Doing research is about working every day. There is no magic to doing research. The magic is your ability to keep working at it, even when you are down. As my PhD advisor once said, “It takes a lot of persistence to get there.”
One little step everyday.
One more day, do it again.
Another day, repeat.
Don’t stop until you get there. And then…. repeat.
But, how you keep your spirits up in doing research?
The truth is… Keeping optimistic is very hard to do. We have a epidemic of graduate students, professors, and researchers who have lost faith in themselves. If you are in a research career, you will know at least a dozen people that are deeply depressed or saddened by who they are. And, if you do not, you are likely not having real conversations with people. Here is an interesting blog post on mental health in academia.
I get down to. Looking at the work that you have to do, and the rejections you will face in the future is demoralizing.
However, I have learnt to make some practices part of my life that really help me deal with research. Here are some things that I have learnt that make a difference in my life as a researcher.
Appreciate who you are.
We are all imperfect. Live your life by being you. I struggle just like you with figuring out “life.”
My biggest thing that I learned is that it is okay to be imperfect, and to embrace your weaknesses, not your strengths. Your weaknesses are the things that make you unique. They are the thing that people will remember you for, and the things that people will love you for.
Remember that you are truly gifted.
I have to remind myself that what we do is beautiful. And, who I am is remarkable as well. When are you going start seeing how gifted you really are? You are a remarkable person, so why don’t you begin acknowledging that?
Remember that you are a beautiful person is difficult to do. We all get stuck in our minds, but things really start happening once you start seeing how lucky you are. Do you actually start being productive or your life actually changes? Probably not.
To me, what changes is that I start seeing all of the nuances of this career. Once I realize that I started out in Special Education, was last in pretty near everything I did in grade school, and came from a family saw finishing high school as a remarkable accomplishment (it is – you better believe it), I start loving who I am. Don’t forget that – once you start appreciating how remarkable you are, you start to appreciate what you have accomplished and what you are doing.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up For The Other Things That People Have Done To You.
Remember that you are a good person, and you can’t help what others do to you. People sometimes do things that are not so nice. A few people make subjective calls about some silly little thing. They don’t know who you are. Other people are likely only focusing on their own self. You can’t help that.
What you can do is focus on being nice and generous with your time. You are in control of your life, not theirs. If people do not like the fact that you are generous or nice, you move on. Wasting your time trying to convince others that you are genuine and care will only eat you up.
Find others who will recognize you as “you.”
Be you, and don’t be ashamed for being the amazing person you are. You don’t need to strategize, social network, or game anything. Playing the ‘academic game’ may lead you to be successful in terms of publications, but is that going to really matter on the day that you die?
To me, no. What matters to me is that my family and colleagues will recognize me for who I was. A person that was ‘real’ and actually cared.
Practice positivity even when you don’t want to.
Honestly, you cannot say “You got this!” enough. It will change your life.
By the way, I just want to say thank you for all who are following along on the R3ciprocity project. What started our as a small software application to help with my research and writing has turned into a life of it’s own. It has been a life changing experience for me. Almost like a “come to Jesus” moment.
If you have not understood it yet, my positive notes are not for you. It is entirely selfish. Yes, the people who leave comments really are amazing. You are! And, I appreciate you! I have learned that many people want positive change in their life, but aren’t quite sure how to do it.
But, honestly, I didn’t think the idea of generalized reciprocity, or giving freely and honestly, would change my own worldview so much. It sounded a bit hokey to me. It still does. Why would waste my time writing this blog post?
The reason is that it changes you as a person. Maybe not forever, but for a moment. In this moment that I am writing this right now, is a moment where I am thinking about you and not me. You–the reader–have changed me more than you will ever know.
I really mean it when I say “It is truly an honor to have you in my life!”
Coming back to doing research.
Much of “doing research” does suck. If anyone tells you otherwise is feeding you a bunch of you know what. You will experience grad school or PhD Admissions rejections, rejections in the job market, paper rejections, people doing not so nice things because they are under pressure to perform, or rejections in tenure.
But, you need to know that you are a GOOD person.
The rejections do not define who you are, and you are not a product of these rejections. Your identity is not tied to the rejection or how you were treated. They are simply a subjective judgment by a few people. These negative experiences are not an indication that you are good or bad. They are not.
Instead of focusing on some silly negative experience, focus on the future opportunities that you have in front of you, and the possibilities that you have in the future.
You really do have a lot of prosperity ahead.
You are good person, and many people do love who you are. Take the time to reflect on the amount of good that you have done in this world, and your own personal learning that you have experienced.
Don’t ever forget that you are remarkable.
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