If you are familiar with my mission of helping you maximize your ability to promote your work and increase your funding, you’ll know that I spend the majority of my efforts focusing on the positive, all the ways you can improve and be better.
But I need a break.
In this post, I would like to explore failure and your psyche. Still reading?
Great! (I’ve often thought a smaller audience was easier to reach.)
In the world of psychology, there is a concept called locus of control that is used to describe how people view their ability to control things in their life, or in the happenings around them.
There is a huge body of literature devoted to this broad topic. It has been used in applications with students, in chronic pain management, and in other health-related issues, and, now: grant writing!
People are typically divided into 2 subtypes: those who have an internal locus of control and those who have an external locus of control.
In a nutshell, people who identify as having an internal locus of control feel that they have significant influence over their own state of being, their own life course, or the ability to affect their own world. Patients with chronic pain, for example, feel they have the power to improve their own well being and manage their own symptoms through exercise, rest, etc. to a notable degree.
Those who identify as having an external locus of control rely on “powerful others,” like doctors (or random chance) to direct their lives and state of being. Using the chronic pain example, patients with an external locus of control are far more likely to rely on their doctor to provide some kind of treatment or to give accountability to a larger, nebulous force.
What kind of person are you?
Let’s take this from the medical world to the grant writing world. Have you ever received negative comments back from reviewers that left you feeling incensed that they didn’t “get it,” or that your reviewers were biased, or that the grant system was unfair?
It is very easy to vent frustration at the other guy, the reviewers (I did plenty of this earlier in my career). It’s human nature.
It is also human nature for people to fall into 2 camps thereafter: those who are naturally introspective and, when done venting, are willing to look at their own contribution to the negative reviewer comments. And then, there are those who continue to blame the reviewers.
You don’t have to be a psychologist to see not only the difference between these types of people, but how the latter scenario, the blamers, the people with an external locus of control, can experience failure more often. It’s not a judgment of personal style; it is reality.
At the end of the day, you dreamt up the idea and wrote the grant. It is your responsibility to ensure that your communication resonates with the reviewers.
This locus of control business is a very roundabout way of illustrating that when your grant gets rejected, it is a golden opportunity to learn from your mistakes, hold the mirror up and have some introspection. And if you’re not sure what to do next, ask for help.
By the way, this works insanely well in all other parts of your life, too.