Monday, 15 October 2018

Research Lostness Repairs

I have written about research lostness before (herehere and here), but read a great guest post on Thesis Whisperer blog by RMIT University's Rosie Chang (15 August 2018), about using some nous from the movie, The Martian (Scott, 2015).

Chang (15 August 2018) cited the last scene in the movie where Matt Damon's character, Mark Watney, is telling a class about the strategies he employed to get home:
"At some point, everything's gonna go south on you and you're going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That's all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem and you solve the next one, and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home." (Scott, 2015)
Rosie suggested three groups of strategies that researchers could learn from the movie, identifying what she called external factors that were making us 'stuck':
  • (a) stay alive, and
  • (b) contact earth for help, and
  • (c) take the first step, and "just begin".
What interested me is that Rosie didn't talk about the internal factors which make us stuck. I think they are even more interesting... and challenging.

We have to get our heads around the fact that usually, only we can get ourselves out of the hole. Only we have the insight to know what is holding us back. We often have to change our approach in order to make the rest work out. We have to decide to 'survive', and to face the things that challenge us... and to face them head-on.

Sometimes it is a lack of self-belief that we can do the task in front of us. Sometimes we avoid competing in case we fail. Sometimes we think we are frauds and have no right to a voice, or to be in the arena. Sometimes it is simply self-sabotage. Sometimes it is a resistance to who we may become if we succeed. Sometimes it is hidden doubts about how success might change our relationships with those around us. We hold ourselves back, refuse to push  forward, and stall.

All this boils down to fear. Fear of the unknown, of the new, of the change, and of our new potential selves. So how do we get past fear?

Lester Levenson in 1952 was diagnosed with a fairly serious medical condition, and used reflective questions as a tool to restore his joie de vivre. Using his questions can help us to work through and to let go of fear. We first need to reflect on all the things which may be holding us back, pick one to work on, and do the following four things (Dwoskin, 2003):
  1. Focus on that thing that we would like to change our approach to, then
  2. Ask ourselves one of the following 'coulds': 
    • Could we let this feeling go? 
    • Could we allow this feeling to be here? 
    • Could we welcome these feelings? Then,
  3. Ask ourselves the following questions: 
    • Would we let this go/allow it to be/welcome it? 
    • Are we willing to let this go/allow it to be/welcome it? Then
  4. Lastly, ask ourselves: When can we let this go/allow it to be/welcome it?
If we have trouble with the four steps above, the following exercise might help. Think about holding an old pencil. We hold it in front of us, gripping it REALLY strongly. While we are hanging onto it, we imagine the pencil is one of our fears, and our hand is who we are. We think about how if we hang onto the pencil for a long time, it will feel painful, but also 'normal'. Then we open our hand and roll the pencil in our palm. We think about the fact that we are holding it, that it's not holding us, nor is it fixed to us (Meier, 2014). We have the choice about dropping it. The pencil does not have the choice about letting us go. This is a good visualisation for building an internal locus of control (Daft, 2008).

The steps and the visualisation might help us to move a block. Good luck!



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