Posts Tagged ‘fear of success’

You’ve been working hard on your dissertation this summer, honing your process, becoming surer of your argument, and thinking about the end. And the end is definitely in sight.  Yay!!

A couple of clients who have just gone through an unexpectedly bumpy patch right toward the end of their work made a suggestion to pass on.  They said, “Keep your eye out for complacency!”

When your work seems to be coming together, complacency can creep in, sabotaging your momentum. 

The complacency gremlin will encourage you to take a couple of mornings off or to start later than usual.  It will egg you on, pushing you to open a couple of emails and then a couple more. 

You’ve worked hard to put structures in place to support you.  Don’t let them slip and slide and let you down.

3 Strategies to Block Complacency:

1.  Most writers eventually come around to thinking that mornings are when they do their best writing.  If you have found success during the morning hours, be absolutely faithful to your morning routine now.  No excuses.

2.  Do not open your email before you begin to work—go to your document, open it, and jump in.  Don’t read even one email before you’ve put in your time writing.

3.  Watch for the urge to take a break when the writing is going well.  When you’re feeling in flow or starting to feel productive, don’t take a break.  See complacency for what it is—self-sabotage.  And dissertation sabotage can happen at any time.
One client says that when she starts to feel complacency creeping in, she tells herself, “Don’t even think about breaking.  Work for an hour, and then we’ll talk about it.”

Sounds like that might work! Be vigilant; be tough.

Have you felt complacency sneaking up on you?  I’d love to hear how you’ve handled it.

I also hope you’ve subscribed to my newsletter.  If you haven’t already done so, sign up for Smart Tips at www.nancywhichard.com.

Until next time,


Nancy Whichard, PhD, PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach

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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.


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When my writing starts to come together, I am relieved, but I’m also anxious about what comes next.

My first response to those feelings of relief and a fluttering of anxiety almost always is to flee and to eat.

Be grateful if you don’t feel these urges.  Or pat yourself on the back if once you would have responded similarly, but you’ve now put in place better ways of coping.

It’s an ongoing struggle for me to hold at bay the twin urges for flight and food at such moments.

Here are 3 strategies I’ve found to be helpful for those times:

1) When I feel that flutter of anxiety, I take a slight flight.  If my Lizard Brain thinks that I’m in danger, as ridiculous as the idea that following through or achieving success might be dangerous, then it wants me to flee.  If I let my body have just a slight flight, I can ease my nerves.  You’d be surprised at the ease that can be gained from merely walking to the window. The resident Lizard Brain is soothed.

2)  While taking that slight flight, I also count to 19.  Counting slows my breathing and focuses me.  Plus, the counting reinforces the notion that this is only a slight flight, and I’ll return to my chair when I reach 19.

3) Since the urge to eat is just a variation on the urge to flee, I also delay eating by taking the slight flight and counting to 19. Putting off eating as an antidote to anxiety is crucial, as is the need to keep cookies and Fun-Sized Snickers and other such stuff out of my sight (and out of my house).

It’s important for me not to use food to dull the anxiety.

Escaping or eating to feel better temporarily is self-sabotaging.  It gets me off track.  It’s a time thief.  And it makes me question my abilities and strengths.

What my writing requires from me is perseverance, sticking with it when it’s going well or not so well.  And it’s my job to call on my character strengths and to leverage those strengths to make it easier to persevere.

What does it take to be successful in my writing?
Perseverance, discipline, determination, mental toughness, and, most of all, courage.

How about you? What will it take for you to be successful?

I’d love to hear from you about this.

Until next time!


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

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Feeling anxious is no picnic, but it’s pretty common among writers.

When I’ve been struggling with my writing and finally feel that the fog may be starting to lift, here’s what comes up for me:

1. I feel relief.
2. And I feel anxious.

I feel relief because once again I’ve made it through.  And getting to that point is never a certainty.  So I start to breathe more easily, and I feel my shoulders relax.

And on the heels of that relief, I sense that feeling which almost always accompanies relief—a fluttering of anxiety.

The anxiety has to do with following through.  What do I do next?  How will it play out?  This is bound to be hard.  It would be so nice to stop now.

Following through is a problem for many of us.  Once we start to make sense of an idea, there’s an urge to knock off.

For some, it may be complacency. For me, I think it’s more about escape.

A client told me today that he feels in his comfort zone when he’s between the fear of success and the fear of failure. When he starts to make progress, he’s ready to back off.

By resisting whatever comes next and avoiding anxiety at all costs, we sabotage ourselves.  Instead of saying “Hurrah! I think it’s coming together,” and then digging in to see what’s ahead, we give in to the urge to seek the nearest exit.

By darting away, we’re losing the advantage we’ve created for ourselves.

And recapturing that moment takes effort.  Heck, even returning to the writing takes effort.  All that to avoid a bit of anxiety.

Feel the anxiety, and write past it.

Here’s to more writing for all of us!


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

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