I have survived one whole year as PhD student! It has been a crazy year of ups and downs, and I have learnt a lot about what doing a PhD really involves. I still have my confirmation to look forward to, however looking back at the past year I’d like to share one or two things I’ve learnt.
Firstly, to not compare where I am to where others are. It can be hard seeing what stages your friends are in their research. When they’re ahead, it looks scary hard, or they’re so advanced that you think you’ll never get there. If they’re just starting, they have so much potential! Each of our journeys are different (I enjoy stating the obvious), so we shouldn’t look to others for where our paths will take us.
We all start and finish in different places!
One of the most important things I’ve learnt, in my opinion, involves motivation and inspiration. Inspiration comes and goes, and we need to use whatever motivation we can find to ensure that when we lack inspiration, our work doesn’t come to a standstill. This means it doesn’t matter whether you’re doing the work for the “right” reason or the “wrong”, as long as it gets done!
My first blog post was about how difficult the decision to stay in my PhD was. I wasn’t able to find the motivation to continue working. However, once inspiration hit, I was full of ideas and enthusiasm! Throughout this past year, while inspiration has come and gone, I’ve had to find the motivation to come into work even when all I wanted to do is find a rich guy to marry so I'd never have to think again.
It’s on these latter days that doing work is hard. We’ve all experienced it – that feeling that you’re not getting anywhere, that everything you do it pointless, and you’ll never be as good as others. Some days you’re just not going to feel inspired, and you need to find other reasons to continue work. There are days when I have to remind myself that life as a researcher means flexible work hours and paid trips overseas!
It’s ok for these motivations to be whatever they have to be to keep you working. The end product is often rewarding in itself – a PhD! Or a published article, or successful experiment. However it takes time to get there, and you need something to keep you going in the meantime. If you can remember that you’re working to win a Nobel prize, great! But if you need to motivate yourself to finish an article with a chocolate reward, or plan a celebratory dinner to motivate yourself to finish writing up that paper, that’s fine too. It’s even ok agree to give a presentation or work late to try and impress someone (whether it be your supervisors, or that hottie down the hall).
The important thing to remember is that once you’ve decided you want to finish this PhD (or degree, assignment, experiment, or any other goal), it doesn’t matter what the motivation is to get through the tough parts, as long as it keeps you working in between those magical days of inspiration!
One you’ve decided you’re going to finish this thing, if you can’t find the “right” motivation, look for the wrong one!