Breaking bad habits

I’ve been biting my nails for a long time. When I think about it, probably about half my life. Actually I’d prefer not  to think of it like this! urgh. Like most habits, it’s something that I do unconsciously – and it’s been a lot hard to break than I thought it would be.

I’ve always been prone to low self-esteem and have found my negative thinking as ingrained and automatic as my nail-biting. The last few days I’ve been filled with self-doubt about my PhD (which I haven’t even started!). The weekend was perfect (awful) weather for staying indoors and finishing my one-page proposal but I really struggled to get anything done.

A taste of some of my self-defeating thoughts:

‘I’m not intelligent or motivated enough to do a PhD’
‘I will never excel at anything or be as excelllent as [insert brilliant academic’s name]’
‘Why bother?’
‘I can’t compete with other people already doing work in the field’
‘My PhD will not add anything significant to the field’

You get this gist! No wonder I’m struggling to progress on my one-pager! I’ve totally lost sight of the exciting and meaningful opportunity I believe this is.

So today I’m making a committment to break this bad habit of negative thinking. Like the ‘Stop n Grow’ (yep, seriously) I’m using on my nails, I’ve realised I need to add some tools to add to my arsenol to banish my negative, unhelpful thinking. To this end, I’ve registered for  MoodGym, an excellent, evidence-based online program developed by the Australian National University that uses Cognitive Behavioral Theory, to challenge unhelpful thinking.

So, Bad Habits, be gone!!

User-centred design

I was (incredibly) fortunate to work for many years at a progressive non-profit organisation that used evidence, technology – and participatory design – as core tenants of service development and delivery. This was something that had been ingrained as part of the organisation’s culture and business plans.

I now work at an organisation that has come late to the online space and have no understanding of the benefits and necessity of the involvement of their clients. I find myself having to convince colleagues – and the organisation – why we should be growing and improving our online presence and service, and doing so with users meaningfully involved. I’m surprised at how difficult I’m finding this – and how frustrating.

Perhaps participatory design isn’t as wide-spread as I assumed – and is still mostly confined to web and marketing companies. For me, it’s about going back to basics, and explaining the benefits of this strategy on budget and outcomes (erm, once they are identified, but that’s another post!). Given that my PhD will be using participatory methodology, I guess this a great opportunity for me to get a more detailed understanding of the evidence (is there any??! – is it more of a intuitive kinda of idea at the moment).

The importance of chats to other phd (semi) candidates

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been really grateful at having the opportunity to chat to a couple of friends who are about to apply for a PhD. My parents, while being supportive and always stressing the importance of education, are not necessarily able to relate and offer insights into the world of higher education, given my dad left school at 14 and my mum at year 10. I get the vibe that they don’t quite ‘get’ why anyone would do a PhD.

I also don’t have the benefit of having work colleagues to discuss my thoughts with – unfortunately my phd won’t be relate to my work and there aren’t others who are currently studying.

Which means I’ve spent a lot of time stewing about the topic in my head. This has been both good and bad. Good – at least at first – because it’s given me the space to process and consider things more fluidly without being restricted by being too logical and articulate. Bad because there is a tendancy to start going around in circles and become bogged down in unhelpful thinking and anxieties.

So it’s been a welcome revolation just to chat with a few awesome people out there (you know who you are!) who are at a similar stage and able to provide some timely words of wisdom and advise. Those brief conversations were enough to put things in perspective and start putting thoughts into action! yay! (and thank you 🙂 )