Getting study fit and the reward of gaining new frames of reference

By Natalie Cope, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program and BOSS Emerging Leaders MBA Scholarship Recipient 

Getting fit is hard. Harder still is “getting back into it.” Such is particularly the case when the alarm sounds for a 5:30am run on a rainy, grey morning. However, when you muster the resolve to get out, the rewards are abundant. It may be in catching an early morning sunrise, or finding space in the peace and quiet that an early morning brings, and of course, you edge ever closer to the original objective of acquiring fitness and well-being.

Over the past 8 months, I have been adjusting to a life that, after a period of many years, once again includes study. With an already busy life it was not without trepidation that I took on the challenge of introducing the MBA. But it wasn’t only nervousness around the additional demand on my time – rather apprehension around developing my “study fitness”. After a break from the books, I was well and truly unaccustomed to the mental exercise and challenge that formal and institutional learning brings. Did I have the energy to take it on? Could I retrain myself? With the desire to expand my thinking, I let go of my fears and with some confidence I asked the question – why not?

How thankful I am that I posed that question. While the learning journey thus far has indeed been challenging, day-by-day it gets easier. Like the benefits an early morning run provides, as does the world of learning and the MBA. The rewards have been gifted through new frames of reference and new ways of thinking. It has been a lifting of the veil and a chance to realise my unconscious incompetence; or rather, I have been witness to the realisation of just how much I really didn’t know. Indeed, I can’t help but admit I have asked myself the question of just how I have come so far without being aware of the issues, knowledge and skills I have been privileged to gain through this journey so far.

But the reward has not just been in the learning of new information and new skills, but rather, it has been by being equipped with techniques to view the status quo with a renewed vigor. My existing work and life environment represents a new landscape, a place where old problems become fixable, and previously invisible barriers reveal themselves, but not without a methodology to tackle and resolve them. The MBA environment has afforded a luxury to test out different ideas, styles of engagement and learning without consequence; and done so surrounded by strong and intelligent peers, who provide thoughtful, articulate and considered advice and feedback.

The journey to being study fit is ongoing, and I’ll admit the journey so far has been challenging, but it has been equal parts rewarding. I am so far outside my comfort zone – nothing is easy; all of what we are learning is totally new to me and absolutely doesn’t come naturally. But, what an incredible place to be, expanding thinking, pushing limits, being uncomfortable, gaining new frames of reference – and doing so surrounded by collegiate peers who are also swimming at these depths. So while on this journey, when I again ask that question to myself of “why”, I remind myself why not and of all that stands to be accomplished. Being uncomfortable is the best and most exciting place to be.

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