I got my Master’s degree largely to feed my ego. At the time, I was not yet immersed in the work of personal development so I was still living entirely AS my ego instead of actively trying to kill it and free the real me. But without the right terminology, I still knew it was for my ego.

I had all kinds of rationalizations for getting my Master’s degree. It was the only way to climb the teacher salary schedule other than years on the job. I was young without kids, so the timing was good if I was ever going to do it. I was just coming out of my credential program, so I was familiar with the teaching staff and the school. Rationalization, rationalization, rationalization.

But even then, I wasn’t fooled. I knew that the real reason I started grad school was because my husband was in grad school earning his PhD. I remember thinking that I just couldn’t stomach an intellectual gap that big between my liberal arts Bachelor’s degree and his PhD in chemistry (Chemistry!). I couldn’t live with it. I asked myself if I was really willing to spend the time, money, and energy earning a Master’s degree just so that I could live with someone and feel like his equal. And the answer was yes. It never dawned on me to question what a real measure of intelligence might be, so I attached myself to my rationalizations and got to work.

What a ridiculous use of time. I didn’t love what I was learning about. I was exhausted, because I was working full-time and doing it at night and on weekends. Once I completed it, I only stayed in that profession for four more years. It probably didn’t even pay for itself. But my ego was soothed with the notion that I was smart enough to feel like my opinions and ideas were worth something.

But what if I had taken pause and asked myself these questions instead?

  • What do I want to spend thousands of dollars learning about?
  • How do I want to fill the majority of my free time for the next three and half years?
  • What exciting project or partnership do I want to devote my young vibrant energy to?

Or how about this one…

What’s going on in that smart skull of yours, Stacy, that has you believing you aren’t good enough without that piece of paper?

Back in those days, I was looking outward a lot. I wanted to be the best and that meant that I needed to have my finger on the pulse of how well everyone else was doing. That was a huge driver of mine. I didn’t want other people to fail. But I sure as hell wanted to succeed. And succeed just a little bit more than everyone else.

Our world loves the go-getter. Being that ambitious-motivated-chase-your-dreams kind of chick was very rewarding, at least in terms of the types of rewards I wanted…papers, degrees, honors, certificates, etc…

I’m still shocked at how long it took me to see that I was always chasing goals because I was running from feeling unworthy.

How many other young people are chasing after the next achievement, because they are running from the same thing?

Instead, I would urge every go-getter at any age who stands on the brink of making a major decision about their future to ask themselves…

  • What intriguing subject do I want to spend my money learning about?
  • How do I want to fill my limited and incredibly precious free time?
  • What exciting project or partnership do I want to devote my energy to?

The honest answers to those questions will point you to the right path.