The ABD Ten Commandments | Issue 229
In this issue: Follow the ABD 10 Commandments to get that dissertation out the door faster! [Est. reading time under 5 minutes.]
Need more support? Apply for your own coach. Finish faster and enjoy the ride.
By Gayle Scroggs, Ph.D., P.C.C.
Are you stressed out about finishing your dissertation? Do you spend time beating yourself up over it? Do you waste time you could be writing? Are you lost in the process?
Turn the situation around fast by cultivating ten habits proven to turn dissertation stress into dissertation success. Let's call them the Ten Commandments for ABDs.
You already know the gamut of dissertation self-sabotage, i.e., the thoughts and actions that keep you stuck. Now try the antidotes that will catapult you forward.
These ten prescriptions emerge from my application of positive psychology principles in over a dozen years of coaching all kinds of doctoral students, from educators to historians, from Ivy League colleges to online universities, from Canada to South Africa, from youthful scholars to senior citizens.
You will notice that each commandment offers a positive strategy to counter a negative habit shared by many dissertators. Focus on the ones that resonate with your maladaptive tendencies.
Furthermore, these have all been shown to be universally effective. Solid research and client successes back them up. Test them yourself. Notice how your new habits create an upward spiral of productivity and positivity.
What others might you add? We invite you to share your personal ABD commandments with us by sending to the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I. THOU SHALT GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO MAKE MISTAKES.
Mistakes are an inevitable part of learning. If you already knew everything, you would not be in school. Don't try to be the perfect writer or researcher. Instead strive to be a good learner.
II. THOU SHALT REMEMBER IT IS JUST A DISSERTATION, NOT YOUR MAGNUM OPUS.
Most dissertations have very small readership. They don't win Nobel Prizes or create world peace. Consider the dissertation experience as necessary practice for the significant work you will do later.
III. THOU SHALT CARE FOR YOUR BODY WITH GOOD SLEEP, NUTRITION, AND EXERCISE.
Your body is the tool that does the work; after all your brain is part of your body. For optimal performance, this magnificent organism requires regular maintenance. Don't try to run on empty.
IV. THOU SHALT TRUST THAT YOU CAN LEARN WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW.
Everything necessary for finishing your dissertation can be learned. If you got this far, you already have the brains to finish. Now put them to work learning what's left.
V. THOU SHALT BE AWARE THAT SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE ASK FOR THE RESOURCES AND SUPPORT THEY NEED.
You don't get to see other folks' entire process, just the final product. No one achieves anything big without input from others. Who could help you rev up your dissertation pace?
VI. THOU SHALT BE GRATEFUL FOR YOUR ACADEMIC OPPORTUNITY—MANY ENVY YOU.
Doubt this? Check the news and identify people that would prefer being in your shoes, fretting about lit reviews and methods, rather than trying desperately to survive.
VII. THOU SHALT SAY "YES" TO WHAT TRULY MATTERS TO YOU AND SAY "NO" TO THE REST.
Life is a lot like a buffet meal: You can only fit so much on your plate, so pick carefully. Make "no, thanks, I'm working on my dissertation" your personal mantra.
VIII. THOU SHALT NOT FORGET WHY YOU ARE DOING THIS IN THE FIRST PLACE.
You committed yourself to this for a reason: What was it? How will you feel if you quit now?
IX. THOU SHALT NOT MAKE EXCUSES.
No one was ever awarded a doctorate for having the best excuse for not finishing. Use your creativity to make progress, not to make rationalizations that no one wants to hear anyway.
X. THOU SHALT MAKE TIME FOR SOME FUN ALONG THE WAY.
Successful people enjoy their work and their hobbies, including music, art, and sports. Positive emotions are the "tiny engines of flourishing," so make room for them. Unnecessary suffering is not a prelude to success.
P.S. Also recognize that finishing your doctorate will not make you a better person—but how you go about it just might.
YOUR OWN COACH
If you are considering whether to get your own coach to help you reach your academic goals, fill out this brief application for a free consultation with a dissertation coach.
GAYLE SCROGGS, Ph.D., P.C.C., Editor, ABDSG.
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 (www.MentorCoach.com), 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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