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Archive for the ‘acting as if’ Category

Mental toughness as the way to finish a dissertation is all well and good, but what if you’re just not feeling particularly tough?

Is “powering through” your work not realistic for you right now, given how even the phrase “power through” makes you snarl?

What would help you lean into your work?

What can you change?  Is there any way to change the way you think about the work?

How can you look at your dissertation in a different way?

A friend told me about a TV show on the National Geographic channel called “The Dog Whisperer.”  She doesn’t own a dog, but she was excited by the possibilities of having more control in her life if she assumed the attitude of the dog whisperer.

Today by chance I happened onto “The Dog Whisperer” on TV.

In the episode I saw, Cesar, who is the dog whisperer,  was visiting the dressing room of an actress in  the play Wicked to solve the problem of the actress’s overly excitable dog.  Cesar said the dog barked because of the anxiety and excitement in the room, and the solution was for both the actress and the make-up person to calm down.

Every time the dog sensed anxiety, he would race about, barking and even nipping at people. Cesar said that the dog went into a frenzy in order to control the situation, and when the actress controlled the situation by lowering the excitement and anxiety in the room, she could then control the dog.

At that point, all it took from her was an assertive “Psst” from her and a snap of the finger.

What a technique! Where can we apply this?

Do you feel that your dissertation has brought too much drama into your life?  Do  you want a way to better control your feelings and to avoid emotional landmines that disrupt or halt your writing?

What if you reframed or changed the way you look at your dissertation?  Here’s my suggestion  —think of your dissertation as a sometimes nearly unmanageable puppy.

Like a puppy, your dissertation needs you to nurse it along and nurture it.

But on those days when the diss seems more like a swirling, yapping Yorkshire terrier, it needs you to be assertive.  That’s when it is time to utter a loud, hissing “Psst” at the chatter and clutter in your brain.  Then snap your fingers and give your computer screen that look.  I know mental toughness when I see it, and that sounds like mental toughness to me.

You may need to practice that a bit.

If you look at your diss as if it were a dog that needs attention and training, you can also recognize that it’s your control that will transform your diss.

Rather than seeing your dissertation as a massive piece of granite—unyielding and hard and impossible—see it as a puppy needing to be attended to, controlled, and also liked.

Name it—maybe you could call it Owen, which is the name of the yapping dog I saw in “The Dog Whisperer.”

And it’s fun to say “Pssst” and point like the dog whisperer does.

A wise person said to me that the way forward toward her goal is for her is to recognize what she can change.   She says that recognizing that she can change how she thinks about her dissertation helps her. That shift in her way of thinking about her diss and in her way of seeing it can kickstart her desire to work.

Where do you have control?  What can you change?

Let me know how seeing your dissertation in a different way helps you.

All good wishes,

Nancy

P.S.  Another way to learn to control your feelings about your diss is to take the Dissertation Boot Camp (www.nancywhichard.com)

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation and Academic Career Coach
nancy@nancywhichard.com
www.nancywhichard.com

 

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Writing can be like rowing a kayak.

This past week-end my husband and I visited long-time friends at their lake house.  In the early evening, when it was a little cooler, they suggested it would be a good time to go out on the water.  I hadn’t really noticed that the only boats available were individual kayaks, and when I realized that I would be alone in a kayak in the middle of the lake, I became more than a little anxious.  My friends equipped me (though not my husband) with a life jacket and pushed me out into the water. I was scared, and I had to talk myself into the moment.  As I think back over it, I could have upended the kayak two inches from shore.  But I didn’t.  However, I was spared by a storm.  We had to get out of the kayaks and make for the house.

The next morning, soon after breakfast, we were back in the kayaks, rowing into the little fingers of the lake, gazing at houses along the shore, hearing my friend’s stories about this neighbor and that neighbor.  We were the only people on the lake, and I was fine.  Well, sort of fine.  I had to beat back my many incredulous head voices who routinely doubt my ability to do much of anything, but I managed to turn down the volume of the head voices, settle myself, and keep rowing. 

One point of my story is that having had 5 minutes in the kayak the night before prepared me for the morning’s rowing.  Those few minutes gave me a good overview of the situation.   I knew how to get into the kayak, and I had evidence to support my belief that I probably wouldn’t tip over.
 
A second and even more important point is that there was no choice.  My friend, the self-confident extrovert to my scaredy-cat introvert, had it all planned.  And it was her routine.  We just settled into it.

And now we’re down to why I think this event might be of interest to you. 

Here it is—if you can’t set up your own routine for writing, hang out with friends who will push you to get going or make it easy to jump in.  Get a friend or a writing buddy or a coach, who will put you into your writing kayak and push you out into the lake.  You don’t have to row around the lake the first time out—just get everything into place and make a few attempts.  Row a bit and tell yourself how well you’re doing.  The next time out, it will be easier. 

Writing and returning to your writing gets easier with each outing.  Don’t expect much from yourself the first time or two or three, but do it first thing in the morning before the heat or other demands slow you down or take over your life.   And continue to put it first.  Writing is hard work, and you need to go at it when you’re at your best.

So much comes back to writing for me.  Many things take courage as well as hard work, but nothing takes more courage and hard work than writing.

Courage!
Nancy
Your International Dissertation Coach
nancy@nancywhichard.com
www.nancywhichard.com

 

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Have you turned up the heat on your dissertation now that summer is here?  Is your summer writing starting to take off yet? What are you using as an incentive?

One of my clients has a new powerful incentive—one that she says has given her a sense of purpose about finishing her dissertation.

Let me tell you her story of how she found this incentive.  There are three parts to her story.

1. First of all, she admits that she has had fear and uncertainty around what finishing her dissertation might mean for her.  And that fear has at times held her back.

She has resisted seeing herself as an expert or emerging expert. She has also resisted the idea that she is carving out a niche for herself in the academic world as she writes her diss.

Because she has questioned her own knowledge and the quality of her research, she has at times avoided people and avoided situations where her self-described inadequacies might show her to be the fraud she feared she was. 

2. The second part of this story has to do with a shot in the arm that my client received by going to a conference.

As a graduate student, she has been to many conferences, presenting and discussing, but even so, in many ways, she has held back and hid out. She said that the most recent conference got off to the usual slow start that she’s experienced at many conferences.  As she usually did, she spent the first night in her room, resting, and missed an initial gathering.

The second day of the conference was the beginning of her transformation.

Her advisor said that at the gathering which my client missed, that he had talked to several people about her work.  In addition, some of the other graduate students and professors attending the gathering were interested in talking with her and hearing more. 

This was the push she needed.  She began to drop her fear of being revealed as an imposter and gradually became more at ease talking about her work. 

She dared to think more boldly about her diss and tried out some of her ideas by asking questions in the sessions she attended.  She sought people out and for the first time enjoyed networking.  This was all new for her and took courage, but she was acting on the sense that had come from the revising and honing of her ideas as she had worked on her diss over the last many months and years–that she did indeed know a great deal about her topic.  Furthermore, during the conference, she almost allowed herself to feel like an expert.

3. The third part of this story is that she came home with a new realization of why she is writing a dissertation—she wants to share her ideas and thoughts.  Sharing her ideas and testing her ideas at this conference were such powerful experiences that she no longer sees research as a way to stay insulated or in her bubble.  She is starting to see the excitement that can be hers, and she wants to burst out of her self-imposed academic bubble. Getting her dissertation out the door is the next step, but she no longer feels that the diss has to be perfect before she lets go of it.  Now she says that she needs to get her ideas out in the market place, and she has hopes that finishing her diss can be the start of much more work on her ideas.

With this wind at her back she says that she needs to do a last, strong push toward the finish line, rather than hovering around the last mile or two.  This confidence in her future is just what she needed.

And that’s as far as the story goes today about my client and the boost she got from
(1) getting out of her own way,
(2) enjoying the thrill of sharing her ideas with others
at the conference, and by
(3) acting on her excitement from the conference to fuel her rapid movement toward the dissertation finish line.

How about you?  How can you motivate yourself?  What if you acknowledged your expertise and started to act as if you, too, have ideas and writing that you want to get out there into the world?  It could be a brand new day!

Have a brilliant writing session today.

Nancy
nancy@nancywhichard.com
www.nancywhichard.com

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Getting some writing done this week will happen only if you let people know that you’re using every spare minute to write.

You need to go public and let others know that you aren’t kidding.  Then throw yourself into your writing.

One person I know says that for her status on Facebook this week, she has written “Lockdown.” 

When people email her and gingerly suggest getting together, she doesn’t waste time in saying not now, not this week.

When I was writing my dissertation, I always wished that I had a writing cottage or that I could afford a writing retreat.  I’m a big believer in acting as if, so I put a sign on the door to my study that said, “Mom’s in Maine.” Then I put a postcard picture of a cottage on my bulletin board on the wall beside my desk so that I would see the cottage whenever I looked away from my writing,

To make this week count, to set yourself up for a week of successful writing, choose the perspective that will let you be the most dedicated and productive writer you can be. 

Go public—tell others and post your signs.  

Then create a visual as if and transport yourself to that envisioned place where you will be free to write. 

This is the time of year when you need a little extra support.  I have something that will be of help.  Go to www.nwcoaching.com and get a free sign-up bonus when you subscribe to my Smart Tips for Writers e-newsletter. The bonus is a great gift–one you can use.

Until next time,
Nancy
www.nwcoaching.com

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The holiday vortex –this time between Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s –can suck the energy out of the weak or unprepared.

But for many  veteran writers, and if dissertation writers aren’t veteran writers, I don’t know who would be, this week and next week offer some great writing moments.

If handled right, these next two weeks may be just the right time to step up your process.

When you feel like you don’t have time to write your diss, that may actually be the time to look for 20 minutes here and there

Maintain the high level of energy that being busy and even a bit crazy this week have given you. 

If you maintain that level of energy, you think only about doing the next important task. 
You don’t give yourself the chance to make up excuses or to question whether you know what you’re doing. 

It’s possible that the more you have going on, the more you want to come back to your writing.  After being pulled in two or three other directions, you value the time you can put on your diss.

You ask:  “Oh, what can I get done in the next ten days when so much else is going on?” The answer lies in this way of thinking: Think of the time when you were the most productive in the least amount of time.  Live in that moment.

If you did it before, you can do it again.

Keep busy.  Maintain that high-energy level.  Storm ahead.  And everyone else—stand back, folks!  Out of the way! Writer at work!

This is the time of year when you need a little extra support.  I have something that will be of help.  Go to www.nwcoaching.com and get a free sign-up bonus when you subscribe to my Smart Tips for Writers e-newsletter.

Until next time,
Nancy
www.nwcoaching.com

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In a recent conversation, a tenured professor at a large research university told me that he left it up to his doctoral students to get in touch with him.

He didn’t say that he doesn’t want to invite more work since he already has more to do than he can get done, but that might have been partially his reason for waiting.

I sympathize with the workload many professors carry.   In departments with which I’ve had first-hand experience, primarily those in the liberal arts and social sciences, professors work very hard:
• Preparing for classes and meeting with students from their current classes;
• Actually reading the papers their students write;
• Enduring hours of committee work and departmental meetings;
• Trying to find time to conduct research and write their own papers and articles.

But wait a minute– the truth is that in the relationship with his doctoral student, this kind, intelligent tenured professor holds all the cards.   All of the power in this relationship is on his side, or so goes the thinking of most ABD’s.

Many doctoral students feel paralyzed by overwhelming anxiety and unrealistic fears at the thought of contacting their advisor.  At times, some even avoid opening their university email account, fearing that their professor might have written to tell them to forget the project. 
 
 Even though Joseph Berger, in his NYTimes story “ON EDUCATION; Exploring Ways to Shorten the Ascent to a Ph.D.,” asserts that “universities . . .  [are] demanding that faculty advisers meet regularly with protégés,”  he doesn’t say precisely which universities are making this demand.  My dissertation coaching clients are unaware of any such demands. They haven’t been contacted by their advisors.

So if a student shouldn’t expect a phone call or email from an advisor, then what?  Continue to hide out?  Living in dread is no way to live.

Try this:
a. First, state what the belief is that is allowing you to hide out.
b. Second, take a hard look at that belief or assumption.  What evidence can you muster to disprove or reject that belief?
c. Third, come up with an action that you could take (will take?) that will let you step over that belief.

Here are some beliefs I’ve heard from my dissertation coaching clients and some potential follow-up steps:
 
Belief #1:  If I write my advisor to say that I’m working again, he/she will be nasty.  His/her sarcasm will just crush me.
 Action:  Ask yourself what’s the worst thing he/she will say?  The best?  What is he/she likely to say?  You know the words he/she will say.  You’ve heard them before.  Write them down.  Assume his/her voice and read the words aloud.  Say them aloud several times until the words of ridicule sound ridiculous.  Make it funny.  Laugh! Let it go.

Belief #2:  If I send a chapter or a few pages to my advisor, he/she will hold onto them and won’t return the pages with any comments. And then I’m stuck–all I can do is wait.  I don’t want to feel any more helpless than I already do.
 Action:  You aren’t helpless.  Ask for an appointment (by phone or in person) at the same time that you send the text to your advisor. You can help make this process easier for your advisor and at the same time give yourself more control over the process.   Give a choice of two specific times that would be good for you and ask to hear back by a certain time.  Specific requests are more likely to elicit a response.

Belief #3:  Even if I make an appointment, my advisor probably won’t look at the text ahead of time.  An appointment or a telephone conference is a waste of time, and afterwards, I feel just as lost as ever.  I don’t know where to go next.
 Action:  You have options.  Email and re-send the text shortly before your appointment, highlighting key passages with specific, pivotal questions.  You know your work best–give your advisor a perch from which to view your work.

Belief #4:  My advisor never seems to have any comments, even when we have an appointment.  I have no control over what happens.
 Action: What if you act as if you do have some control?  Come with specific questions about the text.  Don’t hide.  Don’t waste the opportunity.  Always take notes, or, if all parties agree, tape the conversation.  Show a willingness to do whatever it takes to get through this process, and show respect for the time your advisor has carved out for you by having an agenda.  Make it easy for your advisor to help you.

What are you waiting for?

Your university probably hasn’t made any demands that your advisor meet regularly with you.

Your advisor is not going to email you to say that you are in his/her thoughts or to invite you over for dinner.

Advisors may not have the best interpersonal skills, but they probably aren’t plotting to do you in. 

Stop Catastrophizing—you’re busy; your advisor is busy.

Why not shoot off an email tonight to your advisor?  Ask for what you want.
 
Please share your strategies on how you sidestep the urge to catastrophize and get on with your dissertation.  When your Lizard Brain is in overdrive, what do you do?  I would love to hear from you.

At my website (www.nwcoaching.com), I offer a free newsletter with helpful tips.  I invite you to sign up for it and let me know what you think.

Until next time,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation and Academic Career Coach
nancy@nancywhichard.com
www.nancywhichard.com
www.usingyourstrengths.com
www.dissertationbootcamp.net

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So perseverance isn’t your strong suit?

But finishing the project no matter what is your goal?

When playing cards, what can you do if you can’t follow suit?  You play your trump card!  So what is your trump card, your ace in the hole?

Even if perseverance is low on your list of strengths, you can finish what you start by using one of your other strengths as leverage to achieve perseverance.

One strength usually found in academics’ top five strengths is “Love of Learning.”

Consider how you could use love of learning to help you finish your work, even if you find it difficult to keep going.  Ask yourself (yes—say this aloud!), “What is it that drew me to this project?” and help yourself, even when you’re weary, to find that nugget that still attracts you.

Finally, when the going gets tough, remember that you have one other trick up your sleeve. If you have played all your love-of-learning cards, then even if perseverance is not your suit, don’t show your hand.

Rather, act as if perseverance is your top strength.  Practice and see what it would be like if it were #1 for you.  Sometimes merely the acting as if  will make all the difference and may allow you to stick with your work a while longer.

Or to continue our card-playing analogy, you will come up trumps.

Remember, you can take the Signature Strengths Inventory at
www.authentichappiness.org.

If you think you lack perseverance, what strength could you draw on to help you keep going?  I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, PhD, PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
www.nancywhichard.com
nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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