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First some good news: I’ve just found out that 3 more of your peers have finished their dissertations and have successfully defended. I didn’t get confirmed permission to share their names, but I just wanted to start off by congratulating them on this major accomplishment! In fact, I’ve just started a "Wall of Fame" Page, which is where I’ll start listing all the people in this community who finish their dissertations. If you’d like to be part of this "Wall of Fame", all I need you to do is email me when you’ve finished, including your name, degree, and topic. I’ll get you added to the list.

Now onto the topic of today’s post: Clarity. Clarity refers to being clear. In the dissertation, clarity is crucial. You must first be clear on the boundaries of your project, and then be clear in your communication of these boundaries. You must maintain a forward thinking and lucid approach, both in the conceptualization and in the writing. It’s OK, of course, if you don’t feel clear all the time (who does, really??), but you need to strive for clarity as often as possible. And, when you find clarity, you must take action, accordingly.

This concept was driven home this past week, as I spoke with a man who is struggling to finish his dissertation. "Sam" only has two months to go before he risks being kicked out of his program. He contacted me to see if I might be able to help him finish his proposal in time. In speaking with him, it became clear that he was suffering (needlessly, perhaps) in the space of the unknown. He didn’t know exactly when the deadline was. He didn’t know if he’d be kicked out of the program. He didn’t know, really, what it would take to finish.

And, despite the anxiety, fear, tension, and worry "not knowing" was causing him- he STILL felt that this was better than knowing.

Except, that it wasn’t.

He had been suffering for days and weeks in his fear; and this fear made him incapable of moving forward. I suggested to him that he start the process of getting clear: first, by defining his actual deadlines, and then, clarifying his position if he failed to meet those deadlines. In his case, he was avoiding finding out the true answers, when this delay may have made his worst fears come true.

So if you’ve been operating in a space of fogginess or the unknown, and it’s causing you stress- it’s time to take the first step towards clarity. Get more information. Brainstorm alternate ways to solve the problem- even if that involves going up, under, or completely around the problem. Ask for help. Talk with your advisor.

Do what it takes to gain that extremely crucial clarity as fast as possible; then take action accordingly.