Posts Tagged ‘using strengths’

New Year’s Day is one of the few holidays that much of the world celebrates. Today, on New Year’s Day, we celebrate the possibility of starting afresh and of having second chances, but more even than that, we honor structure and accountability.

New Year’s Day not only structures our lives into one year after another, but it also divides each  year into twelve months and beyond, easing the work of record-keeping and accountability into manageable chunks. Around the world, most government offices and banks are closed today on our jointly celebrated New Year’s Day. It may be the only day when all of the world’s financial markets are closed.

To emphasize that today is the day to step back for a broader perspective on key aspects of our lives, we use business metaphors to show our belief that because of today, change will be easier to accomplish. We say that we can now close the books on some task or challenge, or, if need be, we may even give ourselves permission to wipe the slate clean and start anew.

Now if you were, say, a fox, one day would be like all the others, but since you’re not a fox, you are probably finding a moment or two today to reflect on how your year has gone. You may also be giving some thought to what you can do differently for a better outcome. And since you are knowingly or unknowingly celebrating the ritual of planning, as well as that of record keeping, perhaps you are considering what will be your first step in making 2014 a better year than 2013.

It’s hard to miss that wonderful spirit of hope that’s in the air today. We watched the fireworks in Dubai and in Sydney and in London and in New York.  In spite of everything this year, hope is still possible. In our individual lives, we get another chance to do and be better in big and small ways. 

English: New Year fireworks at the London Eye

The fireworks can’t be just smoke and noise, but rather a celebration of the individual strengths that we each call upon to help us be accountable in moving day by day toward accomplishing what we hold important.

Today is the chance for a fresh start, the opportunity to do better, to show up and work.

After you put writing high on your list of priorities for this New Year, then what comes next?  What’s the plan?

Make 2014 your year.

Happy New Year!


Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC

Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach


nancy @ nancywhichard.com




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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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When you’re going nowhere fast on your dissertation, it’s time to try something different.

In a blog post a few months ago I asked what bold action you would take for the sake of your writing (“What Bold Step Would You Take to Gain 2 Good Writing Days?”).  In today’s blog I want to share with you the story of someone bravely stepping out of the things-as-usual routine that had left her mired, stuck, and exhausted.

For the past several months she had been feeling awful because she wasn’t meeting deadlines and she wasn’t able to move forward on her dissertation.

It was time to try something different.

She took a week off, found a good deal on a hotel about an hour away from her house, and packed up her dissertation notes and drafts. She had no expectation that during the week of vacation she would do any work on the diss. If she made progress, that would be lovely, but she was not going to consider herself a failure if she did nothing.

Once in her hotel room, she spread her dissertation materials all over the entire room.  She sorted things into piles.  She could touch everything, look at it, and think about it.

Unlike her feelings about her diss over the past few months, she wasn’t anxious; she didn’t feel sick to her stomach.

As she told me later, she said to her diss spread over every surface in the room, “I’m just going to look at you.  You’re completely benign.  You’re not going to ruin my vacation.  I’m just going to be present with you.”

When she got up the next day, she was curious about the different parts of her diss spread around the room, and she began reading, and making notes. She felt as if she were involved in an exciting little adventure

She stayed in the hotel for a few days.   Each morning, she felt very positive and looked forward to the day, wondering what she would accomplish.  She worked through the day, not even thinking about food until evening.

At week’s end, when it was time to pack everything up and leave, she was sad, but the experience had helped her to look more clearly at her project.

It is a big project, she said, but it was all sitting there in that room.  There was nothing overwhelming about it.

The exciting adventure had helped her reframe her perspective.  Today she is choosing to view the diss as a manageable situation.  Her plan is to keep her vacation vibe going and to bring it into her space for writing in her house.

How about you? What brave investment are you willing to make for the sake of your writing?

I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time!


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

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