Archive for the ‘foxes’ Category

New Year’s Day is one of the few holidays that much of the world celebrates. Today, on New Year’s Day, we celebrate the possibility of starting afresh and of having second chances, but more even than that, we honor structure and accountability.

New Year’s Day not only structures our lives into one year after another, but it also divides each  year into twelve months and beyond, easing the work of record-keeping and accountability into manageable chunks. Around the world, most government offices and banks are closed today on our jointly celebrated New Year’s Day. It may be the only day when all of the world’s financial markets are closed.

To emphasize that today is the day to step back for a broader perspective on key aspects of our lives, we use business metaphors to show our belief that because of today, change will be easier to accomplish. We say that we can now close the books on some task or challenge, or, if need be, we may even give ourselves permission to wipe the slate clean and start anew.

Now if you were, say, a fox, one day would be like all the others, but since you’re not a fox, you are probably finding a moment or two today to reflect on how your year has gone. You may also be giving some thought to what you can do differently for a better outcome. And since you are knowingly or unknowingly celebrating the ritual of planning, as well as that of record keeping, perhaps you are considering what will be your first step in making 2014 a better year than 2013.

It’s hard to miss that wonderful spirit of hope that’s in the air today. We watched the fireworks in Dubai and in Sydney and in London and in New York.  In spite of everything this year, hope is still possible. In our individual lives, we get another chance to do and be better in big and small ways. 

English: New Year fireworks at the London Eye

The fireworks can’t be just smoke and noise, but rather a celebration of the individual strengths that we each call upon to help us be accountable in moving day by day toward accomplishing what we hold important.

Today is the chance for a fresh start, the opportunity to do better, to show up and work.

After you put writing high on your list of priorities for this New Year, then what comes next?  What’s the plan?

Make 2014 your year.

Happy New Year!


Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC

Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach


nancy @ nancywhichard.com




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Are you one of the many overworked, stressed people trying to write a dissertation at the same time that you’re holding down a demanding job?  Is each day more complicated than the day before?

If you’ve been teaching as well as trying to find time to write, this week may be what you’ve been waiting for. Is it Spring Break for you?

For a while, you won’t have the burden of preparing to teach / dealing with students / dealing with the critical self-questioning after teaching a class / dealing with colleagues.

During at least some of Spring Break, you can push aside almost everything else to focus on your writing and still have time to exercise, smile inwardly, and, if you’re in a place where you have a change of seasons, watch for a squirrel or a tulip.

A Snow Day can produce a similar change in mood and perspective for a writer.  Just two weeks ago here in the Washington DC metropolitan area, the month of March came in with a Snow Day, and it was heavenly.  I’ve seldom heard anyone speak ill of a snow day.  Given how hard everyone works, a snow day can be a miniature Spring Break, especially for all of us who no longer have Spring Breaks.

Occasionally over the last few years on the cul-de-sac where I live, I’ve seen a fox or two wander about.  On the Snow Day, there it was!  The fox meandered about the street, sidewalk, and yards, acting as if the world was as it should be, quiet, undisturbed, no cars carrying children to the grade school at the end of the street, nothing moving.

A Snow Day helps you move away from the ordinary. The usual doesn’t hold; you aren’t immediately drawn to email or your cell phone.  Writing seems easier to do.

Snow Days are short-lived and, like Spring Breaks, even nonexistent for many people. You may have to do something else in order to focus on your important job of writing. To focus and write may require an extraordinary move.

Taking leave from her job, one of my clients flew across the country to be near her advisor, courageously and brilliantly giving herself time and space to work on her dissertation.

It’s coming toward the end of the time she had planned to stay.  She says that staying an additional two weeks would be very helpful.  If she returns home, she risks being consumed by her regular job and the commute.  Regardless of what she decides, her initial choice to make a bold change in her life, even if for only a while, has made all the difference.  She broke out of a huge stall and is now writing.  She’s producing text.

To give you the chance to write, distance may be what you need—distance and difference.  Snow cover gives difference; miles give distance; Spring Break can do both.

How are you creating difference and distance for yourself?  How could that work for you and help you move forward with your dissertation?   I’d love to hear from you.

Be courageous and put distance between you and the distractions.  Don’t go back to the ordinary and usual until you have to.

Successful writing!


P.S. Boot Camp for writers is a great way to create a writing habit.  Would a strong writing habit be a change for the better for you?

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation and Academic Career Coach


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First there were 2 and now there are 5… 5 foxes living next to us on my cul-de-sac inside the Washington DC beltway.

We first glimpsed the parents in early morning or late at night.  During the winter, when new snow and a stillness of the day gave them claim to our street, we would watch from our windows, the two of them walking and playing in front of our house and up and down the street.

This spring three pups were added to their family.

Fearless and fun, they roam around our back yard and travel to our neighbor’s yard.  There they have dug holes and deepened indentations where trees once stood, making a work-and-play site.

In that large yard, they hone their inborn instincts, playfully and relentlessly.

They set boundaries:  They own their space, digging holes for themselves, enlarging holes to fit their needs both for protection and for living. 

They are self-sufficient.  They take charge of their environment, find their own food, stay on the alert, guard against intruders and danger, nurture their relationships.

They set schedules that work for them.  Most often we see them early in the morning and after dark, probably when they are most alert, least likely to be disturbed, and also when they are safest.

They combine work and play—their amazing leaps and speed, combined with their rough play as they wrestle with one another, must be great fun for them but is also their work, strengthening their skills.  Even as they play, they’re wary of danger and alert to the possibility of real or imagined prey.

They take strength by being with one another. They form alliances.

This is just one moment in their lives. They won’t be here forever.  The situation will change for them because the trees in the wooded lot where they hide away and sleep are marked by developers for removal.

Sometimes we forget what nature can say to us, or we just don’t take the time to watch and muse.  As I watched the foxes, here are some takeaways for writers of dissertations that occurred to me:

  • Set boundaries:  claim your space and dig in.
  • Be self-sufficient:  take charge of your work and don’t wait until you have gained permission, feedback, or pats on the back.
  • Be opportunistic:  Trust yourself and go after what you need.  Stay alert and dedicate time and energy to where you might succeed.  Take risks.
  • Combine work and play:  Feel the exhilaration that comes from doing what you do best in writing.  Enjoy the moment. 
  • Make alliances: Find a writing partner or a someone to work with.  Make connections. Stay connected.
  • Don’t wait for perfect:  Go with what’s available and get the job done.  

And remember how you have been preparing for this task since you were, well, a pup.

Best to you,


Nancy Whichard, PhD, PCC
Dissertation Coach
nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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