People tend to get a bit nervous about important events in their lives.
Sometimes they’re nervous because of the circumstances around it, sometimes because of the outcome, and sometimes for no real reason they can pin down. People are nervous on their wedding day because of the huge occasion. People are nervous when they take a driving test because they want to pass (or want to not fail) and then be free to drive. People are nervous sometimes before concerts or movies because they’re desperate to know if the thing they’re going to matches their expectations.
Being nervous doesn’t mean the event is a bad thing. It’s important, it means something. Humans are told to deal with the nervousness, find a way to make it go away perhaps, find a way to feel better. That’s one strategy, but I’ve become convinced that a better approach is to focus on the important event or task: focus on that and find a way to do it as well you possibly can. Not only will you be working towards the success of the event – in the process you’ll probably do something to help your lower your nervousness too.
What tactics might this suggest for the viva? How could you focus on the event and not your nerves?
- Read your thesis to have a good mental picture of your work.
- Check expectations for the day; think about how you could meet them.
- Find opportunities to talk about your research.
- Be honest about how you’re feeling; do what you can to feel confident.
Don’t try to distract yourself or not be nervous: have your focus be this important moment, finishing your PhD. Focus on that rather than the worry that comes from pushing away what ifs and maybes and hypotheticals.