(c) Gaye Wilson 2014

Image courtesy of http://www.freeimages.com/profile/garwee

Image courtesy of http://www.freeimages.com/profile/garwee

I’ve just come back from the Third Australasian Egyptology Conference, a three-day conference for scholars in the Australasian region to discuss recent research in Egyptology.

I met another independent scholar there, Elizabeth Bettles, and asked her how she keeps up her motivation to do Egyptology, given that she has no academic position.

Her answer was simple: it gives me a buzz.

For Elizabeth, whilst the work in the library is a necessary part of being an Egyptologist, or any scholar for that matter, it’s working in the field – excavating in the Dakhleh Oasis is her current dig project – that gives her the buzz to keep going, and to keep publishing in a discipline she loves.

It can be a lonely thing, being an independent scholar. You have to use your own funds to buy reference materials and equipment, to travel, to attend conferences and to do all the other things that an academic in a university or museum has access to as a matter of course. You have to motivate yourself in the midst of your day-to-day life, and in most cases, unrelated paid work, to go the extra mile and actually do research. You don’t have the regular contact with other minds that people working in your discipline have, and therefore your life tends to lack intellectual stimulation.

It’s HARD to work on your own. That’s why I am a dissertation coach. Working on your own requires intense concentration and fierce determination to succeed. It requires motivation, both external (going to excavations and conferences) and internal (doing the stuff that has to be done but is not quite as exciting).

In order to work on your own, in any endeavour, you need the following:

  • Motivation – a reason to be doing this.
  • A plan – a schedule of what you want to achieve, when you want to achieve it, and how it will be achieved.
  • Support – interaction with other people who will inspire and encourage you.
  • A routine – actually making the time to do the work.

Find your buzz. That will make the motivation so much easier.

So what’s your buzz? What motivates you, and how can you get your motivation back when it wavers?

2014© Gaye Wilson 2013

Well, a new year is closing in fast.

What did you accomplish in 2013? Was it all you wanted it to be? Was it a disappointment? Was it awful or awesome?

Did you plan the year, or have New Year’s Resolutions, or did you just let it happen?

So how did that work out for you?

New Year’s Resolutions: good or bad?

There is a lot of literature on the internet about New Year’s Resolutions – how to make them, how to keep them, how many people break them. You can spend lots of money on the newest, latest ways of keeping your resolutions, but realistically, if you’ve failed to keep them in the past, you will likely fail to keep them in the future.

So what to do?

Every year, I make a list of actions I want to accomplish in the next 365 days. (I take a day off in leap years!) I type them up so that they look pretty or impressive or inviting, then print them out and stick them on my refrigerator so that I see them every day.

The fun part comes when I can ceremoniously, or joyously, or relievedly cross them off the list and write the date accomplished.

If I’m really organized, I replace last year’s list with the new year’s list. Sometimes I don’t get to do that – a friend came over last week and noticed my 2012 list on the fridge with some items still waiting to be crossed off. I could put them in the 2014 list, but then I wouldn’t get as much satisfaction when I cross them off if I think they are this year’s list.

Or I could look at 2012′s list and decide if the undone actions are still amongst my priorities. If not, I need to make the deliberate choice to let them go.

Note that the list is of actions, not resolutions. A resolution is not action. Action is action. Perhaps this is why New Year Resolutions don’t work. Perhaps it’s because they are only resolutions, with no actions attached.

Maybe.

If the list you look at every single day is a list of actions, how much easier is that to accomplish than a vague-sounding resolution?

This year I will lose weight.

This year I will save money.

This year I will change jobs.

This year I will go to the gym more.

Those aren’t actions. They are not even goals. They are a list of things you think you should do. They are the top level of decision making. What you need is a whole plan, a strategy, to accomplish all of those items on the list.

The hierarchy goes something like this:

  • Resolution – This year I will lose weight.
  • Goal – By December 31 I will weigh xxx pounds/kilos.
  • Strategy – Four-pronged attack on the goal: mindset, diet, exercise, accountability.
  • Take action

Know your what. Know your why. Know your how. Know your when.

2014

So what will make your 2014 better than your 2013?

What do you need in the next 12 months to make you happier, healthier, wealthier, more fulfilled than you were in 2013?

What do you need to do to make 2014 awesome?

May 2014 be all that you need it to be.

nevergiveup© Gaye Wilson 2013

Well, I finished my Russian diploma in 2011, and started a new language: Italian. As with the Russian, I am learning it by distance, which means that I do not attend classes.

The way distance learning works is that you log onto a web site where all the materials are, including recordings of the lectures. It is up to the student to listen to all the recordings, do all the reading, and submit all the assignments on time.

Is this hard? Yes it is, especially when you are learning a foreign language.

The first year of Italian gave me a good grounding in the language, approximately equal to matriculation level from high school. This year, Intermediate Italian, is proving to be harder. Why? Because the lectures are given in Italian!

At the end of my first year of Italian, I found that I could read simple Italian fairly well, or at least could get the gist of it. But I could not speak it, write it easily, or understand anything said at normal speed.

Hmm. Some more work needed.

As I said, this year the lectures are conducted in Italian. That will help with understanding the spoken word. I am finding that it’s not as hard as I expected, and I suspect that I have one advantage over the people who actually attend the classes: I can stop the audio and look up words or make notes, and not miss anything.

So I am pleased that this year will address one of my issues with the language: the spoken word.

One of the other major problems I have with this project is that I cannot write Italian very well. Or at least, not without spending ages looking up words, conjugations and grammatical structures.

This, too, is being addressed this year. This semester we are buddied up with other students and are required to conduct email conversations with them throughout the semester, with a minimum total of 200 words.

Now, I have a problem with this. Yes, it’s giving me practice in writing Italian. But no, it’s not giving me feedback from a native speaker and I don’t get my mistakes corrected. I have asked my buddy to correct my Italian if she sees mistakes, and I do the same for her.

But my BIGGEST problem with this course is the other distance students. They are whingers. They complain that it’s all too hard. My original email buddy decided it was too hard to learn the language by distance, even though she comes from an Italian family and can practise on them.

What??

It really bothers me that there are people who embark on a new project, such as learning a language, starting a business, or doing a PhD, who then complain that it’s too hard.

Listen up, people.

It’s supposed to be hard.

A past Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Fraser, once said “Life is not meant to be easy.” Hmm. I’m not sure of the philosophy, but in a way he was right. Life is hard for many people, but the ones who accept it and forge ahead anyway are the ones who are successful.

Change your language. Instead of saying ‘It’s too hard!”, say “It’s hard! YAYYY! That means I get to stretch myself, overcome some obstacles, and learn a lot.”

Changing your inner language is important, because it is the only way you will be able to change yourself.

When something is hard, celebrate that you are attempting something that is hard for you, and work out how to accomplish it.

Make a plan.
Ask for help.
Stretch yourself.
And never ever give up.

Image by Kriss Szkurlatowski

© Gaye Wilson 2010

I’ve heard of people being paralysed with fear before, and I’ve seen it – they go rigid, stare into space, and can’t move. It takes ages to come out of it.

But paralysed BY fear? I’m not talking about the person who’s afraid of heights who freezes when he sees a long drop, although it’s related. I’m talking here about being so afraid of something that hasn’t happened yet that you can’t do anything. This type of paralysis isn’t so much a physical paralysis as a mental one. (Trust me, there’s a subtle difference!)

I’m in that situation now. I’m paralysed by fear about my studies.

My penultimate Russian exam is in a week’s time, but I can’t make myself study. I’m afraid I will fail.

There are all sorts of reasons why this is a reasonable fear. The major one (and ultimately the only one that really counts as far as the exam is concerned) is that I haven’t studied enough. Why? Because I have experienced the absolute worst six months in my entire life, and study has been at the bottom of my list of things to do and worry about.

The problem now is how to get out of my funk and do enough study to pass the exam.

Yesterday, when I mentioned that I was having trouble motivating myself to study, someone said to me: “Just do it!”

Hmm, it’s actually not that easy to “just do it” when you’re afraid. If I could “just do it”, I’d be a billionaire by now. But the definition of courage is to take action when you are afraid. If there’s no fear involved, it’s not courage.

Here are some thoughts on how to get out of paralysis that is caused by fear:

1. Acknowledge the fear.

Realise that the fear is what is stopping you from moving forward, not the actual task. Once you’ve acknowledged that it’s actually fear that is the obstacle, you might be able to move away from it.

2. Acknowledge where you are.

Okay, you’ve realised that you’re paralysed by fear. Now look at where you are in relation to the achievement of your goal. Where did you stop in the process? Once you know where you are, you can start to figure out what you have to do from now on.

3. Take one small step NOW to rectify the problem.

What one thing can you do today to move you forward? Do that one thing. Then do another one.

4. Enlist help.

In my case, I can enlist help from the lecturer (done that, she’s very supportive), from fellow students, from friends, from family. The type of help obviously depends on the type of problem. For me, the obvious help would be to get someone to test me on vocabulary. And/or to get a Russian friend.

5. Talk to a coach or counsellor.

Coaches are amazing people. They can motivate, stimulate and rejuvenate. They have tricks up their sleeves that will move the most stubborn blocks. Counsellors do something similar, but might be more suited to working out why you have the block in the first place.

6. Realise that this too will pass.

Most things in life are temporary. Once you realise that the situation you’re in has a sunset clause (i.e. it won’t last beyond a certain date), you can work through it. The thing now is to get through this period with the best possible outcome.

7. Focus.

Work out the best possible outcome under the circumstances, and focus on how you will achieve it.

The trick is obviously not to let fear paralyse you in the first place, but if you do find yourself in that position, screw up your courage, get help and take baby steps towards your goal.

Now I’m going to go away and learn ten Russian words. And hope that helps to banish the fear just a little bit.

© Gaye Wilson 2009

hand“If you don’t know [what's wrong, what you've done, why I'm upset/angry], I’m not going to tell you!”

Has anyone ever said that to you?

How did you feel?

My usual response to this exceptionally stupid statement is “What the …?”

A couple of weeks ago, someone left an organisation that I’m involved with because she had some issues with how it was being run. That’s fine, but the person had never given any indication before her resignation that she was not happy. The remaining members of the organisation were left scratching their heads in bewilderment. What did we do? How could this have been resolved? And more importantly, why didn’t the person say something????

It’s like being told “If you don’t know, I’m certainly not going to tell you!”.

What a stupid thing to say. I’m not, nor do I know anyone who is, a mindreader. I can’t know what you are thinking unless you actually say it. Why do people do this? I actually heard a senior executive say this to a subordinate one day. Say what? An executive telling a junior that she’s not happy about something the junior has done/not done, but won’t say what it was? How crazy is that?

I used to be a Conflict Resolution Trainer with the Conflict Resolution Network. One of the first principles of conflict resolution is to actually address the problem. No-one will know there is a problem unless someone says something. Problems cannot be fixed unless they are addressed.

It would have been much more productive for everyone if the person who left the organisation had said something to someone about how she was feeling. Then the person responsible for the behaviour that caused the distress could respond. No one knows how someone else is feeling. No one knows for sure what else is going on in someone else’s life. There may have been only one instance of the issue, or several different issues. It may have been because the person who unwittingly caused the distress was having a bad day, or was under a lot of stress, or was distracted, or was simply misunderstood. No one will ever know, because the issue was not addressed.

The bottom line is that conflict can often be handled well if the distressed person actually says what is wrong.

How many times have you done or said the equivalent of “If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you”?

Don’t you think there is a better way?

Speak up if there’s something bothering you. You’ll never get resolution if you don’t actually address the issue.

© Gaye Wilson 2009

healthyI woke up feeling fantastic this morning. I don’t remember the last time I did that. I’m up and rarin’ to go. Can’t wait to start the day.

This is very unusual for me. I have a chronic illness, which I’ve had since 1995. It seems that it’s not going to go away. So when I wake every morning it’s more a case of asking myself what doesn’t hurt, and how can I drag myself through the day without hurting more.

What’s different today? Yesterday I started a course of antibiotics. When I’m on antibiotics, I always feel fantastic. The difference between how I feel on antibiotics and how I feel normally is phenomenal. I’m two completely different people.

Feeling fantastic means that I accomplish more. Everything I do is faster, better and easier. My mind is clearer. My body can last longer.

When I’m feeling healthy, I am the person I want to be.

When I’m unhealthy (which is most of the time), everything is hard. I still get stuff done, I still accomplish my work and my goals, but it takes far more effort, it takes longer, and I have to work in short snatches.

You can get so used to feeling off that you don’t realise how much it’s affecting you.

Even minor ailments have an impact on your performance.

I’m not the only one who has found this out the hard way. Here are some more examples.

One of my PhD Coaching clients suffered terribly from headaches. When she was given the correct treatment, the headaches went away and she surged forward with her dissertation. She had not realised how much her life and performance were affected by her headaches.

Another of my PhD Coaching clients had dental problems. She was in pain, but didn’t realise that it was affecting her performance. I encouraged her to get it checked out, and lo and behold, when the problem was fixed, she felt fantastic and finished her PhD earlier than expected.

You can do everything when you’re healthy. If you’re unhealthy, it takes a lot more effort and a lot longer to do things.

So make sure you are as healthy as you can possibly be:

  • eat the right things, and in moderation
  • do the right amount and type of exercise
  • drink lots of pure water
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • get sufficient sleep
  • get a medical checkup
  • get a dental checkup
  • have fun
  • create a support or social network
  • maintain a life/work balance

It will make a world of difference to your outlook, your accomplishments and your life.

I’m not saying here that unhealthy people can’t perform and can’t accomplish their goals. I pull out all stops when I have a deadline to meet in my editing business, but it usually leaves me drained. The author of the book-turned-into-blockbuster-movie Sea Biscuit had the same condition that I have, and she wrote the book while flat on her back in bed. A colleague of mine recently attended the launch of her new local history book in a wheelchair – she also has this condition.

So unhealthy people can perform and produce, but it’s much harder. People with ill health have to work harder to accomplish the same as healthy people,and it takes a heavier toll.

Victories happen faster and easier when you’re healthy.

So get healthy.

What can you do this week to boost your health?

I first met the work of Gary Ryan Blair when I was in the middle of my PhD candidature. He has some cool gadgets and suggestions for achievement.

Now he’s running a 100 Day Challenge to finish the year with a Big Bang.  Have a look at this video:

Here’s some more about Gary Ryan Blair’s 100 Day Challenge:

Change Your Life in 100 Days

What if I were to follow you with a camera crew 24 hours a day 7 days a week for the next 100 days while you went for your goals?

I bet three things would happen…

1. You would START doing the things you say you need to do.

2. You would STOP doing the things you know you shouldn’t be doing.

3. You would MAKE monumental performance gains and change your life.

This is ALL possible through the discipline of accountability. Accountability serves and protects your character, credibility and commitments. It ensures that what you want to accomplish gets accomplished. (That’s what personal coaching is all about: accountability.)

Throughout every area of your life it’s important to understand that ALL unfinished goals, projects and relationships are the result of broken promises, unfulfilled commitments, and lack of accountability.

With that in mind, I wanted to share with you an exciting opportunity to achieve every goal you set, to enforce ultimate accountability into your life, and show you how you can make monumental performance gains. I’ve signed up, and I’m excited to get started.

Gary Ryan Blair, otherwise known as The Goals Guy, has put together a fantastic comprehensive approach to goal setting and performance enhancement.

It’s called the 100 Day Finish Strong Challenge and it begins on September 23rd, which happens to be the final 100 days of the year.

The 100 Day Finish Strong Challenge is a structured 14-week performance improvement program where challengers compete against themselves to achieve a number of challenging goals and finish the year strong.

Free Special Report and Video

Gary is offering a powerful special report for free which is titled: How to Create Your Own Big Bang!

This report is worth its weight in gold as it shows you how to create huge performance gains quickly. I encourage you to get your copy right now.

So what are you waiting for? The clock is ticking and if you want to seriously improve your life and corresponding results, I encourage you to check out the 100 Day Finish Strong Challenge today as it will be one of the smartest decisions you’ll make all year.

I’m in it. How about you?

© Gaye Wilson 2009

Image by ilcoWhat could you do with one extra hour?

  • Sleep in?
  • Watch television?
  • Play a computer game?

Or could you

  • Read a book?
  • Walk the dog?
  • Write a letter?

How about:

  • Work on your business plan.
  • Write out your goals.
  • Have quality time with your family.

There are many activities you can do in an hour. An extra hour per day would allow you to do many extra activities, so it would be a good thing, right?

But where do extra hours come from?

Take a look at the first list above. These are activities that you could curtail to find an extra hour. These are passive activities. They are about being, rather than doing. They don’t necessarily have a purpose. They just are. They are often default actions when we are too lazy to do something constructive.

The second list contains active activities. Like the first list, they are ego-centric – centred around you. Unlike the first list, they have a purpose. You walk the dog so that both of you benefit from exercise. You read a book to relax or learn something. You write a letter to communicate with someone. These activities are about the present. They are good to fit into your day.

The third list is also an active list, but this one contains activities that are all about the future.

When was the last time you sat down and planned your future?

If you’re like most people, you haven’t. Most people drift through life and wonder why it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Those who revel in life and accomplish what they want in life are those who plan their future.

Victories are planned.

So, this week, to gain your victory, find an extra hour to do some planning.

© Gaye Wilson 2009

Image by Dora PeteI’m feeling guilty.

Why?

Let me count the ways.

  • Because I haven’t blogged for two weeks.
  • Because I haven’t replied to a lovely comment about my blog (thanks, Georganna!).
  • Because I haven’t finished updating one of my websites.
  • Because I didn’t do much last week.

Last week was a write off for me. I overdid it on Saturday, clearing a bit of my garage – it looks lovely! – and I paid for it in the following days. But I kept paying for it, not necessarily physically, but mentally and emotionally. I couldn’t motivate myself. I found myself doing, as I used to do, research on the internet that I knew I would probably never read (gotta schedule that in!). And I was kicking myself the entire time. I knew what I had to do, but I wasn’t doing it.

Have you ever had a week like that? You feel worthless and useless and a complete idiot. You’re in a funk, you get depressed, you take it out on the people around you. You’re in a landscape of misery.

And you feel physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually horrible.

So how do you get yourself out of that?

Most of my coaching clients have this problem at one time or another. I think most people do. There are several things you can do about it.

1. Stop beating yourself up about it.
Part of the horrible feeling is that you are beating yourself up for not doing what you think you should be doing. Beating yourself up leads to all sorts of awful things, including self-loathing, emotional eating and paralysis. Beating yourself up doesn’t work. It just makes you feel worse. So stop it, and do one of the items on the list below (these will also help you stop it).

2. Do something. Anything.
Sometimes the only thing that will get you out of a funk, whether it’s a depressive funk or a I-can’t-move-forward funk, is to do something. Anything. Take some sort of action. Get up and do some star jumps. Walk the dog. Scream. Eat ice cream.

3. Make a list.
Do you know what you should be doing or do you make it up as you go along? Lists are very helpful tools. Make a list of what you want to accomplish today or this week. Pick one item and do it, then cross it off the list. This can give you a huge boost. Don’t forget to pick another one and work on it!

4. Clear a space.
De-cluttering is liberating. It can also be messy, dirty and a lot of fun (see #10). Clear a space on your desk or your floor. Throw out papers you no longer need. Give old clothes, furniture and books to charity. You’ll feel a lot better, your space will be nicer, and you will have helped someone else (see #9).

5. Ask for help.
Talk to someone about what you’re feeling and what you’re doing (or not doing). Talk to a friend, a family member, a colleague, a coach. Ask them to help you get out of it. Ask them to support you in doing something productive. Set up a temporary accountability to them. Note: If you are continually doing nothing and feeling depressed and miserable, you may need professional help.

6. Do something completely different.
Change your situation radically by doing something that is not related to what you should be doing, or something that you don’t normally do. Jolt yourself into action.

7. Change your focus.
Sometimes all you need is to change what you are thinking about. Look at the problem in a different way. Say to yourself, okay, I’m currently doing this and feeling awful about it. What would happen if I did or thought this instead? Focus on something or someone else for a while. Pet your dog. Play with a child. Pick up a different project and make some progress on it.

8. Exercise.
Exercise induces chemicals in the brain that help with mood. Go for a walk. Go to the gym. Ask a friend to go horse riding with you. Okay, it may not be what you should be doing, but it will make you feel better, and will elevate your mood. GET UP AND MOVE.

9. Help someone else.
Go down to the local soup kitchen and offer your services for an hour or two. Knit a blanket for the homeless. Visit a friend. Donate to charity (see #4). Helping someone else will take your mind off your own troubles, and when you return, they might not seem so insurmountable.

10. Have some fun.
What floats your boat? Reading? Going to a movie? Ten pin bowling? Hanging out with friends? Pick one simple activity that will give you some fun. It will lift your mood, get you away from your funk-place, and will give you a break.

11. Or you can wallow in your funk.

Your choice.

My chapter in Top Coaches Share their Action Strategies also gives some useful ideas on how to take action.

Guess what?

Now I’ve written a blog post, I feel better about myself. I’ve actually done something that’s on my list, I’ve taken action, I’ve cleared some clutter in my brain, and I’m ready to get back to doing what needs to be done.

See? It works!

© Gaye Wilson, 2009

questionGetting everything done isn’t easy when life gets in the way. You have shopping to do, paid work to do, the kids to take to sport, an essay due at university, the washing, the cooking, the ironing, catching the train … the list just goes on and on.

So how do you cope? How do you get everything done properly and on time?

By asking yourself one simple question:

What is the best use of my time right now?

I call it the BUT question.

This one question will guide you to victory. You can apply it to everything:

  • Whether to do this task or that one
  • Whether to make this choice or that one
  • Whether to eat, socialise, work, relax, exercise, sleep, clean up, see the doctor, outsource … you name it.

I have a client at the moment who is in the last stages of writing his PhD thesis. He hired me to get the formatting of the document right. This was a good move, because it freed him up to concentrate on the writing.

But he’s not writing. Although he has outsourced part of the job (the formatting), he’s still obsessing about the part he outsourced (yes – the formatting). He seems to be spending more time on how the final product is going to look than he is on the content of the final product. That’s fine, and every PhD candidate needs to obsess about both the content and the presentation.

But what this person is doing is the equivalent of having a dog and barking too.

He’s already outsourced the formatting. So why is he obsessing about whether the document should be double spaced or not? That’s my job. He hired me to format the document so that it looks outstanding and gives a professional, jaw-dropping first impression to the examiners. I’ve already given him my best professional advice, but he’s still vacillating.

He needs to ask himself what is the best use of his time: either cancel his contract with me to do part of the job; or allow me to do the job he hired me for, and get on with the actual meat of the project himself.

That’s what I mean when I say, what is the best use of your time right now? What is the one thing you can do that will have a positive impact on your project or your goal or your life right now?

Not next week.

Not tomorrow.

Not after lunch.

NOW.

If you get into the habit of asking yourself that question throughout your day, you will become much more productive, efficient and accomplished than you are now.

Try it. You’ll be surprised at the results.

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