Why I Quit My PhD After 5 Years

Hi friend, if you are reading this article, you probably are considering quitting your PhD program. I don’t plan to encourage or discourage you, but I do want to help you make decisions that you are most happy with.

I don’t know how common my own demographic is, my feelings and minds (yeah, I don’t think I have logic) are likely “atypical” in some way for you, to help balance the bias, bottom of this article is a summary of myself that I can see as most relevant to this topic, you may want to reference to that. To not bore you further, I will start directly on my generalized views on this topic.

Below are the topics you should think thoroughly and have an answer or acceptance with some level of confidence before you reach the final decision of quitting your PhD or not.

Do A SWOT analysis

Plan for the next:

Understand your decision with your context

Everyone has a internal integrity system. You use it to make judgement and take actions without you knowing it out not.When the reality align well with your system, you feel engaged and fulfilled. When the reality is challenging your system, you may feel grievance or even hopeless. A well-functioning system should provide 3 functions: (1) lasting motivation, (2) task breakdown and (3) clear feedback. By having this system, you can externalize your infinite stupidity and worries into something . Your system may look like this at first:

How to mess up your thoughts

Please do not expect this system can give you the answer you are looking for immediately, because you are likely not asking the right question most of the time. This system is a visual organization of your thoughts to make more likely for you to ask the right question for the next step.

an example of your life management map

The high level components are you final motivations in your system. The bars are the feedback and progress track of each component. You just need to sit back and really think how to breakdown each task and evaluate how it affects each component in your system. For me, I never planned to stay in academia, I chose to apply for a PhD program simply because I want to run away from home and come to USA. Getting enrolled in a graduate program is the only way I can think of back then. I was tempted by the title and the promised future of gaining the PhD degree, especially after I put myself in an environment where almost everyone is either a PhD or to-be PhD. I had been hypnotized by the survival urgency and this social pressure I made up in my mind for several years. Finally I woke up now and found my courage to correct my mistakes.

It is pretty clear that quitting PhD will be tremendously helpful to my physical and mental health. But how is it going to affect my career opportunities? It will suffer for a while for sure, I will have to accept the hit and recover from it. But I believe the strength and opportunities this decision brings to be will soon surpass the weakness and threats it brings.

I hope you can deconstruct your own needs, mistakes and fears too. Most importantly, no matter how nihilistic or meaningless you may think now, I wish you will gather your courage and confidence and make decision you can trust.

My day job is a machine learning engineer, but I love working on projects in mental health, fitness and finance. I am also the author of GetUpLate.

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