A few months ago I was applying for grants and I realized that my applications were overly long and complex.

I reflected on this and I realized I was subconsciously expecting that funders would not fund my projects. And because of this, I was getting defensive and trying to anticipate any questions the funders might have so I could answer them in advance. This was then causing my applications to become overly complex and lengthy.

But I realized that if I were the funder reading these applications, I would probably think, “Why is he being so defensive? Is he expecting me not to fund his project? … Hm! If he's expecting that I won't give him funding, then maybe that's evidence that I shouldn’t give him funding!” 

It seemed like I was heading towards a negative self-fulfilling prophecy. I was expecting the world to not go as I like, and that expectation was probably increasing the chances!

So I stopped.

Notably, I did not attempt to deceive myself into believing they would fund my projects, nor did I resort to 'faking it until I make it'. (I dislike this common advice.) 

Instead, I stopped doubting the faith I already had. (After all, I wouldn't have been applying for funding if I thought my projects shouldn't receive funding.)

Then, once I stopped anticipating them to disapprove of my applications, I naturally lost my defensiveness. I simply submitted the minimum viable details to the questions they asked, and I didn't answer any questions they didn't ask. These applications were simpler and shorter, and they also took less time and effort to write.

So that was all a few months ago. I can’t say whether my realization causally benefited my funding applications, but here is some (confounded) data nonetheless: 

  • Before realizing the above, I had more grant rejections than acceptances. After, I've had more acceptances than rejections. 
  • Since this change in approach, I've received approximately $123,000 in funding for 5 applications, covering 4 different projects from 3 distinct funders.

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