You might think that this waffle is all about success criteria, but you would be mistaken. Recently I managed to get my first research article published within a peer-reviewed journal. This was somewhat of a stressful experience and yet I managed to continue to keep focused on achieving this aim. I’m not sure whether this is because I am naturally stubborn or whether my mindset, when it comes to achieving something, is beneficial. Whatever the reason, I thought I would share with you all my own personal journey and thoughts when I am working towards this aim with the possibility that it might be helpful to anyone else who is on a similar journey at the moment.
Life is all about challenges. These can come in all shapes and sizes and can be related to both our personal and professional life. When I moved from the primary sector to the higher education sector, I went from knowing my job to not knowing anything at all. Everything is different and it is taking me some time to learn how to teach students and how to achieve as an academic. One of the areas I have struggled with is the area of research and publishing and, although this is not the focus of this waffle, I set publishing an article as a personal achievement which I was determined to work towards. From my shouting from the highest steeple attitude recently, you might just be aware that I actually managed to achieve this (Read it here – near the bottom of the table of content) and what I wanted to focus on is not the actual journal or the research, but the stages I went through to get to the final success.
Self-belief – Sometimes we are our own worse enemies. In those moments when we are working alone, or ploughing through books and articles, we often start to doubt both ourselves and our abilities. I see this as completely natural and something which everyone experiences. These moments are themselves challenges/barriers to progression and it is very important that we engage with these in order to move forward. Perfection takes time, if it is even possible. These moments of self doubt are often related to wanting to achieve perfection – a target which we set ourselves. Several times, self doubt raised its head on my journey meaning that I often wanted to or actually gave up or put off working on the article. For me, I always come back to one point – I’m not going for perfection, I am working towards a personal goal. Yes the article might not be the best and people might criticise it or even debunk it, but the target for me was to get something published. Now that I have reached this target, I can reset the target and work on improving quality. There used to be three words up on the wall in my classroom that I would tell the children everyday – I do live by these words and share them all the time – “Say, Think , Believe”. Saying you can achieve something will support you in developing a more positive mindset which will, in turn, develop both your confidence and resilience for moving forward.
Support – All the answers are out there, you just have to ask the right person the right question. I recently was having a problem with my sound mixer which I use for my radio shows, streaming and podcasting. After hours of searching and trying to figure out the solution myself, I actually asked a colleague if they had any knowledge of mixers – behold they did! and the problem was solved within a quick discussion. Support should never be seen as negative. As mentioned in the last section, perfection is not the end target with our journeys, learning and achieving are. It is always beneficial to ask questions and interact with people. Sometimes this is extremely helpful, other times it is not. These are both valuable experiences and support and should lead to more questions and answers. The important point for me about support is knowing what I need to find out and asking the right questions. I never want something done for me I want to develop my learning. Often questions will be Where can I find? Can you recommend? What is your understanding of? Can you clarify? I feel that if I am focused with my questions then the support I will get will be focussed and will, eventually support me.
Reacting to feedback – I have a personal target I am currently try to work on, it demonstrates my point, so I hope you don’t mind me sharing it here. I don’t like it when someone parks in my parking space. Well it’s not even my parking space, its where I usually park my car. When it does happen, I have to park somewhere else and I get annoyed, and stressed and yes, even angry. This reaction is completely unhealthy and, dare I say it, unnecessary. As I went through the process of trying to get my research published I received feedback since it was a peer-reviewed journal. Positive feedback we generally have no difficulties with. But no feedback or negative feedback – that’s a different story (well it is for me!). I often tell people that response to feedback comes in three emotional stages and it is important to ‘ride these waves’ before acting.
Anger – This is usually the first reaction to any feedback and can be accompanied by muttering, tears, shouting or even the throwing around of objects/paper. This is actually amplified if you feel you have worked hard on something and the feedback doesn’t reflect this. I get this a lot – a bit like someone parking in ‘the’ parking space. In order to deal with this, I do engage with the emotion, but do so personally, without emailing or calling or meeting anyone. This initial feeling is often associated with blame. When I received 57 negative comments, I certainly blamed the markers. Yes, I do admit, I sometimes write an email in WORD to express my feelings but I do it in WORD so there is never a chance of ‘accidentally’ sending it. A walk often helps at this point – or a coffee. I don’t drink alcohol but some people might actually engage with a small tipple of something here.
Upset – Next comes the tears or the feeling of devastation. This is when our self-belief is shattered and we are prepared to give up on everything. Often this slowly emanates from the feedback to include everything within our lives. Because the feedback is not good, we can’t do that, or this or even that! There is no point in even continuing!!!! (pause to grab another tissue, caffiene shot or even something stronger). I talked about self belief in the first section so I am not going to repeat myself here. One thing I will say, is that I always try to remind myself that feedback is to help me improve. We all say we want to know where we went wrong, it is just not pleasant when we are actually told.
Anger/disappointment …This phase is different from the first stage because of where the anger is directed. Now we are angry with ourselves and this leads to disappointment. I get this a lot – especially after the previous upset section. Having thoughts about how much harder I should have worked, why I didn’t proof read it more carefully, and even those thoughts of – I knew that why didn’t I write that! When I am to this stage I know that I am actually ready to improve and start working towards the target again.
It is only after all these emotions have passed that I feel I can engage objectively with the feedback and decide how I can move forward, figure out what questions to ask, who to ask them to and, perhaps more importantly, how to convert the comments into actions.
Actions – This for me is definitely the most important part of my journey. Feedback, answers to questions and even targets are all very good, but the most important thing is changing these into actions. In order to get better we are working towards targets via the actions. The actions are what we are actually doing. One feedback point I got was that I was not putting the research I was using within my literature review into a context. This was true and I needed to decide what I had to do to achieve this. Omnifocus came out and the target (now a project) was divided into the steps that I needed to do in order ensure that all the research had a context. As you can imagine there was quite a few, but this was valuable learning, since next time, when I am creating my literature review, I will be engaging with this process from the start. Without actions, the targets remains ethereal and unattainable and then they appear to be impossible.
If I had to sum up this waffle, I would say that my steps to success would be, Always have self-belief, Ask for support with the right questions, ride out the emotions before you react, and always turn targets into actions. We often have perceptions of people and think that we are the only ones who are struggling and/or failing. I consider that it is important to recognise and share our failures since these have contributed to our successes today. Yes I got four D’s at my A levels and 57 comments to act on with my first published research article. However, these made me work harder at my degree and learn a lot more about research. When I submitted my final draft to the journal, I added in the email that if it was not up to standard then I understand but the learning I had gained from the process had been immense. If it hadn’t have been published then I would have two choices, give up or try again. Either option is acceptable but for me, if I really want to attain/achieve something then I will definitely be back on that horse, riding again towards my personal aims.
Do you have any advice for achieving goals or experience of turning a failure into a success? If you do, I look forward to hearing your comments and ideas, please add them in the comments below or send them to me via Twitter(@iwilsonysj), Facebook, Google+ or email.
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