Grades or Progress: Forest vs. the Trees

Good morning everyone

This week the topic in the wind is about grades vs. progress.  Short-term goals/grades vs. long-term progress and end goal: completion. As a recovering perfectionist and high school valedictorian—I get it.  I understand the need for some to get caught up in the importance of the short term grades only to lose sight of the end goal: completion.  I like to tell my students that if you focus on the learning, the grades will come; if you focus on the grades, the ulcers will come. *understanding smiles*

Think of the challenge when we can’t see the forest for the trees.  Focus on what is important–the learning.  Learn from your triumphs AND learn from your failures and what you may not be good at YET.  Yet is a very important 3 letter word:  Y-E-T that can make or break your strategy.  If you get tied up in knots because of the seemingly endless criticism of your writing as part of the doctoral progress, the doctoral journey may indeed be a difficult road forward.  If you can focus on feedback as a gift along the way and focus on the progress, you can celebrate every single win and milestone along the way.  Failure is simply success turned inside out. If you do not learn to fail and learn from failure; you will simply not succeed.  Fail faster, succeed sooner.  Dr. Cheryl ‘ism.’

Yes, I understand that the goal for your chair, your committee, and even your editor is perfection, because of the one day promise of publication for your final doctoral study, as well as the coveted doctor title itself. However, perfection is expected at the END of the journey–when the Dean will finally sign your work of brilliance and the journey will finally be over.  However, along the way there is often a struggle for getting it right and good enough to move to the next step (knowing that perfection is indeed the end goal).

Thus, my advice is again to change your thinking from being a student in a regular class where there are finite grades for finite assignments and discussions to writing a doctoral study.  The doctoral process is one that takes many years of constant editing and rework and editing again and more rework.  Perfection may be the end result, but in the moment, the need for a sense of finality—particularly in the beginning stages can indeed be the most frustrating and daunting part of the journey.

Yes, during the journey your words are written in water where the focus is patience and a constant stage of ambiguity, change, and endless rewriting.  In time, clarity comes.  Ambiguity gives way to a clear foundation of a problem that clearly aligns with the rest of the entire study. Remember, to build a house one must start with the foundation—pouring the concrete (problem statement) for which an often circular process takes shape as one moves through the process; many people often working on the house at the same time in different places.  One day, all of the pieces fall into place, the walls go up, the electrical writing gets installed and the paint goes on the walls.  Soon after, one can even begin decorating and moving in.

Until then? Be patient as you move through the process of building your house (translation: the dissertation). One day you will close on the property and own the house and be given the key–to the rest of your future that awaits.  I know it is often a challenge for what I’m about to say–but try to enjoy the process.  When you focus on mastery of the next step in the process, the next step will then come, and then the next. One day, you will complete this journey.  Until then, try to remember not to lose sight of the forest for the trees–the grades vs. the process.  Remember, life is a journey, not a destination.  As you complete the end of one journey, the next one will begin.  *Smiles*

Take time to reflect on the process of the journey and the learning as well as the person you are becoming.   Remember, change has no conclusion–thanks Dr. Tom!

My best,

Dr. Cheryl Lentz
The Academic Entrepreneur

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May 18th, 2017 by admin