Choosing To Act

This whole year has felt outside of my control. I imagine, at least at times, that you’ve felt similar.

Still, I could choose how I would act. I could choose how I would approach things. The outcome of a situation might not have been within my power to control, and in some cases I’ve only had a few options to choose from – but I could still choose.

All through your PhD, you’ve made choices. Decisions about methods, choices about projects to follow (or not); you choose which literature to read and follow, and which you will leave out of your bibliography.

During your prep you can choose what actions you take. What steps you will follow to get ready. When you take them and how you do them is up to you.

And in the viva you can choose how you will approach the discussion. How will you listen? How will you respond?

The more actions you take, and the more you act to follow your intentions, the more likely you are to find the successful outcome you’re looking for.

Taking Stock

Today is the last day of the tax year in the UK, and time for me to take stock of things. I’m asking myself questions like:

How much came in? How much went out? How many invoices? Do I have all my receipts?

I need to answer these in order to fill out my tax return. But there are other questions I need to prompt myself with:

How many seminars did I deliver? To how many people? At how many universities?

I need to earn money, but I want to serve others. So it helps me to look into those details too and take stock. Nevermind the number of words I write here too! And there are still more questions I need to ask, because there are other important aspects of my life too:

How many hours did I work? When did I take breaks? When did I work overtime? When did I have proper holidays?

There are many, many more questions I could ask, which would take this little life and business and put it under the microscope. The answers would be useful for some people (including me) and interpreting those could help prompt future action (thinking about holiday times or working hours in the past can influence or change practices in the future, for example).

Taking stock is important. It’s essential before the viva.

You’ve asked a lot of questions to get you to where you are. Now, more questions are needed.

Some will come from your examiners, and you can prepare for them even if you can’t know what they will be necessarily. You can get practised through a mock viva or seminar, building your confidence for meeting them. You can ask yourself more questions to explore your research from new perspectives.

What have you done? How did you get here? What matters more?

You could use many questions to unpick and explore your research. Start with some big ones. Find a way to capture your thoughts rather than simply losing them to abstraction. And maybe share them with others to find opportunities to explore them more deeply.

Confidence Follows Your Actions

You can do more than hope you are ready for your viva.

Look back across everything you’ve done. How have your actions built up your research, your knowledge, your talent? To get to submission and then the viva you must necessarily be good at what you do. Look for the actions that have built you up. See how you can find confidence within your past actions.

Look at the place you are in now. If you need reminding of your talent or you need to do something to boost how you’re feeling, then take action. What helps you to feel confident? What puts you in that state of being? If you have no idea then ask others what they do!

Confidence follows your actions.