How to go into new PhD with a positive mindset?

posted
03-Aug-18, 16:51
by tpeas
Avatar for tpeas
posted about 2 months ago
Hi all,

This autumn I'm starting a 'new' PhD. I quit my first PhD just over a year ago now, after about 7 months of study, because the subject area turned out to be very different to what I was wanting to do. I'm therefore really thankful that I've been offered this second opportunity and determined that this time it will work out - it's doing the subject I really want to be doing this time, so it should all be fine. However, I've started to get a bit of 'stage fright' - it's felt a while since I've been in academia, and I'm also going to be moving far away from my friends and family for the project. As someone who tends to worry, I'm already nervous that I'll feel lonely or stressed, which obviously isn't a good idea, as I need to be going in with a positive attitude to increase my chances of success! So do any of you have any 'coping mechanisms' for when times get tough or advice on how to stay positive when embarking on your PhD? I've recently started doing some mindfulness which I'm hoping will lower my anxiety.

Thanks!
posted
03-Aug-18, 17:07
edited about 13 seconds later
Avatar for Mattfabb
posted about 2 months ago
My motto was that my thesis had to be good enough to pass. New PhD students tend to think they need to be brilliant, but the reality is that your first major piece of reasearch is not going to be your best. Its ok to be mediocre. A PhD thesis is a particular piece of writing, mostly composed of lenghty, boring, defensive writing. You dont need to be bold. Just make sure you cover all the obvious shortcomings in your research.

Your post already shows signs of this ‘delusion of grandeur’ so to speak. Nobody really cares about your research. People who are not in academia dont give a shit about research. People in academia rarely read PhD theses cause they are too long and boring.

So really you are not in a ‘stage’ and therefore you should not be frightened. Most likely, the only 3 people who will ever read your work are your super and your examiners, only because they are paid to do so. Nobody has really the time or the patience to read a PhD thesis unless they kind of have to.
posted
03-Aug-18, 17:46
edited about 24 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From Mattfabb:
My motto was that my thesis had to be good enough to pass. New PhD students tend to think they need to be brilliant, but the reality is that your first major piece of reasearch is not going to be your best. Its ok to be mediocre. A PhD thesis is a particular piece of writing, mostly composed of lenghty, boring, defensive writing. You dont need to be bold. Just make sure you cover all the obvious shortcomings in your research.

Your post already shows signs of this ‘delusion of grandeur’ so to speak. Nobody really cares about your research. People who are not in academia dont give a shit about research. People in academia rarely read PhD theses cause they are too long and boring.

So really you are not in a ‘stage’ and therefore you should not be frightened. Most likely, the only 3 people who will ever read your work are your super and your examiners, only because they are paid to do so. Nobody has really the time or the patience to read a PhD thesis unless they kind of have to.


This is so helpful! Thanks - I needed this as a reminder too!
posted
03-Aug-18, 18:26
edited about 6 seconds later
by tpeas
Avatar for tpeas
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From Mattfabb:
My motto was that my thesis had to be good enough to pass. New PhD students tend to think they need to be brilliant, but the reality is that your first major piece of reasearch is not going to be your best. Its ok to be mediocre. A PhD thesis is a particular piece of writing, mostly composed of lenghty, boring, defensive writing. You dont need to be bold. Just make sure you cover all the obvious shortcomings in your research.

Your post already shows signs of this ‘delusion of grandeur’ so to speak. Nobody really cares about your research. People who are not in academia dont give a shit about research. People in academia rarely read PhD theses cause they are too long and boring.

So really you are not in a ‘stage’ and therefore you should not be frightened. Most likely, the only 3 people who will ever read your work are your super and your examiners, only because they are paid to do so. Nobody has really the time or the patience to read a PhD thesis unless they kind of have to.


True - though I'm not sure how I'm showing 'delusions of grandeur' in my post! I know I'll get a thesis out after 4 years, I'm just more worried about the process itself - having enough confidence to pull through the difficult times and keep at it. If I publish it will be a bonus, but as I've had some previous PhD experience, I already know not to expect wonders.
posted
03-Aug-18, 19:18
edited about 1 minute later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 months ago
I was so enlightened by mattfabb's reply (I'm in the writing up stages) that I wasn't very helpful in my own one!

I think I can understand your feelings of apprehension as you start a new PhD having quit the last one. I can see how that previous experience could easily feed into how you are feeling now. I guess it's a bit like anything - if something went wrong - a relationship - even a swimming lesson - it kind of can make you feel a bit apprehensive next time you are faced with doing it.

"I'm therefore really thankful that I've been offered this second opportunity and determined that this time it will work out - it's doing the subject I really want to be doing this time, so it should all be fine."

That is the truth of the matter here. The negative feelings / stage fright are just that - feelings. One thing you could do is challenge your own thoughts and fears when they come (maybe this is something in your mindfulness routine - but it's also useful to just get into the habit of challenging such thoughts until they eventually just stop coming). Also, you could start to get into the work so that they can't distract you. Re moving away from friends and family - could you plan so that you will visit once a month or whatever seems reasonable - just to put that nagging doubt to rest? Having a support plan like that in place is definitely a good idea if you already know you are someone who can get stressed or lonely when feeling isolated.

Just to say, well done - it takes amazing courage to quit a PhD when you realise it isn't for you. As a word of encouragement, a friend of mine quit hers one year in and then started another. It was a similar scenario to yours - it just wasn't in what she wanted to do. She is much happier now and nearing the end of her first year on the new PhD.

All the best!
posted
03-Aug-18, 20:46
edited about 13 seconds later
Avatar for Mattfabb
posted about 2 months ago
True - though I'm not sure how I'm showing 'delusions of grandeur' in my post! I know I'll get a thesis out after 4 years, I'm just more worried about the process itself - having enough confidence to pull through the difficult times and keep at it. If I publish it will be a bonus, but as I've had some previous PhD experience, I already know not to expect wonders.


Sorry I may have read too much in what you said, I guess the point is to always remember, when youll get lonely or stressed, that your thesis doesent have to be perfect.
posted
03-Aug-18, 22:04
by tpeas
Avatar for tpeas
posted about 2 months ago
Quote From Tudor_Queen:


Thank you so much for your lovely reply! It's good to hear your friend was in a similar position but all is going well for her now. I think you're quite right about my being apprehensive - and hopefully once I get started I'll get stuck in as you said, and realise there's nothing to be apprehensive about. I'm hoping to be able to see my boyfriend once a month, which will also give me a bit of a break and a change. Best wishes for the rest of your writing up!

Quote From Mattfabb:
[quote]
Sorry I may have read too much in what you said, I guess the point is to always remember, when youll get lonely or stressed, that your thesis doesent have to be perfect.


No problem, I appreciated your response. You're very right to say I don't need to be a perfectionist with my work!
posted
04-Aug-18, 06:37
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 2 months ago
Following mattfab's advice would have made life a bit easier for myself.

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