The Other Glass Ceiling: How Students Can Break Through It
A glass ceiling has more commonly come to be known as an “unacknowledged discriminatory barrier that prevents women and minorities from rising to positions of power or responsibility, as within a corporation.” While those types of ceilings certainly exist in the business world, they are not confined squarely to racial/minority discrimination.
You can run into a glass ceiling in lots of places and for a variety of reasons. You might work in a job for a dozen years before you hit one. But at some point, you’ll go as far as you can. When that occurs, it is up to you to find a way through it or around it, whichever you prefer.
In the following article, we’ll be talking about the non-discriminatory form. In other words, what do you do when you have gone as far as you can on the abilities (and in the situation) that you have? The following points are variations of those presented in the book Believe It to Achieve It: Overcome Your Doubts, Let Go of the Past, and Unlock Your Full Potential. It is well worth picking up, and you can do so by clicking here.
For now, let’s go over some questions you should be asking!
Why Do Students Get Stuck?
Students often get stuck because they hear the same information in the same ways, and they never try to cultivate fresh angles or approaches. Essentially, they expect the material to meet them where they are and guide them through the journey without putting forth the effort to meet it halfway.
When you run into a problem or concept or, God forbid, subject that you cannot seem to grasp, you’ve hit a glass ceiling. Nothing the teacher says is getting through to you. You have tried every approach thought possible, and still nothing!
Before the days of the Internet, there were not many tools to get you around this barrier. Thankfully, we live in a time when you can find virtually any information source imaginable. The problem is more, which sources do I trust, as opposed to where do you find them.
If you have hit a glass ceiling with regard to any information or concept, here’s the approach we would use to get unstuck:
- Pinpoint where the breakdown is occurring. What is it in the process that keeps you from going any further? Once you have the answer to that, proceed to number two.
- Do a search or two asking questions that are focused on that specific problem. Skim some blog post subheadings. See what others are trying to “teach” you before proceeding to number three.
- Pull up some videos. Rather than reading lengthy post after lengthy post, search YouTube for some explainer or demonstration videos. You’ll probably have lots of options to choose from, of varying lengths. Find a length that you have time for, and make sure it’s a digestible length. You may even watch the openings of several to get a sense of how the information is presented. Then, choose one. Watch it. Take notes. Watch it multiple times if you have to until the cloud starts to lift.
- Go back to your class preparation materials. Attack problems with a fresh perspective, and see if you get any further in the process. If you now understand, great! If you don’t, but you know more than you did, repeat the process for the new sticking point.
What Are the Biggest Obstacles?
While a glass ceiling may be invisible, many times the obstacles that create them are not. They can be seen or heard or felt. Sometimes, all three!
As a student, it’s your job not only to learn what’s in front of you but also to be mindful of the things that are getting in your way. Once you know them, you can develop solutions for how to overcome. Here’s what we would suggest doing:
- Make a list with three categories: personal, professional, private. At this point, you may not have a “professional” to speak of per se. If you’re not working a job while going to school, just let your major sit into this slot.
- Take the personal side. Who are your friends? What are your social obligations — or rather, the things you’ve obligated yourself to? What are the things you want to do? How important are any of these things when compared to struggling in your studies?
- On the professional side, observe your part-time or full-time job. Maybe you have a work-study program you’re a part of. Or perhaps your major is so demanding that some things get in the way of others. List it out, so you’ll have a good sense of what you are up against.
- Finally, focus on private. What types of things do you like to do when you’re alone? How much time do you spend doing them?
- When you have an inventory of obstacles in place, start figuring out ways to remove them. It could mean cutting hours at work and using the extra time to get help with your more challenging courses. Maybe you could stop binging every night on Netflix. There are little ways every day that we waste time. It’s all about identifying the priority-one things that you have to do and then setting aside time from other parts of your life to address them.
How Can One Let Go of Past Failures?
Past failures can create damaging results that linger around long after the failure should be ancient history. No one likes to fail. But when we do — and that’s when not if — it’s important we don’t continue relitigating the failure.
But let’s say you have a problem living in the past. Particularly when the only past you live in is negative. What should you do? Here are some suggestions:
- Find some low-hanging fruit. What is something you can accomplish in the next five minutes or hours that will make you feel good about yourself? It is a victory you can claim even if you’re sure it won’t blot out the failure. Identify it. Take it. Be proud of it.
- Build on that momentum. Most of the major changes in life are made incrementally. The same could be said of how wealth is created. The vast majority don’t get there by buying lucky lottery tickets. They save small amounts over time and let those investments compound annually with interest. When you’ve acquired your low-hanging fruit, find another piece that’s slightly higher up. Keep your gains within an arm’s reach, and you’ll guarantee improvements over time.
- Take time to reflect. Some say, “Never look back” when it comes to failure. We argue you should look back, just not all the time. And not until you’ve created distance between failure and progress. Looking at where you’ve been — good and bad — can provide unique insight and appreciation for where you’re going and where you are.
Is It Possible to Deprogram Negative Thoughts?
It’s extremely easy to get frustrated when you have gone as far as you can go. In fact, it’s this feeling of frustration that sort of keeps us under the glass ceiling for longer than we should be.
To get past it, you have to learn how to deprogram your negative thoughts. But is that even possible? Fortunately, it is. You just have to pay attention to them when they occur and do the following:
- Remind yourself of this. While the past is something you can’t do anything about, its power is in the past, not the present or future. Once you start thinking of it in this way, you realize each day is its own by which to succeed or fail.
- Take inventory of the things you have.
- Note the possibilities that lie ahead.
- Adopt a gameplan mindset. During the course of a sporting competition, things will go right, and things will go wrong. You have to have a contingency in place when they fall short, and you need the next step forward to build on your victories. Being a game-planner will keep you from succumbing to those past failures. When that drives you, you’ve officially deprogrammed your negative thoughts.
What’s the Best Way to Embrace Change?
Change is coming to your life, no matter what. It sometimes may take a while to arrive. At other times, it’ll happen gradually without you knowing it. But it is a necessary part of life, especially when it comes to getting through that glass ceiling.
But how do you embrace change and make it work in your favor? Some thoughts:
- Accept the reality of change.
- Be optimistic. If not for the change itself, for the opportunities that might come from it.
- Visualize how a change might specifically work to your advantage. This is not the moment in time to acknowledge failure as a possibility. You’ve already done that in the gameplan portion of the deprogramming process.
- Take positive action. That means actions designed to bust through the glass ceiling. Fearless actions that work in your favor even if they don’t accomplish exactly what you would have them to accomplish.
Is the Right Cast of Characters in Place?
Surround yourself with people who are there to support your goals; not those who are constantly trying to impede them. When you have the right cast of characters in place, they serve as propulsion for that last stretch toward smashing through. The wrong people in place equate to heavy weights that can drag you down and keep you from hitting the barrier at optimum velocity.
What Does a Strategy for Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling Look Like?
Breaking through a glass ceiling can be challenging work. In fact, it almost always is. But glass is extremely breakable when you take the right stab at it. The only way to do that is through developing a sound strategy, and the questions and tips presented above will get you there. Now it’s your turn. When were some times in your life where you felt boxed in and in need of a drastic change to break through? How did you make those changes? Did you make those changes? And if not, what was holding you back? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by beckynaylor.co.uk]