“OMG, WHAT was I thinking?”

by | October 6, 2010

Do you ever have one of those “OMG, WHAT was I thinking?” moments. That panic that happens when you are challenging yourself?

Followed closely with ‘I can’t do this’

I had them while I worked on my dissertation.

I had them while I trained for my first marathon ( and the second one). Usually somewhere in the middle of those long runs.

There are several possible responses. All might actually apply.
–Stopping. Just plain deciding to stop. There are, afterall, multiple reasons for stepping out.
–Deferring. Pushing back the targeted event to allow a longer training/working opportunity.
–Ignoring the feeling and keep doing what I’ve been doing.
–Shifting to work on something I DO understand.
–Taking a deep breath.
–Taking a brief break.
–Resetting committment to self.

Wait…what did I say a few sentences ago? “Shifting to work on something I DO understand.”

So, what is the reason for the ‘OMG’ feeling? Figure that out and that will help you decide your next steps.

The running metaphor fits. The training runs train your body, but there is as much, or more, mental component to training for and running an event, particularly a longer event. The mental part of running comes in when you doubt yourself and the reason why you started this effort in the first place. To get over that mental doubt, one really needs to understand the underlying factor.

In writing my dissertation, there were things I just didn’t know how to do, or I didn’t understand….a component of the research method, or what order to discuss my points, or how the whole thing fit together.

Once I understood what my problem was, I could then dig into resolving it, by reading, pondering, asking, and keep on writing and rewriting and rewriting. If I continued to spin my wheels wondering what was wrong with me, I didn’t move forward. It takes a while to recognize the OMG feeling.

Stop and determine what the issues are (there are, undoubtely, more than one).

Ask questions of learning colleagues, yourself, your mentor, without expectation of a definative answer. The mere exercise of articulating the issue will help bring clarity.

Bottom line: to get to the finish line, one needs to take one step at a time. One needs to do the work to prepare for getting to the start line, then getting to the finish line.

And in the process, one needs to examine one’s goals, motivations, fears and disappointments. And manage each of those.

When one undertakes a significant event, One learns as much about themselves as the subject matter.

16 Responses to "“OMG, WHAT was I thinking?”"

  1. Alexis Bonavitacola says:

    I appreciate this post – you have no idea how much.

    I was just sitting here with the OMG feeling. Today, I started my second course and felt okay while I had only one course going at a time – now, I am wondering, WHAT WAS I THINKING? I feel my time management challenges stretching and I know this is nothing – yet.

    In order to prepare for this journey, back in July I decided to start training for a 5K run. This may seem like no big deal to someone who has run before in his/her life, but at 55 this was something I never did – ever! Sure, I have done Pilates and other exercises, but cardio was never my thing. Still, I wanted to try. I downloaded a great IPhone app called Get Running. The program was for nine weeks so that I’d be ready for a 5K. I started running for 1.5 minutes at a time, walking for 1.5 minutes three times I week. The first 1.5 minute run I thought I was going to have a heart attack. You know what? Last week, I ran a 5K in 33.24 minutes and now I am training for a 10K, already up to 4.5 miles of straight running. I never feel too good while I am running, but it doesn’t feel as bad as it did when I started and it was an incredible accomplishment to start running at 55 – the same way I feel to start my PhD.

    So, when I feel that sense like tonight when I felt paralyzed and the WHAT WAS I THINKING? crossed my mind, I look at the picture of myself crying as I crossed the finish line last Sunday, my race number and my pin Capella’s Track 1 Residency which reads YOU CAN DO IT and I am reminded that there is a process, that you don’t start out running a 5K when you’ve never run before and you don’t get your PhD without taking doable steps to get there.

    Alexis Bonavitacola

    • Lynn Riskedal says:

      My smile for you fills my cube. What a wonderful story and example. YES!!! YOU CAN DO IT!!
      Keep sharing your story with your learning colleagues and with your friends!
      Let me know how your 10K goes!

  2. Alexis Bonavitacola says:

    I will, Lynn – promise.


  3. Danita Ogandaga says:

    All I can say is thank you! OMG….. @Alexis, @Lynn—you don’t know how much I needed that post! I was feeling so overwhelmed this evening while holding my 16M teething toddler, feeding her, tying with one hand, and breathing… so what did I do? I went into her room, played I Hope You Dance and read, OH the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss.

    Thanks for the lift!

    • Lynn Riskedal says:

      Keep on Dancing and Reading ( for relaxation and perspective!) One step at a time!

  4. Vanessa Naum says:

    Thanks for the post!! I’ve been on the fence trying to decide to make the leap to do the PhD. Your post is really relevant! I think the only things holding me back are fear and the cost. I LOVE Capella. Finished my MBA/Finance in 2008. Although it was hard, I LOVE learning!

    Guess I just need to make a decision.


    • Lynn Riskedal says:

      It IS a big decision. It is always good to know your concerns and what your plan is for each of those concerns.
      What is it that is fearful? Check out the earlier posts that Lori has on fear.

      Learning and contributing knowledge for the greater good are GREAT reasons to seek a PhD.

      Best wishes as you make those decisions.


  5. Bill Clayton says:

    What a great post! I read it several days ago and didn’t respond since I’m not yet enrolled at Capella. (I plan to take that step as soon as I get off the road for a week or two.) But I must admit you did make me smile to know that someone else has gone through the same emotions. In my case it wasn’t going back to school (although it soon will be) it was training for my first Ironman race. Two to three hours of physical training everyday and six to seven hours on the bike every Saturday made life around the old homestead a bit tough. Although the strain was only for a year, it was well worth it when I crossed the finish line and saw my champion and supporter—my wife—waiting for me on the other side.
    The biggest lesson I took from this experience was that putting my mouth where my money was—yes I said that right—was the best action I could have taken. I told everyone I was going to do an Ironman Triathlon. At the time, I didn’t realize that taking that simple action would mean committing myself—both body and soul—to this effort. Believe me, there were times when I was quite sorry I opened my mouth. I’m not the kind of person that backs down from a commitment once it’s been made. And telling people about it locked me in to toeing the line in Lake Placid that early August morning in 2000. Oh, there’s another lesson I learned as well. I was 51 then. It’s now ten years later. Is that too old to go back to school? This 61 year-old doesn’t think so. After all, age is only a number. Thanks again for a great post!

    • Lynn Riskedal says:

      You have my greatest admiration in training for and AND doing an Ironman…no matter the outcome. I understand the committment it takes.
      Great lessons learned…and I’m sure a few more you haven’t articulated.
      Well done. And Welcome! (just a bit early) to Capella.


  6. Katrina Johnson says:

    Some things are just RIGHT ON TIME. I have been in the OMG stage for about a week. I finally realized why: I just started my PhD at Capella (after just finishing my M.A. in July; 8 months straight) and am now taking three classes. My first class overlapped the Fall term ( I didn’t plan it that way), I work ten hours a day, recently put all of my things in storage because my new townhouse is not ready (they said it would be Oct 1) and am living with a friend. On top of all of that I have my first collquia in two weeks which we all know has coursework that must be done before you attend. I guess it’s no surprised that I feel displaced, overwhelmed and uncertain. BUT, I finally discovered what was wrong and know all of this is temporary. I am pressing forward and definitely appreciate this post.

    @ Alexis what a motivating story

    • Lynn Riskedal says:

      WOW!!! Lots going on. Temporary is good. Keep Breathing. Take care of yourself.
      Your colloquia experience will be valuable, particularly if you can let go of the non course stuff (as important as it is) and focus on you and education.
      Keep moving forward, one step at a time.


  7. Rochelle Landingham says:

    I thank all of you for your words of hope and encouragement. I just received my letter today stating that I had been offered admission into the PhD program and that Capella University is pleased that I have accepted admission! OMG!!!!!!! I do know what I was thinking….I am going to take one good step at a time. I am excited, encouraged and looking forward to the challenge.

    • Lynn Riskedal says:

      Congratulations, Rochelle! Welcome to Capella!

      One step at a time is a good strategy. And, reaching out to your advisors and faculty to ask questions is another.


  8. Sophia Harrison says:

    I’ve been having that OMG feeling this whole quarter. I’ve been going through a difficult time at work and sometimes I feel like giving up. When I get that way I look for encouragement through the Capella Blogs and Videos, especially the commencement videos and picture myself there at the end when I complete my PhD. I’m in that “middle” part that she talked about when the OMG feeling starts to creep in. Especially when you don’t really see anything spectacular happening and just kind of feel your in a rut. I have 3 more courses to take before comps and they are all pre-requisites of each other so they are going to be spread out over the next year. I won’t be doing comps until the Fall, and it just feels like an eternity right now. I’m sure you all can relate to that. Anyway, I’m gonna keep pressing through, even through those OMG and “what was I thinking” moments. I think my thought usually is “what have I gotten myself into” moments. hahhaha. Good luck to everyone.


    • Lynn Riskedal says:

      Hang in there. You’ve got important work to do over these next couple quarters.
      How might you ‘mix it up’ while still taking those courses? How are you preparing for the comprehensive exams?
      Have you begun reading ( and re-reading) the comprehensive exam manual?
      Give your advising team a call for ideas on preparing for the next stage of your program.

  9. Yvette Glenn says:

    This is motivation for the soul! Thank you to each of you as I embark on the dissertation phase. I’ve tried to stay very positive through the experience, but I’ve had many “OMG, What was I thinking” moments. As I reflect on these times, I find that I’m “growing up” and becoming more refined in many areas of my life. I’m trying to truly realize the richness of each experience and value the experience.
    Thank you for pure motivation to keep moving forward.
    Yvette Glenn