Posts Tagged ‘setbacks’

A caller asked if I had ever coached someone who had become stalled on a house renovation project.  My answer was no, but what came to mind was how similar all big projects are.   How difficult it can be to keep going.  How crushing the project can become. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Let’s say it was you who started the renovation project. You envisioned the changes you were going to make. You put together a plan to accomplish those changes.

And you took on this project in part because of what you wanted to prove to yourself.

Following through on such a commitment takes courage and resilience.  I’ve seen someone with these qualities accomplish an amazing home renovation project.  He almost single-handedly built a large room onto their house. He’s an accomplished man, but he’s not a carpenter, nor is he an architect. Nevertheless, over many months, the structure came together, and it’s a lovely addition to their home.

Completing such a project must be more than satisfying.  I would guess that the end feeling would be relief coupled with enormous joy in the accomplishment.

But if the renovation project, just like a stalled dissertation, is yours and if you’re stuck, re-starting takes courage and a willingness to look with new eyes at what this project will require from you.

Here are the five steps to help you restart:

1.  You need a plan, the more detailed the better.  A plan, with specific details, will guide you, and it will also be a way of keeping track.  It’s easier to keep going when you can check off items on a list or a plan.

2.  Make realistic, manageable goals each and every day or work session. Short-term goals and next steps keep you focused on the present.  And that’s where you have to work.

3.  When you accomplish the day’s goal, stop for the day—it may be counterproductive to push yourself beyond a reasonable stopping point.  Stopping when you’ve reached a realistic goal gives you the strength to come back another day.  If you go beyond the realistic goal, you start to risk burn-out or exhaustion. Exhaustion makes it much harder to return to the project.

4.  After you quit for the day, acknowledge yourself for the courage it took to come back to the project yet another day and to do what you said you were going to do.  Big Gold Stars!

5.  Draw on that feeling of renewed courage and the surge of joy to start your work another day.

Embarrassment, discouragement, and shame are likely to accompany getting stuck on something as open and visible as a home renovation or building project. Having one’s failure on public display can be brutal.  But the dread of being found out when a failure isn’t so visible, as in being stalled on a dissertation, is also brutally hard to bear. 

Life’s too short to live in dread or shame. You have a choice. I say get started on that detailed plan, plot your first step, and then take it.

Are you stalled on a dissertation, or have you been stalled?  What is your next step?  I’d love to hear from you.

All good wishes to you,


Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC

Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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Are you negotiating some of life’s bits and pieces today in order to write your dissertation?   Has something gotten to you today or this week?  It happens.

We’re knocked about every day, but we keep going, even with pressures about fitting everything into our schedules, uncertainties about jobs, and, if you commute to work, traffic.  Usually, we’re resilient, even intrepid, as we go about our jobs, taking care of our family, and, yes, writing… writing dissertations, writing articles, writing books.

But occasionally, we run into overwhelm, too many promises broken, too little support, and our hope and resilience are tested.

Yesterday and today I’ve been mad as a hornet about something that’s not very important in the great scheme of things.  I was to have some work done where I live, but the workers showed up with the wrong materials to do the job, resulting in a the need to reschedule and the strong possibility that lots of additional people would be inconvenienced.

It wasn’t the workers’ fault.  The faceless scheduler at the company carelessly assigned a two-person crew to a four-person job and completely ignored both the materials needed and the sequence of the steps in the job itself.

What kind of a Mickey Mouse company is this? I asked.  I stomped about and fretted for quite a while.  But it doesn’t serve me to blow up about a dysfunctional company. 

How do I let go of the drama and not get stuck here?  What strengths do I call on?

If you, too, are occasionally knocked off your stride, what do you do to help you let go of the madness and move back toward your center? What do you do to quickly regain your footing in order to focus on your work and to be productive?

I’d love to hear from you.

All the best,


P.S.  What is your goal over the next couple of weeks and what steps are you taking to keep focused on that goal?  Do you have some tips for the rest of us or some questions? 

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

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As you write your dissertation, have you wondered how you are going to make it through those times when you feel as if you’ve been punched in the stomach? those low points that come after devastating setbacks?

Do you ever say to yourself, “Why does this have to be so hard?”

Most of us have at one time or another.

When you are knocked off your feet by an unexpectedly critical evaluation of a proposal or a chapter, what do you do?

As I think this morning about what happened in the New Hampshire Presidential Primary, I’m struck with how winning for two politicians came on the heels of huge setbacks.

John McCain’s presidential fortunes at one time had been so low that he had been all but written off.

And who gave Hillary Clinton any chance at all of winning in New Hampshire after being beaten so badly in Iowa?

It has to take a deep reservoir of courage and trust– trusting in one’s self even when you feel incredibly wounded–to come back from huge political defeats.

The same can be said for rebounding from a setback in the dissertation process.

Even though you’ve had a severe setback, you still have choices.

And to find the will to make a choice, you go to your own deep pool of resources.

Deciding that you are going to do whatever you can to get back on your feet, making a choice, and taking action can in the long-run give you strength that you would be hard-put to find in any other way.

That new strength becomes part of your inner resources.

It will be there for you to call on when you hit another snag in your life or career or writing.

I’d love to hear what your experiences have been.  How have you dealt with setbacks?

Until next time,


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

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