The Inevitable End-of-Year Wisdom Post

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When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky. -Buddha

After the awkward lab parties, not-so-secret-Santas, and mistletoes, it seems that this time of year is all about rounding up memorable events of the previous 12 months. The best news stories, the best song, the coolest study I did not have time to finish, the highest paying grant I did not get, and the most interesting therapy case.

2013 was unprecedented in terms of professional growth. I was able to change my signature from “Doctoral Student” to “Doctoral Candidate”, I started a project based on my passion for yoga, and I gave some of the best presentations of my career (and won a prize for it, no biggie).

Having to start my dissertation over was by-far the most important professional event of the year. Let’s refer to it the great dissertation malfunction of 2013. In the spirit of moving forward and looking at the world from the top of the bell curve, here are some lessons I learned thanks to the great dissertation malfunction of 2013, and other events, but mainly GDM2013.

  • Have a plan B. Although it will double your workload, having a viable project to land on when your main project falls apart (or simply doesn’t take off!) will save you time and sanity points. As I wrote in previous posts, I started my dissertation from scratch and fell behind a year in my studies. If I had more than one project on the go with my primary supervisor, perhaps I could have fallen back on it.
  • Accept. Accept the situation you are in, regardless of your role in getting there. Acceptance is not synonymous with passivity; on the contrary it is the first step towards change and growth.  Accepting that I had to start my project over, allowed me to move on, with a new project and mindset. Accept an invitation. Saying yes to an impromptu wine tasting was the beginning of a new friendship this year.
  • Be kind, especially to myself. When my project fell apart, I looked for someone or something to blame and I was the main target. I would not let anyone treat a stranger the way I treated myself the few weeks after GDM2013.  I am an imperfect graduate student.
  • Buy someone a coffee. Or at least offer to buy them one. While participating in the 3-minute competition, I had the pleasure to meet a local journalist. At the end of the evening, I made sure to catch her and offer to buy her a coffee. I wanted to know how she came to write a science column for a well-respected newspaper. Over caffeine and emails, we started to build a professional relationship and an invaluable friendship. I have learnt so much from Ann and even had the opportunity to assist her! Similarly, when I ran into a clinical supervisor at a coffee shop, I offered to buy her the coffee. I took the opportunity to tell her how much I admire her work. Offering a coffee is to show interest in someone else, an opportunity to show gratitude, and a chance at a beginning.
  • 1% theory, 99% practice – Pattabhi Jois. So practice. I cannot take credit for this quote, but I realized its value this year. It is true for my yoga practice, my therapeutic skills, and writing. I can watch yoga videos or read books on therapeutic skills, but nothing is more enlightening as getting on the mat or into the therapy office. Falling on your face, sore muscles, and awkward moments are part of the journey. Just practice.
  • Be grateful. Say it or show it. Let the people who matter know and do not take them for granted. I am grateful for a professor who agreed to mentor me and teach me about qualitative research. I am grateful for my friends and family.  I am grateful for my yoga teachers. I am grateful for those who take the time to read my blog. I am grateful to have the time to practice, drink coffee, and write.

What do I plan to do in 2014? I am not sure. Having a rigid plan is a plan for disappointment. So I plan to be prepared and eat lobster.

Happy New Year candidates

Rana Pishva, the candidate.

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