People periodically ask me when I’ll be done with my PhD. I suppose it’s a reasonable question. Even so, I have no answer.
I’m relatively confident that there’s a chance I might defend my dissertation sometime in the vicinity of between two and twenty two years from now. It’s a really difficult thing to pin down at this point.
Are you ready for a bit of what might seem like complaining?
I wake up really early in the morning. I’m no spring chicken, so I have to swim for a bit before I go to work. It get’s my blood flowing and makes me able to move in the ways I think I was intended to be able to move. Specifically in the ways I’m not able to do when I roll out of bed. Ever pull a muscle adjusting a pillow? No spring chicken. After swimming I head to work.
I have a wonderful job. I really can’t imagine a more joyful way to spend my workdays than doing the things I’m charged with doing as an elementary school principal. Sure, some of it’s more fun and some of it’s less fun, but whose job doesn’t have ups and downs, challenges and triumphs?
Actually, some of the more challenging moments end up being some of the ones that offer some of the best growth opportunities.
Regardless, there’s lot’s going on. Occasionally, even the most well-planned days slip away without the well-planned plans unfolding, and when I say occasionally what I mean is frequently. Lots of meaningful and productive things typically happen, just sometime not the things I intended.
After work I either continue to work until I no longer can, or I do something like take my kids to swim lessons, piano, soccer, pillow polo, etc. To be clear, my wife is usually in on the taking of kids to places. Sometimes, if my wife has a meeting or some other commitment in the evening I head home to play with, feed, bath, read to, and put the kids to bed. Our kids are 8, 6, 4, and 3 years old. Evening routines are wonderfully loud and energized with lots of wonderful noise and remarkable motion. Tiring. Did I mention I’m no spring chicken?
Weekends are half work and half play unless certain ones require more of either.
Again, I know the previous couple of paragraphs might sound like a complaining rant. Thank you for your tolerance. The truth is I have no complaints. I sincerely enjoy all of that stuff. I’m a very lucky guy, blessed in so many ways. The point is not that I have too much to do. Don’t we all? The point is that I very infrequently find myself done with much of anything.
I am a bit of a Self Determination Theory wonk, and I lean toward believing that the three basic psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness are a relatively important foundation of well-being. All of the stuff listed above sometimes leaves me feeling behind, and if I let it, that feeling can dig into the competence part of my basic psychological needs. It sometimes feels like a whole lot of “doing” and not a whole lot of “done.”
I imagine it’s that way for many of us.
Parents and educators are constantly running, pouring everything we have into every moment, getting it “right” occasionally and getting it “wrong” a good bit too, feeling exhausted much of the time, pushing through, caring deeply, moving quickly, and regularly being told (by others and by ourselves) that we’re off the mark in one way or another.
Good news, I found a solution! It’s not an easy one to implement, but those often turn out to be the best ones, with the most meaningful outcomes.
Here it is: appreciate, celebrate, and focus on the doing rather than the done. After all, are we really ever “done” with anything? Should we be? Done is darn final.
Done is dull.
Done is uninteresting.
Done is kind of bleak.
Doing is exciting!
Doing is mysterious!
Doing is electrifying!
I officially have no clue about when I’ll be done with my PhD. No clue. Officially. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. However, I’m quite certain that when I am done I won’t be doing it anymore, and doing it is really meaningful. Maybe I should intentionally never be done (my dissertation chair probably got heart burn just as I wrote that. Sorry).
Friends, I assure you, I’m doing the best I can, which includes learning and doing better each day, and I still simply ain’t getting it all done.
So, in an effort to honor my well-being I’m going all in on this “doing” thing. I’m going to appreciate and celebrate “the doing” and see how that goes.
Actually, I’m doing it right this moment and it feels good, which is good. When we feel food we’re better for ourselves and for those we serve. The doing. It’s good, and it’s a really easy thing to focus on. After all, you’re doing it anyway.
In it together for the kids.
Live. Love. Listen. Learn. Lead. Thanks.