“Will I ever finish my PhD?” I don’t know any PhD student who doesn’t ask himself this question.
Depending on how you are feeling, a train of thoughts will occur after this question. In case you are feeling happy, this is what you might hear: “Of course everything will be ok, I had positive reviews on my last presentation and though the meeting with my supervisor was quite difficult, I have a much better idea of what to do next. And after I finish that course in statistics I probably will get more ideas on how to tackle the assessments”
No problems, and you continue working.
However, this whole train of thought could be very different if you are not feeling so good. Probably you will hear this as an answer: “I don’t think so. I really think my supervisor is hesitating as well about me, he asked me so many difficult questions. And on top of that I need to do a course in statistics. Statistics and numbers really aren’t my thing, last time I had to sit my exam three times. I also have so many deadlines that I almost know for sure I won’t make it. I am so tired.
And yes, stress has arrived! Suddenly it is much more interesting to talk to your colleague, check your Facebook and do everything but starting to work.
The thing is that what you are thinking at that moment seems to be the TRUTH. Whether it is positive or negative, you will believe what you think. Because you are thinking it, so it must be true.
Is that so though?
Well I can tell you that that isn’t the case: what you think is very much depending on your state of mind, did you sleep well, is the sun shining, did you have an argument with somebody or did you have great sex last night.
The problem is, we believe everything what we think once we are a bit depressed. And then forget that thoughts will be completely different once we are happy. On top of that, being a bit depressed we will start to talk to other people about all our problems and have loads of arguments why we have the problems. The other person will actually believe us and will start looking for a solution.
So it is full circle, your thoughts became an absolute reality and you will be thinking ‘that you won’t finish your PhD’ or any other negative thought.
Killing, these negative trains of thoughts and very damaging for your PhD…. Because once you start to believe these thoughts, you will feel insecure, not knowing what to do, will have problems to focus and probably procrastinate a lot.
What could you do differently?
First of all: make sure you notice you are having a negative train of thoughts.
Then: know that these thoughts do seem very real, but they aren’t. So you don’t need to look for solutions for these so called true thoughts. And for sure you don’t need to decide that you should quit your PhD because you think you will never finish it.
Learn to consider these trains of thoughts as a passing train, or a cloud in the sky, or a bad film. So wait till the train has passed, the cloud has floated away and the film has finished. Everything will be ok with your PhD!
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