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ABD Warning: 14 Things You Need to Stop Doing | Issue 293

Summary: Discover 14 habits that get in your way—and how to get back on track.

Estimated read time: Five minutes that can remove serious obstacles to your degree and future success.


By Gayle Scroggs, PhD, PCC

"The definition of hell is: Your last day on Earth, the person you became meets the person you could have become." ~ Dan Sullivan

Who do you want to become?

Does that question motivate positive change?

Self-appointed gurus constantly tell you what more you need to do to become your Best Self with such headlines as "The 11 Things You Must Do Now," "The 9 Things Successful People Always Do," and the like.

What if we turn the question around: Who do you fear becoming?

As Atomic Habits author James Clear cautioned, "Every action you take is a vote for the person you will become." Sadly, we often get in our own way by passively allowing unexamined bad habits to shape our character.

In a viral and unsparing post, Zdravko Bato Cvijetic identified thirteen common behaviors that you need to stop doing if you want to succeed. With a nod to Cvijetic, we describe here what you must stop doing if you're serious about earning your doctoral degree.

How many of these fourteen undesirable habits of behavior and mind will keep you from finishing your dissertation?

1. Failing to honor your dissertation time by doing lower priority tasks.

2. Living on coffee and energy drinks instead of getting adequate sleep.

3. Whipping yourself mentally instead of offering yourself self-compassion.

4. Failing to ask for help when you need it because you feel too embarrassed to ask.

5. Expecting a perfectly smooth road instead of anticipating setbacks.

6. Assuming everything should come easily to you instead of adopting a growth mindset.

7. Getting by on unhealthy food instead of nutritious meals and snacks.

8. Not taking time for sufficient exercise because you imagine you can't afford the time.

9. Mistaking your dissertation for your magnum opus instead of a step toward it.

10. Making excuses and playing the victim instead of taking action on your own behalf.

11. Constantly saying "yes" to others' agendas instead of your own.

12. Hoping your advisor will motivate you instead of taking responsibility yourself.

13. Avoiding tasks that provoke discomfort and uncertainty by escaping to social media.

14. Feeding worry and anxiety by ruminating instead of developing calming practices.


If habitual behaviors are dragging you down, resolve today to replace them with healthier alternatives. That's the most assured way to earn the coveted "Doctor" title while cultivating your Best Self for the rest of life's journey.



An accomplished coach, workshop leader, keynote speaker, and educator, Gayle earned her doctorate in social psychology from the University of New Hampshire. Her deep expertise in positive psychology allows her to help clients build their personal strengths, positive habits, and confidence to overcome procrastination, self-doubts and other blocks in order to reach vital academic and personal goals. In addition to editing the ABD Survival Guide, she contributed two chapters to the positive psychology anthology, Women's Paths to Happiness. Contact her at for coaching, presentations, and workshops on thriving in graduate school and beyond, and find free resources

BEN DEAN, Publisher, ABDSG
Ben holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. He began writing the ABDSG in 1997. Over the years, the ABDSG has published hundreds of articles and provided thousands of hours of pro bono coaching and teleworkshops to ABDs all over the world. Ben is also the founder of MentorCoach (, a virtual university focused on training accomplished professionals to become part-time or full-time coaches. You may wish to subscribe to the Coaching Toward Happiness eNewsletter! It's on applying the science of Positive Psychology to your work and life (131,000 readers). Ben lives in suburban Maryland with his wife, Janice, their two children, and Dusty, their Norwegian dwarf bunny.



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