by Sheryl Hess | November 26, 2008
Depending on what stage we are in our lives, we can sometimes feel like we ought to know more about who we are or how to live. We may even berate ourselves for making the same mistakes, or for just not “getting it,” whatever “it” may be. We wonder how our lives would be now, if only we had “known better.” During moments like these, it is important to remember that none of us are born with instruction manuals and that learning lessons is a lifelong journey.
The same is true in your doctoral journey – no matter if you are in courses, writing the comprehensive exam, or in dissertation. Each new phase presents opportunities to celebrate your growth as a scholar. Notice I said “celebrate” and not “berate”. As you gain new knowledge, reflection on past actions may not resonate with where you are now. That’s okay! Actions were taken with knowledge current to the time. Well, unless you used your Magic 8-Ball.
Inherent to our being is that we observe, learn, and grow. Accompanying this is a built-in guarantee that there will be mistakes and misadventures along the way. And while it is only natural that we may sometimes become overwhelmed, especially when the lessons keep coming, it is important to remember that learning to understand yourself and your world is an ongoing and active process where the journey is a significant part of reaching the destination.
I’m a different person now than I was three years ago when I began taking graduate courses. When I re-read papers written at that early time I cringe with embarrassment – I wrote that? I surely wouldn’t write it that way now! Of course I wouldn’t, considering my growth as a scholar-practitioner. Were there mistakes made? Of course there were! Every life lesson (or Capella course) is intended so you can become more of who you are. And as you grow through this self-discovery, you begin to create your own instruction manual. The “how’s” and “why’s” are yours to discover, and part of the beauty of being is that these rules are always changing. Remaining flexible is key.
There is no need to be hard on yourself or think that you should have it all figured out…remember the journey? Growing into our fullness is a process that unfolds with time. You and your life are works in progress. Discover yourself, embrace your life’s lessons (even when they challenge you to the max), and your instruction manual will create itself.