I wanted to wait and share the good news with you all. And while it didn’t feel like good news reading the decision letter, I learned a lot from the grad school application process. I applied to Penn’s Masters of Applied Positive Psychology and kept my thoughts positive throughout the entire process. Ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you I had all my systems in place–babysitters, turning down business trips and leisure time–all starting in the fall.
A quick rundown of the journey… I applied 2.5 months late after hearing from admissions, “You’re 2.5 months late. It’s too late,” several times. I could not stomach simply taking no for an answer without engaging my creative can-do mentality. So I made an appeal to the admissions office and eventually they helped me find a way to apply.
You can imagine how shocked I was when I got an email that I had made it through the first subset of the application process. The second step was the interview, which went very well. My day job is interviewing people on my podcast, Brave Talks, so this part excited me and was comfortably in my wheelhouse. I felt extremely positive about how well I represented my character during the process, and left the final decision up to the grad school gods that be. I didn’t make the final cut, and I feel good about it, because I gave it my best shot.
I’m writing this post not to wallow in self-pity but to share a story about the positive strengths we gain from aiming higher: that is, resilience (grit) and hope. I want this to be the accountability message for all of us to keep aiming high, no matter.
My application was extremely competitive and I had a great interview–so I didn’t wallow in feelings of negativity and self-doubt. Instead, I used the humbling practice of self-reflection to ease the blow of getting denied.
Here’s what I learned from the application process:
- I aimed high.
- I poured myself into a journey that was almost beyond my reach and believed that I was worth it (I still do).
- I practiced the power of positive thinking and went ahead and set up my support system in Miami and my business to help me flourish through the next year.
- I had nothing to lose by going all in.
- I read a ton, learned a lot about positive psychology, and saw how it connects to self-esteem and self-worth. This will help the people I help.
Here are my five major takeaways:
- Think positively: When I told my mom that I didn’t get in, I followed it up by saying, “There was no downside in believing I was going to get in. I much preferred positive thinking over the narrative of self-deprecation and shooting myself down.”
- Help someone else: If you listen to the podcast, A Bit of Optimism, with Simon Sinek, you’ll hear him say time and again, if you need help, help someone else with the same problem. I’ve done this several times and it works. So I reached out to my friend, who also went through a rigorous application process and was denied. My text to him: “Hey! How are you? I’ve been thinking about you. I saw the fund release their selections today and I was bummed not to see you on it…Keep your chin up and be proud of all the effort and self-reflection it took to apply.” My message was the medicine and positive self-reflection I needed.
- Aim high, have a plan B: This is the only way to grow. The giants never stop aiming high and believing in themselves. And always have a plan B…and C. (I learned this from Dr. Katherine Kennedy Allen who you’ll hear from in an upcoming Brave Talks podcast.)
- Come back stronger: “Falling down is an accident, staying down is a choice.” Being denied does not stop me from having the go-getter mentality and fire-in-my-belly. If you want something and you don’t get it immediately, come back stronger.
- Self-worth: Growing older doesn’t mean you have to stop following your dreams. Keep feeding the essence of who you are. Keep at the things that enhance your self-worth. Keep believing you are meant for your dreams, even if they require tremendous sacrifice on your part, and ask people to pitch in and help you while you take time to achieve your goal. You are worth it.