Updated: May 15
About 18 months ago, my youngest son came down from his room and asked, "What if I wanted to go to Oxford?"
This was a pinnacle leadership moment. I could make a joke. I could tell him to be realistic, or I could tell him to go for it.
I decided on the last choice and said, "You can do whatever you want. Create a plan and make it happen."
"Really?" he asked. "If I got into Oxford, you and Dad would let me go?”
"Of course. If you get in, we'll let you go."
I had no idea what I was talking about. To me, Oxford is like Hogwarts, a mythical place where Malala Yousafzai and other saints have attended, not mere mortals from Charlotte, North Carolina. Luckily, my son saw it as a viable choice college, and he created a plan.
For fun, he'd been taking practice LSAT exams, so when he found out that he had to take the Legal National Aptitude Test (LNAT) in order to be an Oxford candidate, he was confident that he’d do well. He ordered study guides, registered for the exam, and started studying.
He took the exam and felt pretty good about it until he heard the bad news: He’d taken it too early, and the results wouldn't count. He'd have to take it again.
He added the second test to his plan and got back to work.
He decided that he didn't want to take the ACT or SAT more than once, so he created a study plan, got to work, and took the ACT before his junior year. He earned a perfect score.
When he told me, I was facing another pinnacle leadership moment. I had to get this right. I reached for John Maxwell's advice and told him, "Congratulations! I'm so proud of you. Your hard work paid off. Let this be a starting point, not the highlight of your life. Celebrate for 24 hours. Then get back to work."
"Ok. Mom. You’re right. I will. Love you."
I never know if my sons listen to me, but in this case, he did. He got right back to work.
To qualify for Oxford, he needed five 5's on Advanced Placement (AP) exams. He already had two from his sophomore year, so to increase his odds, he self-studied for two more AP classes in addition to the five AP classes he was already taking. (His idea, not mine.) He earned four more 5's, giving him a total of six 5's on AP exams. He had one more than he needed. Time to relax. Right? Not for Will.
For his senior year, he enrolled in six AP classes and worked with his guidance counselor to complete the Oxford application. She was unfamiliar with the process and openly admitted as much, but she committed to helping him. He asked and received his letters of recommendation from teachers and submitted the application on time.
Oxford's application was due in October along with Chapel Hill and a few other universities. He was nominated for the Morehead-Cain Scholarship and asked, “Is that a big deal?" when I congratulated him.
“Only to us mortals,” I thought.
Here We Go
Oxford made offers on January eleventh this year, and the due date for applications to UPenn, Harvard, Yale, UVA, and Michigan was January fourth. To hedge his bets, he submitted applications to all of these throughout the holiday break.
This kid wouldn't stop creating his future. Unlike his two brothers, he even asked me to help him edit his application essays, only granting me "suggesting" rights though. He wanted to keep control of his plan.
My husband and I went to bed on January 10th, knowing that he'd get us up early. England is five hours ahead of us; undoubtedly, they'd send announcements in the morning.
Sure enough, at 5 am, he walked into our bedroom with his offer letter from Oxford glowing on his iPhone screen, and announced, "I got it!" He'd been offered a seat. He's going to Oxford to study law! Goal achieved!
How’d This Work?
This is a fun story to write, but it's also one that includes principles that you can use to accomplish your goals. Let's pick apart this story.
Will had a few things that helped him succeed:
a clear picture of what he wanted and why he wanted it.
permission from his parents, teachers, and guidance counselor to dream big.
access to study guides and test registration.
time to dedicate to studying.
a plan to make the dream a reality.
tenacity to implement each phase of his plan.
Five Elements for Accomplishing A Goal
In his book, Your Best Year Ever, Michael Hyatt shares the five necessary elements for accomplishing a goal:
Perspective: Obstacles, reversals, and even failures are all part of the path to success.
A New Frame: Reframe our frustrations to find a foothold for forward momentum.
Self-Compassion: Doing is better than not doing.perfectly. Give yourself a break and keep plugging away.
A Sense of Agency: Agency is about realizing we must work to succeed.
Your Why: Stay connected to the original vision.
Will’s Take on These Five Elements:
Perspective: Will met with obstacles, and sure, he was frustrated when he found out his first LNAT score wouldn't count. He was even more frustrated when he found out that his score placed him in the 95th percentile. He wondered if he could match that score. He kept going anyway. His goal was too worthwhile.
A New Frame: He put a new frame on the frustration by saying, "I did it once. I can do it again.” (In February, he found out that he did better the second time than he did the first time. He was thrilled!)
Self-Compassion: He was also humbled by his mistake. He realized that his dream was more important to him than being embarrassed about taking the test again.
A Sense of Agency: Will had nobody to blame for his mistake. It was all on him, and embracing his own agency made him double down and continue implementing his plan.
Your Why: Will connected with a second cousin who is a professor at Oxford, and she helped him remember why he wanted to go there. It'd been over a year since he started this journey. He was beginning to lose steam. She re-filled his tank with descriptions of the tutorial learning style and how rare of an opportunity it was. When it was time for his Oxford Zoom interviews, he was ready and excited.
What about you? What would you like to achieve this year? A coach might be just what you need to help you:
Find a new frame.
Engage your agency.
Remember your why.
Schedule a call with me, a certified coach, about how coaching could help you reach your goals. I'd love to help you get 'er done so that we both hear the same thing I heard from Will, "I got it!"
If you want to explore professional coaching or grant writing support, contact Katy at Katy@KLRPartnersLLC.com today!