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,
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