This summer, I made the difficult decision to quit my PhD program. A program that, just a few years ago, was my dream. I changed my mind, and that's okay.
To be clear, I am in no way advocating that PhD students who are having doubts or facing challenges rush to quit. In that case, no one would ever finish a PhD. Literally. Every PhD student I’ve met has had doubts at some point. Nor am I in any way trying to devalue the important research and skill sets PhDs bring, both inside and outside academia. To complete a PhD, you must create new knowledge. It’s a significant accomplishment and should be treated as such.
What I AM advocating is that you have the courage to:
1. Look inside yourself
2. Evaluate whether the career path you’re on gets you closer to what you actually want from life
3. And then align your actions with what you discover
Angela Duckworth’s book, Grit, has a powerful message: “Grit is a key ingredient to success.” And her story is inspiring. But I was equally inspired by Susan David, Ph.D.'s words earlier this year: “We need to know when to grit and when to quit. The capacity to walk away from existing goals when they no longer serve us can be courageous, smart and strategic."
Those are the words that guided the decision to leave my PhD program.
In other words, make sure you are “gritting” for something worth “gritting” for. And only YOU can decide what that is. Of course, everyone's situation is different. For many people, a PhD can open doors to their dream career. But for me, a PhD just wasn’t worth it. I realized that I could create my dream career without one.
Thank you so much to Emily (@emilysteliotes on Twitter, @mygoldenacorn on IG and twitter) for sharing her story.