One of the elements of dissertation coaching that always surprises me is how it often seems as if ABD’s expect to find the “perfect time” to finish their dissertations.

They carry the dissertation around- both literally and figuratively- and keep putting off working on it for someday. Meanwhile, life keeps going on- they get married or partnered, move, have a child or two, get a job, and so on- and still, the dissertation remains incomplete.

Sometimes, this is by conscious choice; you can, after all, only manage so many of this type ‘life project’ at any one time. But, more often, it seems like the dissertation remains undone by default. Not that you chose not to work on it right now- just that you never made it a priority.

The reasons for this are many, but the two biggest ones, I think, relate to fear of how much work it will require (and, consequently, what it will demand you give up) and how difficult it will be (which, actually, is more related to fear than reality.)

But what I often wonder is that so many of you take on responsibilities which are huge and meaningful (partnering, parenting, teaching)- and which, actually, are much more demanding and difficult than the dissertation. And you do these actively; showing up each day, doing what you need to do, and showing up because you agreed to.

If you would just transfer this level of determination and focus and discipline to completing the dissertation, you’d finish in no time. After all, growing a relationship, raising a child, holding a high level job are all much more difficult than writing a 100 or 200 page paper. Yet the paper becomes bigger than it should be in the scope of things, and you keep waiting for the time to be perfect to begin.

The truth is, the time will never be perfect. Like any decision in life, you need to make a decision, and live the decision, even while everything else is going on around you. When you are committed to your decisions, and make them a priority, you naturally find a way to make things work.

Will you have to sometimes give up something to do this? Yes.

Will it be more than you can do? Not necessarily.

Are the results worth it? Absolutely.