I am right at that point in my Ph.D. where I should be able to formulate a problem that needs to be solved, and that I can solve in a decent amount of time. The whole point of the Ph.D. right? So, no wonder why this has been the most challenging of my Ph.D. milestones.
I’ve felt confused at different stages; I’ve felt anxiety for not being sure whether the things that I am doing are what should be done and I’ve felt my imposter syndrome scale up. What I just described sounds a lot like a crisis, and indeed, I define proposal writing as a crisis.
At this point, it becomes essential to remember that crises are not bad at all. Indeed, crises are the drivers of change. At a large scale, economic and political crises are the red flags that let governments know that new measures need to be adopted. At an individual scale, if there were no critical points in our lives, we would not have an incentive to change and leave our comfort zone. Crises push us out of our shells and let us see different perspectives. The worst case scenario could be that we don’t like what we see and we decide to go back to our previous comfortable state. However, we won’t come back the same. We will have seen something different and obtained a better measure to value what we have.
Going back to the proposal, it has been a crisis that has let me out to face my research fears. As in many trivial situations, fear is originated from the unknown. In this case, “the unknown” are those topics that I am not comfortable with, but which I feel I should know in order to formulate my proposal. However, as I have mentioned in another post, I can either let this fear freeze me up or I can see it as a learning opportunity.
So far, I have chosen the latter. As I mentioned recently to my advisor, this proposal is a back and forth process. I take several steps forward and I need to take as many back to reevaluate my ideas, taking into account the new things that I’ve learned. A lot of rethinking, reevaluating and rewriting comes into play. It is exhausting at times, I won’t deny it; however, it is coming to the point where it is equally gratifying. I am enjoying this process in which I see my ideas take a better form… what seemed fuzzy just a few weeks ago is now becoming a bit more concise and I can feel confidence in my voice and my attitude as I make progress.
Something that has significantly helped throughout this process is to not forget about myself. I have combined my proposal writing with meditation and workout sessions, training for my first half-marathon and trying new classes at the gym. This has helped me take my mind away from the proposal problems for a while and take care of myself.
The bottom line of this post is that a daunting task, such as proposal writing can be better handled if we see it through the lenses of opportunity and if we don’t forget about helping our mind find its balance… Every chance we get to prove ourselves that we are stronger than we think is worth the while.