While I felt like I was carrying a large sack of heavy rocks up the mountain, they were being pulled up the mountain from above. We were all carrying the same big bag of heavy rocks defined as tough doctoral committees, missing research, computer break downs, lost data, lack of sleep and feelings of insecurity. Yet these folks were happy and filled with energy. OK I have to admit at first they kind of pissed me off. I mean I felt like they should suffer as much as I was.
But these folks took things in stride and seemed a lot happier than I was. So I asked them a lot of questions. Later after I graduated when I talked to doc students who were like this I continued to ask questions. I had this idea if I could bottle whatever their secret was I could make a lot of money. If I couldn’t bottle it then maybe I could make it into some kind of book or training course.
Their secret was pretty simple, so no great money making training course for me. These folks had their eye on who they would affect once they graduated. I mean when they talked about it I felt like I was there in their future. They could see the next big job, a well-paying job, once they graduated. They could see the toys for their kids, the bigger house, the gift for their sweet heart, husband or wife.
They saw how their getting the doctorate would help their children. They saw specifically what they could do more for their kids, spouse and extended family. Those who were single thought about a future family. They saw it clearly in their minds and they lived it now in the middle of the struggle to finish the degree. They also saw the folks who would benefit from the better battery they would design, the improved social services agency or the future students they would teach as they stood at the front of the classroom as doctor such and such. Big powerful dreams.
They even saw the people who would benefit from the doc student graduating. Talking to these doc students they had their own built in internal cheering section. They talked about future co-workers who would be working together with them. Some talked about the clients they would help or the devices they would design, improve or invent. I always felt better talking to these folks and was motivated myself for a few days after the interaction. I love getting calls or emails from folks like this.
Does their style work? If you are in a doctoral program now does reading about this way of thinking anger you a bit? If so then you may be using the system that I used. To me I grumbled about a lot of what I had to do. I had a great doctoral committee and a supportive family but I sort of felt like the university ought to have just recognized my brilliance and given the degree to me. You can see I was focused more on me and grumbling. The people above focused on how they could impact their family and coworkers and also their field of study. I struggled upward and these folks were pulled up a bit by their clear positive goals. We all faced the same struggles but they had an easier trip. My friends I would suggest that you try their way.
Mind your goals,
Dr. Randy Parker
National Doctoral Students Association