Achieving your college degree: How to conquer your elephant 101

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Lindsey Green
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Imagine thundering footsteps as you race to the horizon of the African savanna and you come upon what you believe will be your next challenge, an elephant. Massive ivory tusks, a trunk so heavy that it outweighs you, feet the size of tires. You look around and there is no one else there but you. Now imagine that elephant being your college degree and it’s your organic chemistry course staring you down. The beast is massive and you are not sure how to conquer it all or how you are going to graduate. As a freshman in college I faced the same task. Knowing my ultimate goal is to pursue a medical degree, I had to meet the challenge of learning to take on a colossal elephant. 

There is a saying, ‘there is only one way to eat an elephant: a bite at a time’, meaning huge goals can be accomplished by taking on a little at a time. When learning to conquer my elephant, I spent most nights studying and countless hours at coffee shops solving math problems. I pride myself in working hard and being ambitious. It is what fuels me to build a better future for myself. Because of this I often fear the aspect of failure; I believed that one failure would prevent me from achieving my goals. This was not the way to think or conquer the task before me. Instead, I am learning that I have to congratulate myself for the things I have accomplished and appreciate the times I have failed. What I am doing with my failures is seeing what I can learn from them. If going that way or using that particular tactic did not work, I try another way. Ultimately, there is no wrong way to defeat your elephant as long as you take it in strides. 

Being driven is a blessing and a curse. I know I can put my head down and work hard, but if I am not careful I can become too focused on the end goal, causing me to lose all direction of where I am. It makes me think, ‘how can I take on this elephant at all’? I’ve realized now that this is not how to approach the beast. I’ve had to learn to break things down. A term paper is no longer a semester-long project, but smaller assignments I make for myself each week. It is not an entire degree I have to finish, but semester by semester. The tasks I needed to accomplish can even change from week to week. I’ve learned to step back and see my goal in smaller increments instead of a 13,000 pound challenge. 

While changing my way of thinking may seem small, it completely changed the way I approach challenges. I can still become overwhelmed amid the savanna, but I have learned a skill set to keep me on track. The elephant can be defeated, but it takes determination to accomplish. I believe anyone willing is capable. As long as you take it step-by-step the elephant will get smaller. Where you start is entirely up to you, but the most important part of any plan is to start somewhere. No task is ever impossible to complete, but it is impossible to do so all at once.