Keeping yourself motivated around people who aren't that driven. In search of a study buddy.

posted
02-Aug-18, 05:44
edited about 22 seconds later
Avatar for Stargazer000
posted about 2 months ago
Greetings Everyone!

I am in the first year of my PhD in optoelectronics and I am finding it difficult to stay motivated and study deeply for long hours. It's not that I lack the motivation, it's just that I am finding it difficult to convert that motivation into drive. Part of it has to do with the people surrounding me. For some reasons, the people surrounding me aren't as motivated towards research as you'd expect and I feel that it also catches on to me since I am seeing people around me slacking off most of the time. I was, therefore, looking for a good companion online, preferable someone who has also begun his journey recently or is about to, so that we can keep each other motivated and challenge ourselves.
I believe that connecting with strongly motivated individuals will help me put in much more effort than what I'd have normally put in if I were to work in solitariness.
posted
02-Aug-18, 11:23
Avatar for arabidopsisthaliana
posted about 2 months ago
What keeps you motivated? What do you like most in your PhD?

I am in a kind of different situation (a lot of things go wrong in my PhD) and that makes it super-difficult for me to find motivation. My realization from phases where I was slacking around due to constant failure is that you have to focus on yourself and nothing/nobody else.

A main reason why I have motivation problems is that I rarely have a sense of achievement and if so, it is not recognized by my advisor. If I can't get motivation from an extrernal source, I have to find motivation with myself. So I try to focus on what I want to learn in my PhD and what I want to benefit from the time at grad school.

For example I identified different "knowledge areas" of my PhD project. I made a folder for each and I fill these folders with papers, reviews, book chapters... Whenever it is difficult for me to find motivation for my PhD project I try to focus on knowledge and skill-building.

I think the best source of motivation is to focus on what you find really important. But my motivation could be better as well, I am hanging out in this forum in the middle of the workday... ;)
posted
02-Aug-18, 11:43
edited about 12 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 months ago
Hi stargazer000, Something else you could do is advertise for a study buddy more locally - for instance on Gumtree or on University noticeboards. It sounds odd but I have done it several times and met people who were like minded (though from different research fields usually) - and it has been good. I have two friendships that began like this - although that wasn't the original intent! You have to not mind meeting people and be open to it not always working out though! I feel your pain about being in an environment that doesn't inspire you. I agree with what the previous poster said about recognizing what does motivate you and seeking that out. All the best in your quest!
posted
02-Aug-18, 13:03
Avatar for Stargazer000
posted about 2 months ago
Hello arabidopsisthaliana! For me, motivation has never been a major problem. I like the feeling of accomplishment that I get after solving a daunting problem or studying something which I originally considered tough. I hope that is the same for most of the people who embark on a research-oriented journey, including you. There are some occasional upsets here and there but all in all, for me, the pros outweigh the cons. Your lack of motivation can be accounted to the fact that in your case the cons outweigh the pros. I believe that if you will try to look past these obstacles, you will realize that you love to learn and challenge yourself as much as other highly successful PhD graduates around you. The fact that you have tried to keep yourself motivated by focusing on skill building and gaining knowledge is admirable. This is, in fact, a major motivating factor for me as well. I'd recommend watching Hamming's 'You and your research' talk on youtube to get a short burst of motivation to get you back on track.
Regarding your other question, the part I like the most about my PhD is the fact that the skill set and knowledge that I will gain once I complete my doctoral research will help me understand and appreciate a large number of related phenomena and will allow me to delve deeper into any of the allied areas of research in the future as per my choice. Speaking at a more holistic level, I chose to study optoelectronics because it lets me study the interaction of light and matter at the fundamental level which I personally find very rewarding.
posted
02-Aug-18, 13:12
Avatar for Stargazer000
posted about 2 months ago
Thank you Tudor_Queen for your suggestions. I'll try to look for the possibilities but I'm afraid there aren't many ways I can do the same at my Institute.
posted
02-Aug-18, 22:55
edited about 3 minutes later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 2 months ago
To be honest stargazer, if you need a buddy to get motivated you are going to struggle.
Whilst it is nice to have someone to bounce ideas off or shoot the breeze with, you cannot abdicate responsibility for your own motivation. Be careful that you are not creating a culture of dependency for yourself because the most committed study buddy in the world will move on one day or will go through their own phase where they can't help you because they are drowning themselves.

I don't understand why the people around you are affecting your motivation. I think you need to be aiming to be a bit more independent. That is one of the key skills the PhD is trying to bring out in you. You need to start ignoring what those around you are doing. They will have a lifetime of explaining away their decisions and behaviours.

It might sound like I am having a go at you here but that's not my intention. It's just that your post sets alarm bells ringing for me. I might be misunderstanding what you are after though.

Edited to add:
I think my confusion is coming from the fact that your first and second posts are diametrically opposed to one another. Your first sounds a bit needy and dependent but the second is the sort of thing I would have expected to hear you say. Maybe all you have to do is tell yourself that whilst you would like a buddy, you don't NEED anyone else.
posted
03-Aug-18, 00:45
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 months ago
Sure but what's wrong with looking for one if she/he feels it would be helpful? I think that recognizing what things are personally motivating to you and give you that extra boost can only be a good thing.
posted
03-Aug-18, 13:41
edited about 15 seconds later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 2 months ago
There is nothing wrong with looking for someone but there is a fine line between having a companion and actuvely pursuing an act of dependency. There were a couple of things in the OP's first post which struck me as a little too close to the latter for comfort. Like I said, I may have misunderstood.

.
posted
03-Aug-18, 15:53
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 2 months ago
Get a pet. They never argue back, always look cute and have serious de-stressing properties. Seriously, pets are awesome and always give you motivation, to forget about your PhD. Proper downtime is most precious thing in a PhD in my opinion, as your life tends to revolve round work.

Also, study buddies are overrated. Office/lab mates that are serious and driven are boring, they are usually too focused on their own work. Driven people tend to be too focused on themselves to be collaborative and only collaborate when it benefits them. They are the people that argue about authorship and hide results to benefit themselves. Serious people kill collaborative atmospheres and are the best way to ruin a lab. Long days in the lab can be hard and if you are surrounded by people who only want to talk about work, can make your life hell. So don't be that overly serious person that ruins it for everyone else because of their misplaced "drive" that makes them utterly one-dimensional. I don't care if you want to improve your knowledge by asking me to help to you and then do not reciprocate. Be a good lab mate and help other people, then expect them to help you. That is a better way find a work mate.

Finally, we can only be 100% productive for so many hours a day, slacking isn't bad if you are getting the results. Lying back and relaxing, gives you that break to be productive. If they are in the same position as you work wise and doing far less work, they are far more efficient. Don't hate on them because they work smart, learn from them. I see too many people that think just being present is "work", it isn't. While it really is about results and if relaxing means you can think/learn better in shorter bursts, doesn't mean they are not driven.

Sorry about the rant. I really should delete this but I feel it kinda adds to the conversation.
posted
03-Aug-18, 16:23
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 2 months ago
Wow. That is a top quality rant right there :-D

The problem is that the only person worse than what you have described is the person with a chip on their shoulder. You might want to avoid being that person first and foremost before launching any sort of attack on "serious people" rewt.

Leave us serious folks alone. Just because we like work over interactions with other people, it doesnt make us incapable of collaboration, reciprocation or any other word ending in "ation". :-D
posted
05-Aug-18, 02:44
edited about 29 seconds later
by tru
Avatar for tru
posted about 2 months ago
Hi, Stargazer000,

Study buddies are great to encourage one another when we encounter a slump, which happens to everyone including the very best. You have had plenty of good advice here already. I feel that a local buddy is best. He/She doesn't have to be from the same field of study or even institute or university. Could you attend some student presentations/workshops/conferences and see if you can find people with chemistry with you? Then meet up, maybe once a fortnight or something to chat about progress or study issues...

If you really really cannot find anyone local, perhaps you could try being a member of PhinisheD and find an online buddy there? There are good active members there, so hopefully you will find a suitable buddy.

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