Thursday, April 11, 2013

Discomfort, Friction and Creative Blocks

In our fast-paced, instant-solution-oriented society, we are focused on a quick fix and a hit of stimulant. We seek comfort and ease as much as we can.

Yet, if we embark upon long-term projects, such as PhD research, our habits of getting quick fixes and preference for the shortcuts might leave us unable to dive deeper into our work.

The unsettling ugly truth is that we need to seek the area of discomfort, of hard thinking and of creative blocks in order to push our research forward.

We are not used to unpleasant experiences and discomfort - but these elements are part of life. If we learn to simply be with the feeling of comfort or discomfort at any given time, we can make progress.

For myself, I like to think of these moments of discomfort in terms of two elements in contact with each other:

To make the two planes slide, you need to build up some friction first.

In other words, to make a step forwards, you will always get stuck in that ugly dark place of discomfort and creativity blocks.
This insight stimulated me to spend more time trying to do the difficult thing I'd otherwise put off.

Instead of seeking an escape and procrastinate a bit, I imagine the two planes firmly pressed together, building up friction, and getting ready to move forward.

Your take home message for today:

A block, a dead point in your research does not equal a stand-still in your work. 
You are building up the necessary strength to take a leap forward!

5 comments:

  1. I am not sure if I have exactly grasped the 'take home' message. Can you please a little elaborate what does it mean by "does not equal a stand-still".

    Thanks
    Ahmed

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  2. What I meant is that, while you might be trying and trying different things that are not bringing you any further, you are actually exploring the area and will find a way out eventually, and then make a leap forward in your research

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  3. Eva,
    I read this post only today, since it's was linked to your newest post. Thank you for your words. It's difficult during the PhD to handle the frustration and to see that the troubles are part of the research process, but I think it's one of the most important skills we have to build during our PhD.
    Even if I'm also productive and proactive, I think that sometimes when we are really stuck or sad, a little pause (e.g. one day off) coudl be really useful.
    Thank you!

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    Replies
    1. Absolutely! A little break goes a long way! If you take some distance from your research, you will be able to see things from a new perspective when you revisit the problem.

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