Happy Days, Sour Days, and Dissertations

October 25th marks the birthday of Marion Ross (of Happy Days fame) and, somewhat ironically, it’s also Sourest Day. As a dissertation student, how do you view your days?…

The dissertation process is unquestionably fraught with pitfalls and setbacks.

Committee members often can’t agree with each other. How are you going to get them to agree with you?

But, there are also moments of great success and triumph. How exciting is it to successfully defend your proposal? To earn approval from the IRB to move forward? To conduct that first interview or see those first survey responses rolling in?

So, here is the eternal glass-half-full, glass-half empty choice. Do you spend your days lamenting the difficulties ahead or drawing strength from your previous successes?

You can’t always control the situations in which you find yourself. What you can control is your perception, your reaction, and how you respond.

You can choose to honor Sourest Day every day of your dissertation journey. Resentful of your committee’s resistance. Angry about your own confusion. Despondent about the likelihood that you’ll never graduate.

Or, you can resolve to view your dissertation as a series of Happy Days. Each day brings an opportunity for new growth. Each day offers a chance to understand something you didn’t understand before. Each day brings progress toward your goal of graduating.

Even if a particular day seems like a setback, it is simply a part of the overall journey. And, if you persist, if you keep your head up and your feet moving forward, even the setbacks become a step in the process. And, the process leads to your doctoral degree.

So, on Sourest Day, resolve to make your dissertation days Happy Days. Your outlook absolutely affects your outcome. Choose wisely.

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Dr. Russell W. Strickland

RUSSELL STRICKLAND, Ph.D., has been referred to as a “rocket scientist turned management consultant.” In truth, he applies an eclectic body of work from astronomy and nuclear physics to dynamic inventory management to market research to each of his student engagements.

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