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Motivation and where to get it from. - (Mar/25/2011 )

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Hi, this is a bit of a rant/whine post. I could use some good advise from a wise, experienced grown-up scientist. Please?

The situation is the following:
I'm currently writing up my PhD. I have some serious motivational issues and by now I'm at the point where it absolutely affects my work, like...badly.
I feel a little stupid about this, because I'm actually whining while sitting on a very comfortable cushion. I've done my Master's in Germany, in a fairly high-profile lab. It went quite well (I think I'm still that PI's MSc student with the most publications. ;) We collaborated with my present boss.). For my PhD, I went off to the UK, because I was looking for a specific kind of project, and there weren't many people doing it by the time. So now I'm sitting in an even higher profile lab, in a really well-funded institute, with a nicely running project...and I just hate my job. I'm absolutely de-motivated and I just can't be bothered with ANOTHER experiment. I know, the stuff is really important for me, but it's like having a mental block - I'm not concentrated, I can't remember anything and I really don't freaking care about the result, because it's not making a difference anyway.
There might be a few reasons for this. On the one hand side, my boss doesn't care for any publication below the level of nature, cell, genes&dev ... which makes my project feel like the immovable beast. Nothing happening anyway, no matter what I do. On the other hand, I don't get along great with my "babysitting" postdoc. Hes a nice guy, but hes also the "yay, that's soo interesting, let's do that"-kind of person, while I'm more the "it's not going to work because if XY, but I can give it a go anyway" kind (that's a bit of an overstatement ;) ). This could be a good combination (he's the drive, I'm the analysing critic ;)), but in reality, it's not. Instead of being motivating, he's initially telling me that the results are good, and then he's annoyed because I'm insecure and not enthusiastic :(. That's not helping! I'd love to be more positive about this, but I'm afraid, it's not a choice you make, it's a character trait, and therefore really hard to change. Also, I can say whatever I want, he does know better anyway. E.g. Weve been discussion about the same issue (in different flavours) for two years now. My approach was (in 3/3 instances) the one which gave results, while his just wouldnt work. Nevertheless, hes still sticking to his point of view. I'm really not enjoying scientific discussions anymore. I'm his first PhD student, and I do understand that he might not now how to deal with my "issues", but he's my first PhD supervisor, and I'm not sure how deal with the situation either.
I'd also like to point out that I have not always been that way. I worked in many labs before, on medium and long term projects, and I always at liked it. So this is a new issue for me. And I'm having difficulties to handle it.
The obvious solution to my problem is "pull yourself together, and just get the job done". Indeed that worked for a while, but nowadays, this just won't cut it anymore. I'm such a whino!

If anybody has some advice/thoughts as to how the get out of this really destructive, not-motivated state of mind, I'd be grateful. Otherwise...thanks for listening :)

-anon-

Oh, I'm usually posting here, but I'm a little worried that my collegues are hanging out here too. Hence the "anonymous" user name.

-anon-

anon on Fri Mar 25 19:19:19 2011 said:


Oh, I'm usually posting here, but I'm a little worried that my collegues are hanging out here too. Hence the "anonymous" user name.

Like you didn't give enough hints about yourself....:P...anyways, in a nut shell, your main reasons for feeling unmotivated:
- your PI doesn't care cos
- your project sucks/results suck plus
- you don't like your post-doc supervisor

how far along are you in your PhD program? Do you still have time to change eg PI/lab, project, supervisor? Or you really don't feel like doing any kind of experiment or continue with research at all?

Can you take a short break (go somewhere else) to think more clearly about your situation or discuss it with others who might have better insights/advice? Or perhaps you're only suffering from the usual PhD blues? This happens when you're not getting results or when you feel your research work is not going anywhere. But I think most PhD students go thru this phase anyways and yet manage to pick themselves up and finish their degree in the end. Otherwise, we won't see many of them around strutting their stuff..:)

If you feel like venting,then this is the place to do it and it usually helps. And the more experienced people can give you advice. But if this state of demotivation really starts to interfere with your daily living and mental health, then it's better to seek professional help. You might be showing symptoms of clinical depression. Your institution shld have counselling available to all students.

-casandra-

Anon,

I have heard that writing up is the most difficult part of the PhD. You must have spent a lot of time in the lab and I think its time to take a break. With spring approaching, there couldn't be a better time to recharge yourself. Take some time off from writing, go for a walk, a camp , something that keeps you away from lab/ PI/ lab mates too (if possible) and have a good time. Somewhere, sub consciously, your mind will work on the problems you are facing and give you the way to address them.



Acc to the official "Motivation Chart" for Grad Students, you are doing just fine.
http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=125

-gt_ameya-

Thank you for the verbal head patting! It helps a lot...

casandra, I'm literally almost finished, I'm typing up the last parts of my thesis. Quitting therefore is not an option, I just need to suck it up and finish. I can already see the light at the end of the tunnel (or is it a train?! ;) )

I can't take a proper break for a while since my boss really wants that paper out. But a colleague gave me really useful advice: sleep! I've just tried that: very effective ;)

Thanks guys!

P.S. casandra, you have no idea how many german PhD students are on this island/ in my institute/in town ;).

-anon-

anon on Sun Mar 27 18:10:32 2011 said:


Thank you for the verbal head patting! It helps a lot...

casandra, I'm literally almost finished, I'm typing up the last parts of my thesis. Quitting therefore is not an option, I just need to suck it up and finish. I can already see the light at the end of the tunnel (or is it a train?! ;) )

I can't take a proper break for a while since my boss really wants that paper out. But a colleague gave me really useful advice: sleep! I've just tried that: very effective ;)

Thanks guys!

P.S. casandra, you have no idea how many german PhD students are on this island/ in my institute/in town ;).

ooops...sorry, I missed the you're already writing your thesis part (blame it on MY sleep deprivation :))...when you wrote that you couldn't be bothered to do one more expt, I thought that you were just in the midst of your program...anyways...good advice- rest...and you'd feel a lot better...besides, you're almost there, dude/dudette.. so why have cold feet now? :lol:...so just suck it up and finish the darn thing....and sometimes, it would help by simply asking yourself why you wanted to do a PhD in the first place..usually most candidates lose track of this and perhaps if you find yours....then you'd feel motivated again...

and btw how many students from your lab have a german masters degree? :D

-casandra-

casandra on Sun Mar 27 21:24:32 2011 said:


and btw how many students from your lab have a german masters degree? :D


one (I feel so! special! ;)). in the institute there are plenty though. I sometimes wonder if there's any german PhD students left in germany ;)

it's dudette, btw.
Yesterday I was talking to another student, and she was even more mental than I am.
That also helps to gain some perspective, I recommend it as therapeutical approach ;)

thanks again guys!

-anon-

anon on Wed Mar 30 13:30:19 2011 said:


casandra on Sun Mar 27 21:24:32 2011 said:


and btw how many students from your lab have a german masters degree? :D


one (I feel so! special! ;)). in the institute there are plenty though. I sometimes wonder if there's any german PhD students left in germany ;)

it's dudette, btw.
Yesterday I was talking to another student, and she was even more mental than I am.
That also helps to gain some perspective, I recommend it as therapeutical approach ;)

thanks again guys!

hey ..that's great, anon-dudette....and another good advice i.e. talk with someone more mental....:lol:..we shld organise regular gripe sessions....you'd let off some steam and at the same time you'd realise how better off you are than the others...and then it can be a brainstorming session afterwards...goodluck...:)

-casandra-

Maybe a stupid question, but are you just finishing up and is the only thing you now need to do is write the PhD itself? So no more lab work etc.. needs to be done to finish?

If so: I find it weird ...

On the other hand I understand your feeling, but they have more to do with the practical side and the labwork and your boss.. but if you look at your situation in an objective way... it doenst matter anymore... just write your thesis and f*ck all the rest...
Maybe you even feel like this because all your hard work is behind you and now you need to start writing .. its a completely different approach, lifestyle at the moment.. You go from labwork, being active to writing while perhaps you dont even like to write..
+ the stress might be there because now is the moment you need to write down what you did in a way other can undestand it...?


But in general: The only thing you need to think about is "how to write a decent thesis" , the rest? Who cares...

focus on writing, all the rest: forget it, not your worry at this moment...


You probably leave the lab anyway..


Or am I missing something here?

-pito-

pito on Wed Mar 30 13:40:41 2011 said:


Maybe a stupid question, but are you just finishing up and is the only thing you now need to do is write the PhD itself? So no more lab work etc.. needs to be done to finish?

If so: I find it weird ...

On the other hand I understand your feeling, but they have more to do with the practical side and the labwork and your boss.. but if you look at your situation in an objective way... it doenst matter anymore... just write your thesis and f*ck all the rest...
Maybe you even feel like this because all your hard work is behind you and now you need to start writing .. its a completely different approach, lifestyle at the moment.. You go from labwork, being active to writing while perhaps you dont even like to write..
+ the stress might be there because now is the moment you need to write down what you did in a way other can undestand it...?


But in general: The only thing you need to think about is "how to write a decent thesis" , the rest? Who cares...

focus on writing, all the rest: forget it, not your worry at this moment...


You probably leave the lab anyway..


Or am I missing something here?

I think that she's writing the last parts of her thesis....and unfortunately, she can't just forget the rest bec it's obviously affecting the work she's doing at the moment- which is actually finishing up the darn thing...some kind of writer's block, perhaps....she just needs to vent, I guess....

-casandra-
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