As summer begins for many academics, expectations tend to run high: this is the time when we’ll get to dig into our research, plan innovative new courses, read the new books in our field, or paint the front porch that we didn’t get to last summer. Maybe you feel excited about what the summer will bring — or maybe you also feel some anxiety. The following links offer several different approaches to shift your mindset so as to best take advantage of this season — whatever that means for you.
Although Kathryn Minshew’s post at HBR on how to respond to the question “how are things going” is aimed at entrepreneurs, the problem she describes will be familiar to many people working on a large-scale research project or writing a book:
[Y]ou’re asked that simple question that often feels like the hardest one:
“How are things going?”
“Great!” you respond
Cue, awkward pause. Where do you go from there?
Depending on the situation, it can be difficult to know how much detail to provide or how to engage the questioner’s interest or expertise. Minshew offers four great suggestions that I’ll be drawing on to make my own conversations about my work less awkward and more productive.
Writing a book or working on a large project is more like a marathon than it is a sprint. So why not learn from what sports psychology says about goal setting and performance? Michelle Hamilton’s Train Your Brain to Run Your Best describes the specific steps she followed in consulting with a sports psychologist to reduce her negative self-talk and improve her race performance. Her coach, Dean Hebert, says “No one expects endurance to come naturally,… but people think mental toughness does. It’s a big myth. You do not need more willpower. You need to train the brain like you train the body.”
. . . how even simple and seemingly irrelevant factors have profound consequences on our decisions and behavior, diverting us from our original plans. Most of us care a good deal about being consistent–we care about following through on our goals and wishes. And we also aim to behave in ways that are consistent with our self-image as capable, competent, and honest individuals. But often, without our knowledge, subtle influences–often unexpected–steer us away from what we initially planned or wanted. As a result, our decisions fail to align with our best intentions.
Sometimes literally looking at things from another perspective can shift your thinking and your attitude. The Guardian‘s roundup of Commander Chris Hadfield’s photographs from the International Space Station do just that. Be sure also to check out the video of Hadfield’s in-space rendition of David Bowie’s Space Oddity (YouTube).
Finally, if you’ve thought you should try meditating but don’t know how, check out Andy Puddicombe’s TedTalk video, All it takes is Ten Minutes. One of the things I like about Puddicombe’s talk is that he demystifies the process of meditation even as he extolls its benefits for reducing stress and improving mental clarity. As he suggests, just take 10 minutes to do nothing. (Puddicombe is the founder of Headspace, which offers a free program of 10-minute meditation videos for 10 days, delivered online or through their mobile apps).
Bonus: I’ve always thought dogs were the best teachers of living in the present moment. (Dharma Doodle by Eric Klein.)
[Creative Commons licensed image by flickr user deanwissing]Return to Top