The theme of resilience and overcoming obstacles has been a big one these past few weeks in my dissertation coaching groups. It’s clear, both from these current groups, and the thousands of other ABD’s I’ve helped over the years, that dissertation resilience is one of the hidden secrets of a successful dissertation process.

So much has been written about writing the dissertation- how to do it just a few minutes a day, how to structure your sentences, what formatting style to use, and so on. Yet I have not seen as much emphasis placed on the concept of being resilient- believing that you can- and having the skillset to overcome obstacles.

Yet, in my experience, this self-belief and the skill of being resilient is the well-spring from which all the other actions come.

If you do not, fundamentally, believe that you can finish the dissertation, no amount of writing advice will help you do it. Similarly, if you have not built any kind of dissertation resilience, the slightest setback will derail you for months- or years- or maybe even permanently.

There seems to be some belief that dissertation resilience is (or should be) somehow innate- that you’re born with it, or automatically know how to do it- or something like that.

The truth is, though, that it is a skill and mindset that must be consciously and thoughtfully cultivated.

In my dissertation groups, we spend most of our time goal setting and problem solving. The reason for this is because it’s one way of developing dissertation resiliency, and of creating notable wins and progress- no matter how small.

This is a key factor in building a stable foundation upon which to make meaningful dissertation progress. I often say that “How you do your life is how you do your dissertation”, which means that the same strengths you have in life, you bring to the dissertation- and, on the flipside, the same weaknesses you have in life you bring to your dissertation too.

The majority of us could benefit from being more resilient in both life and the dissertation.

And there is a delicate balance at work between your feelings about yourself and your feelings about whether you can succeed in this project.

Self belief changes everything.

If you find that you’re not making as much progress as you like, you might begin by examining your current level of belief in your capacity to finish the dissertation. If it’s lower than you would like, take action to change that first.

Get some support. Talk with a friend. Join my dissertation small group program. Do something- anything- that helps you.

When you believe you can finish a worthwhile and contributory project, you’re much more likely to do what it takes to make that happen.