Is it possible for you to experience happiness when you’re writing a dissertation?
Do you say that to complete your dissertation successfully, you have to smack yourself around the head and shoulders to make yourself keep going? And you can’t think about feeling joy in the process? Tal Ben-Shahar, author of the book Happier, would disagree.
He says that you can be both successful and happy. ”Peak performance and peak experience go hand in hand,” he says.
One of my clients speaks of how she gets a rush of joy or happiness when she finishes one of her training sessions for running a marathon.
When I asked how that might also be possible with a writing session, she said that she has tried to make a connection between the activities, but she cannot.
But as she talked, her training reminded me of a successful writing session.
She says that she has an overall plan as she trains—the number of miles she will run any one day are pre-determined. In addition, she has a machine, as she calls it, that she sets for the number of miles she’ll run that day, and it counts down.
She chooses her music in advance, knowing what will help her over humps.
Even with this planning, she’ll sometimes want to quit, but she never sees quitting as an option. She just makes a small adjustment, like slowing down and changing her pace for a bit. That small adjustment relieves the pressure and also distracts her.
At the end of a session, she has a rush and a feeling of joy from staying with her plan and meeting the challenge.
As she talked, she admitted that when she’s actually accomplished something in her dissertation, she experiences a similar surge of joy.
My client didn’t use the phrases “hitting her stride” or “getting a second wind,” but I find those words from running as apt metaphors for my writing. It often takes a while for me to find what I want to say or for me to feel at one with my writing, but if I keep trying, I do hit my stride and I do feel I’ve experienced a second wind.
To have flow or joy in writing, that state in your writing process when you are both challenged and engaged, as in running, you have to stick with it and meet that day’s goal. It’s likely that you will have to make slight adjustments during the writing session in order to get past humps. The joy of mastering yourself as well as your writing is a happiness that’s worth the effort.
To see a video clip of Tal Ben-Shahar, author of Happier, on “The Daily Show” go to
http://www.comedycentral.com/shows/the_daily_show/videos/most_recent/index.jhtml and click on the box for the Tal Ben-Shahar video.