“Be careful what you wish for.”

I was surprised to discover how relevant this old adage was to me in relation to something I started recently and wrote about a few weeks ago – my intention to start running my life as if I were back in school. I’m now treating the projects and activities I am currently involved in as classes and homework assignments.

The revelation that came as I started incorporating this plan into my life was that in many ways, I’ve been “back in school” all along. Not just in relation to new projects and activities, but some that I’ve been doing for years.

Toastmasters is a good example. Our “class” meets every week, and I have some homework to do after each one in order to prepare for whatever assignment is due the following week. The specific assignment is entirely up to me, however, as I get to choose whether I’ll deliver a speech, evaluate someone else’s speech, or fulfill one of the other roles necessary for a successful meeting. I mean, class. Even my column is an independent study course in which I observe and collect information all week, and then turn in a paper reporting on what I discovered and learned.

It’s the same for my other projects and activities – both personal and professional – from business boot camps to Bible studies to formal and informal workshops and coaching. Class meets at a certain day and time, and there’s homework and preparation to do before each one. My final grades will depend on how well I complete everything, which in turn depends on how much effort I put in.

This shift in mindset – and in a few of my routines – has had a surprising effect on my day-to-day life. It’s provided more structure to my schedule, and a more realistic view of what I am trying to accomplish and what I need to do in order to get there. It’s helped me focus better on both my short- and long-term goals, and it’s transformed the inevitable but temporary periods of overwhelm and overload – similar to mid-terms or finals week – into mere challenges to my resourcefulness and determination.

Now that I’m getting more comfortable with being back in school, I’m also remembering the perennial advice that students are given year after year: Do your homework before playing games or watching TV. Start early on long-term projects, and do a little every day. Don’t wait till Sunday night to do the homework you were assigned over the weekend. Have a designated study area, with everything close by that you need in order to do the work. Pack your backpack the night before, get to bed early, and eat a healthy breakfast to get a good start to the day.

Incorporating these practices is having a positive effect on every area of my life, and I now find myself wishing I could stay in school – and keep learning – forever.

“Be careful what you wish for,” the saying goes, “because you might get it.”

I sure hope so.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on September 24, 2015.
©Betty Liedtke, 2015

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