Finish Your Dissertation in 2019 Part 4: Cultivate Self-Awareness

January 5, 2019

We are happy to bring you our 4th post in our 4-part series on finishing your dissertation in 2019. Our hope is that the first 3 posts about setting intentions, creating rituals to stay connected to those intentions, and admitting what you don’t know are useful to you throughout the year. In our 4th post, we are inviting you to focus on a highly important investment of your time and energy. This focus is on cultivating self-awareness.

On the road to a doctoral degree, you will likely encounter all kinds of external challenges that you can not control. But you do have much more control over how you deal with external challenges. They key to accessing this control is the cultivation of self-awareness.


Self-awareness is having a conscious awareness of your own strengths, challenges, values, beliefs, motives, habits, and feelings. Self-awareness allows you to understand the thoughts, emotions and physical sensations that underlie your behavior, reactions and choices. Self-awareness is crucial for our personal development and is a potent fertilizer to help us learn, grow, and produce positive outcomes and results.

A key way we help our clients increase their self-awareness is by helping them discern internal barriers such as beliefs, fears, emotions, and unpleasant body sensations that drive unproductive behavior. For example, you might have a tendency to binge watch TV,  spend hours scrolling through social media, or consistently put off writing to the last minute. Rather than labeling yourself as lazy or unmotivated, self-awareness helps you see that those behaviors can be driven by a belief that your work needs to be above criticism or that struggling with writing means you are not as smart as you should be. Being self-aware means that you step back and try to understand what is really happening when you are working well and when you are not. You seek to recognize the deeper internal factors that enhance or diminish your productivity, focus, concentration and motivation.

Imagine you are outside of yourself observing how you engage (or don’t) with your dissertation. Gently release self-judgment and compassionately observe your own thoughts, feelings and body sensations. Slow down and let yourself gently observe your inner life. The next time you are struggling to focus or work effectively, see what you can discover by more deeply examining what internal barriers to progress may be present. Examine yourself with kind eyes with an intent of self-understanding instead of self-judgement. Such compassionate self-awareness opens the door to new ways of responding and behaving giving you far more control over how you respond to the challenges of earning a doctoral degree. For example, as self-awareness grows, many of our clients come to realize that their fear of criticism has been driving them to obsessively rewrite the same few sentences over and over thwarting their flow and productivity.  Such awareness can help them see that they can plan periods of time to write with lower standards and learn to trust that it is safe to let their writing be temporarily rough in the interest of greater productivity. They can learn to write with a greater sense of freedom to explore, create and play with ideas.


Some people can’t imagine life as anything other than a self-awareness journey where they continually learn how their inner and outer worlds interact. For others, the prospect of looking inward feels scary and unpleasant. If you are in the latter camp, we want to offer you some encouragement. First, there is no rush. The journey of self-awareness is a very personal path with no timetable, grades or deadlines. It is not always easy to see some aspects of your personality, habits and default ways of behaving and being in the world. So, take your time and bring a healthy dose of self-compassion with you. Second, self-awareness gives you much greater power to act and be in the world in a way that produces positive results. You will become better able to deliberately make choices that leave you feeling true to yourself and your values. If you have ever wished you could be more proactive and less reactive, self-awareness is the answer. Only by getting to know yourself on a deeper level, can you find a way to stand apart from the powerful reactive energies that move through your mind and body freeing yourself up to make conscious choices that move you in the directions you want to go. In this way, self-awareness can be crucial to helping you finish your dissertation once and for all in 2019.

2019 FOR YOU

Let us know how you plan to cultivate self-awareness in 2019. What will you do support yourself and develop the ability to step back and observe yourself, your inner life, and how you show up in the world?  We do have a few suggestions to get you started. We are big fans of Tara Brach and her free talks (audio and video) at Also, we highly recommend, Kristin Neff’s book Self-Compassion (this book is truly a must read for all humans), and Steven Hayes’ book Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life. Of course, check back here as we will be posting new ideas and wisdom for you all year long on our blog, Facebook, and Instagram.

We are rooting for your success in 2019!  We are here if we can support you.