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Archive for the ‘positive psychology’ Category

Dr. Tracy Steen has been editor of the All But Dissertation Survival Guide for several years, but has decided to step down. She is an eminent, ground-breaking positive psychologist with a psychotherapy practice, and she is also a coach.

As editor of the ABDSG, she applied her knowledge and experience as a positive psychologist to the subject of writing.

Her interesting and engaging editor’s notes framed and added pizzazz to each contributor’s article.

Before Dr. Steen became the editor of the ABD Survival Guide, she wrote an article that I think might be of particular help to you. It is called “Finding Flow in Writing.” The article ends with a summary of what you can do to move into flow while you are writing your dissertation. Dr. Steen writes,

a. For flow to occur, the task must be just within your abilities. So whatever part of your dissertation you are working on, find your challenge.

b. Flow occurs when you are engaged, not anxious. Do what you can to reduce your anxiety before sitting down to write. Go for a run, listen to relaxing music, put your worries on paper and then analyze them with a critical eye. Do whatever works best for you. Several past issues of the “ABD Survival Guide” offer excellent suggestions for dealing with anxiety.

c. You need to allow some time to get into what you are doing for flow to occur. Of course it is smart to rest and take breaks while writing. Just don’t take them at five minute intervals.

d. Flow happens when you are completely engaged in the task at hand. Don’t distract yourself by thinking about whether or not you are in flow. Just write!

We’ll miss her articles and editor’s notes, but do yourself a favor and go to the ABDSG website where you can look through the archives for articles by Dr. Steen.  You should also look for her editor’s note in each issue of the ABD Survival Guide from January 2006 forward. 

Best to you,

Nancy

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

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When you’re writing a dissertation, it’s likely that you’ll feel isolated.  Many dissertators say how much they long to be back at the university where they could talk with their peers about their ideas and their writing.

Too often the isolated dissertation writer feels less than excited about the writing.  And productivity suffers.

Talking with others helps you to bounce back when you’re feeling down.  But sometimes you think that only others who are in the same situation can empathize with you.

You may avoid the people with whom you could have contact because you think they wouldn’t want to talk about your writing.  You may be right.  But you may have other things in common.

  • Someone with whom you enjoy sharing lunch or talking to about the kids or the football game or the  3K race coming up Sunday
  •  Someone with whom you can compare prices and benefits of one gym over another
  •  Someone to whom you can reveal your less-than-complete knowledge or understanding of a product or the way your car works

Positive Psychology researchers contend that one of the most important ways to improve one’s job satisfaction is by having a friend at work.  Similarly, when you’re struggling with a dissertation, having a friend to chat with can give you a boost and improve the way you look at your job as a writer.

Having a friend helps to bring out the best in you. If you feel that someone recognizes your worth as a person and also shares some of your values, you will probably feel more confident in exercising your strengths and talents.

The more you can use your strengths, the more likely it is that you will feel more resilient about your writing.  And resilience brings greater productivity.

When you’re feeling alone or perhaps that the world is against you, look around for a friend.  Aristotle said, “The antidote for 50 enemies is one friend.”

I’m curious whether you think it would be worth your time to cultivate a friend.  I’d love to hear what you think.
Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC

Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach

www.smarttipsforwriters.com

http://www.dissertationbootcamp.net

http://www.nancywhichard.com

nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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If your goal is to finish your dissertation during this new year of 2010, be bold, be optimistic, and persevere.

Positive psychologists for several years have said that the strengths most important for happiness are curiosity, optimism, gratitude, zest, and loving and being loved.

My experience as a dissertation and writing coach tells me that perseverance is a predictor of successful writing. Even if interest in a topic wanes or times get hard, perseverance, mental toughness, or grit keeps the writer writing. 

Frequently ABD’s resist a self-assessment that suggests they have perseverance as a strength.  But there are ways to build perseverance.

Leveraging the strengths of boldness and optimism can help ABD’s acknowledge or access their strength of perseverance.

If ABD’s or other writers recognize situations where they have been bold in the past and identify current opportunities for boldness, they can also generate optimism.  With boldness and optimism, ABD’s can refute the self-sabotaging belief that they lack the necessary perseverance to finish the dissertation process.  

Adding boldness and optimism to perseverance is a wining combination.  These strengths hold the answer to the question: What do I need in order to be a successful writer?

Where can you be audacious and bold? 

• Start with your writing goals – both long-term for 2010 and short-term for this week and this month.  Commit to a reasonable goal for the next two weeks.
• Draw boundaries to protect your writing time.
• Revitalize your relationship with your advisor.
• Invest in a dissertation coach.

Where will you move out of your comfort zone for the sake of your writing?

All good wishes for a very productive and happy 2010,

Nancy

Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
nancy@nancywhichard.com
www.nancywhichard.com
www.dissertationbootcamp.net
www.usingyourstrengths.com

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When I’ve asked a dissertation coaching client if he or she would look at a problem through a lens of gratitude, I am first of all surprised at what I had just blurted out and I wonder what the client will say.  Secondly, I’m surprised at how almost immediately the client slows down, lets go of some anxiety around the writing process or the relationship with his or her advisor, and becomes thoughtful. 

The answer almost always reveals that the writer is considering a new way of looking at a problem.

Showing gratitude is a character strength that could take a bit more practice.  Our busy, stressful lives may give us little time or inclination to acknowledge the huge role others play in our lives. 

As we in the U.S. celebrate Thanksgiving this week, consider thanking someone who has been of help to you.

As for me, I thank you for reading my blog.  It’s good to know that you’re here.

With gratitude,

Nancy
Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
nancy@nancywhichard.com
www.nancywhichard.com
website: www.nancywhichard.com
blog: www.successfulwritingtips.com

 

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Georgetown University Professor Deborah Tannen writes about the supportive relationship she has with her two sisters.

In the Sept. 6, 2009 Washington Post, Tannen says that she sends them her manuscripts for their comments and once a book is published, she waits eagerly, yet nervously, for their response.

After reading a draft and sending Deborah Tannen some comments, one of her sisters also followed up with an email saying, “Stop reading this, and go back to writing your book.  Love, Mim.”

Professor Tannen says that she has posted that email over her writing desk, and the words continue to support her and help keep her on task.
 
I’ve always missed having a sister, but I know there are many other ways to have that same kind of support.

A client told me recently how anxious she had been about sending a draft to her advisor, but the kind, encouraging words as well as the constructive comments that accompanied the draft when the advisor sent it back buoyed my client and gave her the will to jump back into her work.

My dissertation coaching convinces me of the support writers need.  Often, in coaching I ask my clients to talk through what they are going to write when they get off of the phone with me.  Rehearsing the writing clarifies my client’s ideas and also engages my clients, reminding them of why they wanted to write about this particular idea and reassuring them that they do know what they will do next.

Frequently, clients also give me something in return.  After asking questions that helped a client become enthusiastic and self-confident about the immediate task ahead, she said, “I’m so glad I work with you.” 

I may not have a sister who sends me emails that I can post on my coaching table, but I did write down that comment and I put it where I can see it every day.

A blog post entitled “Instant mood lifter:  thank someone for a job well done”  (June 24, 2009) by the very successful Escape from Cubicle Nation blogger Pamela Slim revealed that she was moved to tears by receiving kind, thoughtful praise via a tweet.  Just goes to show you, doesn’t it? 

She said, “Kindness is not a little thing.  It is not fluffy, unicorn and rainbow coachy stuff.  Kindness heals.”

Have you told anyone recently that you appreciate their help or sent someone hard at work on a big and stressful project a supportive email?  It’s a wonderful thing to do. 

Have a great week.

All good wishes,

Nancy

P.S. I appreciate your reading my blog.  It means a great deal to me.  And I always appreciate your comments.

P.S.S.  Smart Tips for Writers, my online newsletter, goes out this week.  Register today at my website:  www.nancywhichard.com.

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

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Does the end of August mean the start of a school year for you? Are you teaching this coming term?

My clients who are returning to teaching this fall are determined to learn from their past mistakes and also to build on their successes.  It’s great to hear their optimism as they plan for a productive year.  And they generously have shared some tips on how they plan to reach their writing goals this term:

1. Enjoy reconnecting with your colleagues and community.
 Have you been out of touch with other instructors and professors this summer? Have you felt isolated?  The first-of-the-year welcome-back meeting doesn’t have to be hokey.  Enjoy the spirit and settle in.

2. Feel grateful to be teaching.
Every fall, there are changes.  However, this year in particular, if you’re an adjunct or an instructor, you know that some of your colleagues from past years won’t have been given classes. If you are teaching this fall, you’re lucky. If you’re on the job market for a tenure-track job for next year, you are well situated. Be grateful.  It’s easier to get a job when you have a job. 

3. Use the structure of the school year to bolster your writing
Rather than going into the fall term thinking that you won’t get any writing done, practice what you preach.  What do you tell your students or advisees about getting work done?  Look at the schedule as a good student does. When do you have a free hour?  What are you doing with that hour?  When are you at your best?  Carve out a writing morning or afternoon and then make yourself unavailable to uninvited drop-ins and out of reach by phone or email. Put in your calendar the times for your writing sessions.

4. Let teaching feed your writing.
Teaching is compelling and consuming, with its daily demands and its enormous rewards of working with students. But it can also feed your writing. If you can teach your dissertation, do it.  If you can’t, watch for the unexpected connections that your students (and your brain) hand you while you are teaching.  Keep an upbeat, positive attitude, viewing your classes through a lens of gratitude for what they can do to further your writing. 

5. Say no to additional speaking requests and no to other optional opportunities
Whether you are working on a book or a dissertation, you have to make writing a priority.  Other opportunities will arise, and you will think that they are too good to decline, but how important can they be if they eat up your writing time?
My clients say that you’ll be asked to speak and sometimes those requests will be very tempting.  However, think about how much time it takes to prepare for a talk or lecture and possibly to travel. Think how much energy goes into the delivery, and then think how much recovery time is involved.  The adrenalin stops pumping and you start second-guessing how well the talk actually went and what you could have done better. 

Finish your dissertation or your book. Insure that you’ll be at the departmental meeting of your choice next year, feeling happy and relieved to have the current writing project over and done with. 

This term, let writing be top dog. 

Best wishes,

Nancy

P.S. Email me—what else do you need to do to make your writing your top priority?

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

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What are the possibilities if you wrote under the assumption that you could not fail?

Some blogs tell you in bulleted points what’s best for you if you want to finish your dissertation.

Other blogs share golden nuggets in more reflective ways.

Yesterday a colleague mentioned an incident in the news that sounded to me as if it came straight out of John Irving’s novel The World According to Garp.

Googling John Irving to see what he’s been up to, I came across a post by blogger Jessica Liese.  After attending a reading by writer John Irving, she wrote that John Irving wears his celebrity as a rock star.

Irving admitted to only an occasional bit of writer’s block and an infrequent sense of  indecision at which he would  find himself  “hopping from project to project.”

Jessica Liese was enthralled by the enormity of Irving’s sense of self.  She said that Irving has “an ego [that] is palpable.”

That sense of greatness must make him sure he will never fail.

The blogger’s advise to herself is applicable to writers of dissertations.  She says, “I think maybe operating under the notion that I’m awesome is the only way I’ll ever accomplish the huge task of finishing a novel.”

What could you achieve if you assumed you could not fail?

Give it a try!  Shut down your internal critic. Tell ole Lizard Brain to lumber off, and then pump up your ego and write.

50 Useful Blogs for Writers

Do you have a couple of blogs that you read religiously?  What blogs come to you as a feed?  I have a few, some on writing and others that are wisely applicable beyond their subject matter.

Have you come across “50 Useful Blogs for Writers“?  I was surprised to receive an email from the blog’s writer, Randy L Ray, saying that he had included my blog, Successful Writing Tips, in his list of “50 Useful Blogs for Writers.”

Are there some blogs missing from the list that you think should be included?  I would love to hear which blogs hold value for you.

Until next time,

Nancy

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

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By now, you’ve probably heard that Randy Pausch died Friday at the age of 47.

Though known in the field of computer science, he had gained world-wide fame from his wise, clever “last lecture” at Carnegie Mellon in the fall of 2007.  At that time he had been told that because of aggressive pancreatic cancer, he had only months to live.

I remember being moved six months ago when I first listened to a recording of the lecture, but as I listened to it again today, I was struck by the character strengths he exhibited and also by what a model he was and is for academics– professors and students.

His work in virtual reality gave him the opportunity to use what must have been his signature strengths: creativity, love of learning, curiosity, and humor and playfulness.  And his funny and insightful lecture showed him using those strengths to the fullest.

As important as the strengths of creativity and curiosity are, he also valued and used his strengths of perseverance, loyalty, gratitude, and love.  He wanted his students and his children to remember how hard he worked and how he persevered to try new things.

He preached loyalty, and his own life was exemplary in loyalty, gratitude, and love. His family mattered, his students mattered, and his friends and colleagues mattered.

He had learned from a football coach that the way to show interest and caring is to stick with a student, giving constructive criticism and advice, and asking the student to work harder.  He was grateful for those who had helped him as a youth and as a junior academic, and that gratitude gave him the desire to be loyal and generous with help to his own students.

Chris Peterson, who first brought Randy Pausch’s lecture to many people, recently wrote in his blog “The Good Life” that Pausch gave us a compelling example of an actual person who lived life well: “I watched his last lecture wearing many hats. As a teacher, I was inspired. As a lecturer, I was filled with admiration. As a human being, I was proud.”

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Over the past week two different people, both of whom are approximately 32, seemed surprised that I had heard of the singing group Coldplay.

The frenetic marketing of Coldplay’s new record would make it hard not to have heard of them.  To dig up a little more on Coldplay, I turned to YouTube. I found several of their pieces that I liked,
and I also liked some of what I heard in an interview with Coldplay’s Chris Martin.

Hearing Chris Martin talk about the hours he works and his creative process also led me to think of other ways people generate ideas for their writing.

1.  Seat Time – Put the Hours in
In an interview on the Charlie Rose show, Chris Martin was surprised to be asked where he gets his ideas for the words and music of his songs.  Martin confessed that he, like most composers and writers, doesn’t know where his ideas for music and lyrics come from.  He said, “I just sit and play and play and play.   I never know where a song comes from.  It’s time.   I just put the hours in.”

2.  Structure Fairy
Sometimes even if you put in the hours in the style of Chris Martin, you still may not feel in flow or feel that you have a good idea for your writing.

A couple of people have told me that they put in the hours– they both work and work, but all too frequently they stall.  They come to an impasse. However, after sleeping on the problem and awakening the next morning, the solution frequently comes to them.

One coach friend is a brilliant writer but nevertheless struggles to make her writing brilliant.  Since problems with structuring her ideas frequently bring her writing to a halt, she is delighted at the “arrival” of a solution.  She says that after a long work session that has not yielded her what she wants, she leaves the work until morning.  While she sleeps, oftentimes the Structure Fairy visits her.

I don’t argue with fairies or leprechauns, but I humbly suggest that our wonderful brains can give us marvelous gifts when we move away from a trying project and use a different part of our brain or if we exercise or if we just get a good night’s sleep.

3.  Behavioral Economics
What if you almost or actually hate the project you’re working on, and there are no fairies coming to your rescue?

A client told me that a friend of his once put a large sum of money on a roommate’s desk and said, “If I don’t finish this chapter of my thesis, this money is yours.”

My client also said that if you are unable to meet your goal, established websites are in business to help you threaten yourself.  You can give someone $1,000 at one of these websites, and if you don’t meet your goal, the company gets to keep the money.

I’ve heard a similar kind of pact, in which you give a significant amount of money to someone, and tell that person your announced goal—a specific, measureable goal– and when you will reach it. If you reach your goal, the money goes to the political candidate of your choice.  If you don’t reach your goal… yep, you got it… the money goes to the opposing candidate.  I first heard of this idea years ago, and the threat was that if you didn’t meet your goal, your money would to go to Jesse Helms, now deceased, but who at one time was a very conservative senator.

Every day we have a narrative, and every day we talk our selves through our day.  But sometimes talk doesn’t work, and we have to take an extreme action to jolt ourselves into action.

Fear of failure can scare most of us into action; however, if you promise yourself a reward for achieving a goal or if you make an effort to be optimistic and work to feel positive about reaching your goal, you are more likely to be successful.

Hoping you’re putting in the hours—

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

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One of the top 5 strengths that many of my dissertation clients share is curiosity.

It’s not surprising that motivated, high-achieving academic people would have curiosity as a top strength.

And as you write a dissertation and live your life, the benefits of curiosity are many. For one thing, curiosity is among those specific strengths which are most likely to make for a happy life.  Positive Psychologist Chris Peterson has found that along with gratitude, zest, hope, and capacity to love, curiosity is one of the strengths most closely related to greatest life satisfaction.  It has also been found in at least one study to be associated with a long life.

So what else can this wonderful strength do for you?

Assuaging your curiosity has its own built-in reward.  It is fulfilling.

Another way that curiosity rewards you for the effort is that the resulting learning usually produces more curiosity.  Knowing that there is more to learn or that you don’t know everything yet can induce greater curiosity.

If curiosity is one of your top strengths and you are using that strength, you know how excited and engaged you are when you are satisfying your curiosity or in a state of curiosity.  One of my clients used the word “joy” to describe the feeling when he is in this state.

What would you be willing to do to experience joy as you’re researching or writing your dissertation?

How are you feeling about your dissertation?

I’d love to hear from you.  I’d also love to send you my Smart Tips e-newsletter.  Go to my website at www.nancywhichard.com to sign up.

Until next time, unleash your curiosity!

Happy writing,

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

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