# How do you keep yourself motivated?

1. Sep 1, 2015

### S_David

I believe there are many people here doing research on different fields. Research most of the time is very tedious stressful and frustrating. How do you keep yourself motivated to work hard until you get some satisfactory results? and are you willing to sacrifice your mental/physical health to get some results no matter what or at some point you would change your attitude?

2. Sep 2, 2015

### Bystander

Depends on the definition you choose for the word "satisfactory." Negative results demoralize some people and elate others --- learning what won't work is as good as it gets sometimes.

3. Sep 2, 2015

### S_David

I would say satisfactory results are something you can publish in a well recognized journal in your field.

4. Sep 2, 2015

### DiracPool

That's exactly it. I personally believe that in order to create great art, you really have to put yourself on the line and sacrifice everything. There's different schools of thought here, and a good exemplar comes from the music industry.

I believe in the policy of "total immersion." If you want to be a player in a certain field you have to commit yourself 100%. To the exclusion of everything else. Otherwise, you're just going to be an "also-ran"

5. Sep 2, 2015

### S_David

But how to keep yourself up to it all the time? This is the question. Not all people are passionate about what they are doing as some projects may dictate their current research.

6. Sep 2, 2015

### DiracPool

Well, I think you are answering your own question. Are you passionate about it or not? If you are not sure, I would either question what I'm doing or develop a passion for it if I have to. It doesn't really matter if you're constrained in some way. Case in point, I had to take a job at a car rental agency. I initially worked at the San Diego airport, because, at the time, I was hired by these mercenaries who offered me 10% on upgrades and 15% on insurance. This might not sound like much, but when you're booking groups of 75 from Nortel networks for a week each of which get the "supplementary" insurance with the personal effects coverage, it adds up real quick. Especially when I upgrade them from a compact to a midsize

But I digress. I gave the position up at the airport and took a sleepy job at a hotel on Coronado beach for a huge paycut because I didn't want the pressure anymore and because I could write my brain manifesto behind a sleepy counter with few customers and still make $15 an hour. Which I gladly accepted even though I averaged abut$85 an hour at the airport.

But the point is, is that I did write the manifesto there, but I also conjured up a way to make a killing in the rental car business. Each car they were sitting on I calculated was costing them $18 dollars a day. Every car that was sitting idle was a liability, didn't matter if it was a compact, midsize, or fullsize, they all cost the company$18 a day. But you could easily make upwards of $60+ a day (including supplemental insurance) on each rental you worked it right. And there was plenty of customers and resources to do this in San Diego in the 90's. But I gave it up because I was more interested in slacking behind the counter for$15 an hour while I wrote my manifesto. But the point is that you can self-motivate yourself to do anything, even sell rental cars!

7. Sep 2, 2015

### S_David

You are lucky enough to be in a country where you can live without a college degree. Which is to say that if you don't find your passion in education you can do whatever you want to do and be just fine. In other countries even with a college degree you won't be able to cover the basic living expenditures for years. Illiterate people are literally suffering. That means that people are forced to go to college to survive, and some of them continue to PhD. Once you are in PhD and you are not really interested is a big problem. If you manage to finish, you won't be distinguished, and the sense of under achievement is terrible. Everyone wants to be distinguished and have the sense of achievement.

8. Sep 2, 2015

### DiracPool

Well, if that's the case I'd highly suggest you get interested. I don't think you told us what your field is. If you don't like it, try to change it. But that's what my earlier post was designed to create. If you are locked in a situation that you don't like or feel helpless in, there's always a way out. Use your mind to turn the situation around and take charge. Maybe this is not so easy under a dictatorial regime but that's all I got for you..

9. Sep 2, 2015

### S_David

My field is Electrical Engineering. It was more a general question, and I don't want to divert the discussion into any particularities. Do you find research easy or hard? If easy what makes it easy, and if hard how do you keep going in doing it (what motivates you)? Is passion the answer or an answer? Is passion something we discover or create? Do you create incentives to yourself to keep going?

10. Sep 2, 2015

### DiracPool

If you're looking at EE as a means to an end that is financially motivated, as it seems to me what you are saying, then the prognosis is not good. That's the way I look at it.

You create incentives by creating incentives. If your primary reason for doing science isn't to contribute some original work to the field, then you are an imposter in my opinion. You are a janitor. Which isn't bad, per se. somebodys got to clean the petri dishes. But what I see in you is a lack of focus. Just try to figure out what it is you want to do and who you want to be. I, personally, was NEVER in doubt as to what that was, and maybe I was luckier than I thought in that respect.

11. Sep 2, 2015

### S_David

Are you telling me that if you are passionate about science then you will have no problems in doing research and keep yourself motivated? I doubt all PhD holders are passionate about their fields. That is why I think the education level is higher in developing countries than in developed countries. Money is a big derive for education in many cases.

I love science. I have read many scientific books for the public reader, and I have watched many science documentaries. I like mathematics, that is why I have chosen Electrical Engineering/Communications. I have the capacity to understand and do very complicated problems. But I have a problem with doing research as to set down for long hours a day which is isolating me and compromises my health, while in my opinion in life there are more important things like family and peace of mind. Does research necessary mean to give up life and health for science? Is this what it means to be passionate about science?

12. Sep 2, 2015

### micromass

Staff Emeritus
No, that is not what research should be about at all.

13. Sep 2, 2015

### Geofleur

Actually, having hobbies and outside things that you do can help. While I was working on my Ph.D., I took up the study of formal logic as a hobby. I would work a while, study a while and come back refreshed. Doing things that are healthy also helps. Sitting around for hours, your head gets foggy. I had an adviser once out at one of the national labs who would get up and walk around the lab complex at least twice a day. I started doing it too; when I would get back my head was always clearer. Concentrating on one thing to the exclusion of all else leads to burnout. At least it would for me. And I am not known as lacking focus, for sure!

14. Sep 2, 2015

### WWGD

I think a general suggestion is to track down your mental and psychological states and learn to manage them, manage yourself, so you can remain in good overall condition.

15. Sep 2, 2015

### S_David

While I was doing my PhD, and I was working on something and stuck, I couldn't think of anything else. That is why I had such a hard times in my PhD, especially I am not that outgoing type of person. So, I would dwell on the problem day and night. I also have a problem in focusing (unlike you) due to suspecting ADHD. Now things are more relaxing since if you don't get something done, I don't lose anything, and thus I don't have the kind of stress I had during my PhD. But still doing research is a huge part of my life and it is boring most of the time, except when you have a glimpse of optimistic results, which will energize me for a while and then fade away, which is usually quick.

16. Sep 2, 2015

### Geofleur

What you just said reminds me of the making of the stop-motion animation film The Nightmare Before Christmas. For each scene, people had to move these little figures just a little, take a picture, then move them just a little, take a picture, and on and on, etc., ad infinitum. One of those people was saying that you can't just do it for the end product, you have to actually enjoy the process of it. Research is in some ways such an intellectual activity, but in others it's like making stop-motion films! If you are spending the majority of your time unhappy, I don't personally see the point of it. Can you find good things about the process itself? If not, maybe you just need a different kind of project.

17. Sep 2, 2015

### Geofleur

Disclaimer: Err... I didn't mean to suggest that making stop motion films can't be intellectual.

18. Sep 2, 2015

### S_David

So, is it something I alone feel about research and not something prevalent? I thought what I feel is common among many researchers and I am just honest about it!!

19. Sep 2, 2015

### Geofleur

It may be common, but it's still pointless to keep doing something that makes you unhappy over and over. And it's certainly not that way for everyone.

20. Sep 2, 2015

### Geofleur

Let me put it this way. You only live once, and even the greatest discoveries by the greatest scientists will be unknown someday (unless you think humanity will somehow last forever). Landau used to say that you shouldn't set out to do something great because then nothing will happen! Maybe some people can be motivated by "being great" or "doing something great", but actually enjoying what you're doing is a much better recipe. Then, even if you don't do anything great, you were still happy trying.

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