks leading up to the marathon, I didn’t train at all and was physically exhausted at the end of each day from the new labor job I was working. Needless to say, I did NOT qualify for the Boston Marathon.

What does any of this have to do with a doctoral degree you might ask? A doctorate, similar to a marathon, is not a small undertaking. It requires commitment, research, support from others, evaluation, reevaluation, and perseverance in order to be successful. Even then, sometimes the best plans do not go as planned.

QUESTIONS:
What is your plan?
Where and when is it appropriate to modify a plan?
Where and when is it appropriate to abandon a plan?
JBergland

One Response to "Not as Planned"

  1. Lori Schroeder says:

    Jon, you wrote, “A doctorate, similar to a marathon, is not a small undertaking. It requires commitment, research, support from others, evaluation, reevaluation, and perseverance in order to be successful. Even then, sometimes the best plans do not go as planned.”

    As a recent Ph.D. grad, I completely agree with your comparison with training for a marathon and pursuing a doctoral degree. I think it is important for individuals to try to identify their motivation for pursuing the Ph.D. The degree completion process can take many years. Understanding motivations for doing so will help a person make the decision before he or she gets in too deep.