Let me tell you the best time to answer this question. Hint—it’s not in the middle of Term 2 when you’re having your second breakdown of the week over Managerial Accounting. And it’s for sure not when you’re complaining to your husband over Chinese takeout (because you were too tired to cook) that there are WAY too many assignments this term and it’s like the professors don’t even care that you have a demanding, full-time job and why am I even doing this???

If that’s the moment you choose to ask, “why am I even doing this?” your significant other just might hit you with, “Jordan. Remember, you chose this. You looked at your already full life, at your already demanding career, and said I’m going to get my MBA.”

Gee. Thanks honey.

Tough love, but he was absolutely right. This stuff is relentlessyou’ve got to wake up and grind every day. There’s going to come a point where you have to take accountability and remember, “I chose this. I wanted this.” But more importantly, you’ll need to remember why you chose this. You’ll need to zero in on your reasons for pursuing an MBA in the first place.  

The best time to ask yourself why you’re getting an MBA is no later than day one of your Term 1 residencywhile you’re still proud of your acceptance into Fuqua and before that Term 1 honeymoon period ends (and trust me, it definitely ends). Prior to starting the program, I spoke with several individuals who completed or were completing their MBA. I had some understanding of how busy my life was about to get, and how exhausting this journey might be. Burnout was a distinct possibility and I wanted to prevent it where I could. I needed something that could provide future inspiration when personal discipline wore thin.

Thanks to COVID, those who opted to attend our Term 1 residency in person quarantined for 48 hours at the JB Duke Hotel while waiting on their test results and clearance to attend class. I spent this time meditating, completing yoga flows, and reading Bob Iger’s “The Ride of a Lifetime.” Just kidding. I was definitely scrambling to complete all my pre-reading assignments in between scrolling Instagram. However, I managed to carve out a few moments to draft my own MBA ’purpose statement‘ and share it on LinkedIn. For me, my “why am I doing this” was really about “who am I doing this for?”

Here’s the abbreviated version:

First day at school! On my walk back to the hotel post-COVID test and pre-48 hours of quarantine. Kickoff via Zoom is definitely not how I thought my grad school journey at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business would start out, but what’s one more challenge? My 200 classmates and I are pushing through.

During pre-term reading, around Chapter 5, Problem #27 of Financial Accounting, I found myself questioning “Why am I doing this?” But my head’s on straight, and I’m in the game now. Ask me at any point during the next two years and I’ll tell you—here’s why I’m getting my MBA, and who I’m doing it for:

For my grandparents and parents…because they’ve shared their success with me, and so that I can share my future success with them. Grandpa said “work with your head, not your hands.” I’m trying.

For my seven younger siblings, so that whatever they choose to do in life they know to do the best they can, and to go as far as possible.

For my husband and our future family, so that we can enjoy a better, more enriching life.

For my current and future teams, so that they can have a wiser, more understanding leader.

For my classmates, so that they can benefit from the experiences I bring to the table, and I can learn from theirs.

For the only 27% of my class that is female, so that we can support each other, and further pave the way for the women after us.

And for myself…getting in was the dream. Getting out is the goal. I’m grateful to be here and excited to do this!

Now, you likely picked up on two things. One, obviously this woman struggles with accounting. And two, that “why am I doing this” statement seems personal.

Earning your MBA is hard work. Earning your MBA while maintaining a full-time job is even harder. There are moments when you’re thriving, and moments when you’re barely surviving. Remembering “why” you wanted an MBA re-orients you. It serves as a North Star, providing clarity of direction in a sea of crazy. Your “why” should be personalwhat is driving you? What is going to inspire you at zero-dark-thirty on a Wednesday morning when you aren’t even sure your Business Statistics textbook is written in English.

It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of starting your program and then caught in the madness of classes, assignments, team meetings, career searching, etc. It’s also difficult to pull yourself out of that cycle and find a few moments of clarity, energy, and focus. Before beginning your MBA journey, I encourage you to spend time getting your head in the gamebefore the game starts. Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Type it up. Print it out. Stick it on the fridge. When you hit that low point, grab a snack, and remember your “why.”