SGSAH Blogger-In-Residence: The Doctoral Experience—How To Say ‘No’; Or: Discerning in the Face of ‘Too Much’ Opportunity

In currently serving as the Blogger-In-Residence for the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities, I’ve had the unique opportunity to weight-in and reflect upon various aspects of the doctoral experience. Via weekly posts, here are my varied insights into this process known as Earning the PhD.


Full disclosure: this is an area of the doctoral process—nay, perhaps the life process—that I am still working on. However, that does place me in a particularly sympathetic mindset regarding the struggle of juggling far more things than is advisable for a human being to juggle (and, as a result, learning deliberately how to set some things down before they fall and break and spill all over the place).

Credit: Marvel Studios' The Avengers/Avengers Assemble (Source:

This juggling process, of course, is also known as, being a doctoral researcher. It’s an unavoidable condition of our work.

Fact is, though: we spend a great deal of our time fretting about a hypothetical lack of opportunities that may or may not come our way, or worrying over pending applications for funding or training or travel or research—and all of this, at least partially, is rooted in an anxiety over the idea of what we won’t have.

In reality, however, we often (possibly more so than not) find ourselves facing just the opposite problem: a veritable glut of opportunities. This conference (whether you’re presenting or otherwise), that training module, some panel you might serve on, or internship you might elect to take, or a travel bursary you might make use of for research or language that might then involve a direct-flight-connection to another event, resulting in your flat in Scotland sitting empty for months at a time and then—

You see what I mean?

Regardless of whether this is a portrait of your life stroke-for-stroke, or an exaggeration of what is still a conflict of interests (in a very literal sense) in your daily life, such a state of affairs is often characterised as the “best” problem to have. Yet it is still a problem that needs solving: in the face of many excellent, how do you know which to take and which to pass up? How do you say ‘no’ when everything sounds like a great idea in one respect or another?

Again: I’m still working through this one myself, but I can offer some pointers based on the insights I’ve come to across my own grappling with this particular issue.


(( Read More at The SGSAH BLOG ))


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