Wednesday Whiteboard#9: The Spiritual Bulimia Edition


Dotpoint #1: The 30 Day Challenge.

It’s day … (hang on, I’m counting) … 27 of my challenge to do yoga everyday. I can report that I’ve missed only 2 days so far. My practice has been asana, japa, pranayama and meditation. It takes about half an hour each morning.

Sometimes, I feel if I don’t do these things, I’ll be a cranky, evil bitch for the rest of the day. Other times, I do them because I told you that I’d do them.

Mostly, I do them because they make me feel good.

Once the 30 day challenge is over, I’m going to start another 30 day challenge. I will write about that next Wednesday.

There was one 30 day challenge that I tried to do using Steve Pavlina’s ’30 Day Challenge’ Template in my journal. It was to do with writing my thesis everyday. It didn’t work… I actually wrote in my journal every day for 30 days instead of writing my thesis.

Which is why I’ve just sought help with my thesis writing…

Dotpoint #2: Spiritual Bulimia & PhD Writing

Over the past two months, I’ve experienced a slow, grinding halt to my thesis writing. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get myself motivated or interested. This is scary, because the whole thing has to be finished by July 26. Worse, there’s only one and a half chapters to go.

I had to take some radical action.

Exactly what I did, I will share with you in a moment.

I’ve noticed a new trend that I call Spiritual Bulimia.  People are eating, and then regurgitating all sorts of inspiration, quotes and advice, but have no real power or evidence of success or change in their own lives.  They ingest all the self help and inspirational materials, but they don’t digest it.  They are taking it all in, but not actually implementing the behaviors, changing the thoughts and eliminating the patterns to have  lives that should be a by product of such voracious consumption.

In the quote above, Staci Shelton highlights the massive numbers of people Tweeting, blogging and burping (ok, I made that one up) self-help advice. Make that re-tweeting, re-blogging and re-burping self-help advice but apparently not doing THE WORK. Traci encourages people to do THE WORK. I suspect that many people have something else in mind (blog traffic and selling their e-products) other than THE WORK, but more on this later.

How does this relate to my thesis?

Well, I got stuck. Quicksand stuck and demotivated. I tried a few things to get myself unstuck, but decided I had flipped into ‘overwhelm’.

Not good. Not good at all.

Overwhelm is when you are paralysed. Overwhelm is when you can’t go up, down or sideways because the problem is sooooo big. Overwhelm, for me, has only one solution…

Life coach time.

The life coach who helped my kick depression last year (Lisa Branigan) is currently on maternity leave. So I spent a couple of days looking for suitable people. I emailed a couple of Australian life coaches via their websites. One didn’t even bother to reply. The other didn’t respond to my second email. I Tweeted my request for help. Svasti retweeted it for me. What I got was some life coaches following me, but no offers to coach.

I decided to contact the folks at Action Podcast … and bingo! Life coaches, Sam Forsberg and Paul Bailey were on my case. I am recommending Action Podcast here because these guys are real people. They are not in the RA RA RA pom-pom girl squad. They are not space cadets. But they do know their stuff when it comes to coaching.

Why does life coaching work?

Because someone external holds you accountable and you get a totally fresh perspective on your situation.

Operation Thesis Overwhelm: the Method.

Here’s the initial exercise Paul had me do (I’ve edited some of the questions out/my answers are in blue):

How many days per week do you want to spend working on your thesis? Be realistic here. Think about how much time per day you can comfortably work without getting too distracted.

I work full time, so it’s not huge:

Tues 2 hrs

Fri 2hrs

Sat 3hrs Sun 4 hrs

Now you should roughly know how much work you need to do and how often you need to do it. Now again be honest with yourself, does that sound achievable? Do you need to tweak anything to make it more realistic?

Total: 3300 words per week

Or: 5 weeks of Tue, Fri Sat, Sun

It’s only just achievable- I have one long weekend scheduled in the middle where we are definitely going away.

Once you have fine tuned your plan, write it down in a short statement and read it aloud a few times. Does it sit comfortably with you? Yes- Great on to the next stage, No- do a bit more tweaking!

I can effortlessly write 3300 words per week and finish Chapters 7 & 8 by the 26th July, 2009.

The Results:

Over the long weekend (we just had a long weekend here in Australia) I went into thesis isolation mode, spending four days down at our second home, Watarrka (Kings Canyon) National Park. There’s no internet. No mobile phone coverage. It is very, very remote outback!

I wrote:

Friday – 1400 words

Saturday – 1700 words

Sunday- 700 words

Monday- 300 words

Tuesday – 700 words

That’s 4800 words and I have finished the draft of Chapter 7.

The mere thought that someone else was checking up on me and I was paying them for it, has worked like nothing else has. I’ve got another session on Friday at 5.30pm with Sam. In the meantime, check out their podcast on Overwhelm here for some more tips and hints.

How do I feel now that I’ve done this?


I’ve shifted the overwhelm. There is no question that my thesis will be done by my July 26 deadline. It simply will be done. I’ll keep the coaching going throughout this time.

Dot point #3: The Real Me: An Ethical Commitment.

At the beginning of Dotpoint #2, I quoted Traci Shelton’s comments about passively regurgitating or absorbing self-help material. The point is, why bother reading, retweeting or whatever if you’re not walking the talk?  If you’re just after traffic for your blog? You’d be better to put up posts about big boobs or even better, pictures of big boobs if it’s blog traffic you’re after. Better still, publish a downloadable e-book of pictures of big boobs and call it: BIG BOOBS! Then you can earn money from it, too.

As much as I enjoy self-help blogs like Zen Habits, I tire of their sameness. I realise these guys are making a living from their blogs, so they’re not strictly blogs. However, I learn far more from reading someones who’s included the pot holes and detours of their life and is DOING THE WORK on themselves everyday, than I do from reading ‘five more tips for being eternally happy’ over and over again, written by people who I suspect, aren’t even half happy and possibly aren’t doing the work. Check out Svasti’s blog or Havi Brooks’s blog. Read Linda Sama’s blog from last year when she lost her teaching job at a centre run by a dysfunctional alcoholic. I learn from these chickybabes more than I do from: five random self help dot points.

Spiritual bulimia: never had it. I do the work and fall flat on my face sometimes.

Watch this space for more pot holes on my spiritual journey…


Dealing with Thesis/Dissertation Procrastination


The most useful tips I’ve ever learned about thesis/dissertation writing have been incredibly practical. I’ve tried all kinds of motivational tools, PhD writing guides and software to encourage me to get the THING done. Some work, many just sit on my shelf or cost me needless money.  I’m not selling anything here, either – just sharing what’s worked for me.

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