PhD Chronicles: Part III

“Hello there! The angel from my nightmare”

It’s been a while since my last post. One has been busy with science and life – I sincerely apologise for this sojourn. Although, I am happy to say that whilst away, I made huge steps in my PhD program with interesting data.

I have also been opportune to present these data at a number of conferences as well however my first presentation is the one that sticks out for me. It was last year, to the MSc Biomedical Science cohort. One of the students asked me afterwards, Why did you decide to do a PhD? and what are your plans after the program?

These questions got me thinking about different things at the same time. Although I have always had a concrete plan about my life goals since I was 20, it took the preaching of a lecturer to convince me PhD was worth my time when I was at their stage as I’ve never seen myself going down the Professor route (but hey! never say never).

So when I was asked these questions, I was filled with some doubts about the whole process and I had to break my reverie to remind myself the reason(s) why I decided to plough this spiked road. These reasons are myriad that I can’t put them in words here.

However, if your aim of wanting a PhD is for family pride/honour, societal respect and gratification, and status symbol, I am here to tell you that it isn’t worth it. I must admit that in the “third world” like Africa, a PhD degree can propel you to greater heights and open doors for you especially if your aim is to be a powerhouse in politics or your chosen field. However, I believe that you can achieve great things without it.

This is not me trying to discourage anyone from getting a doctorate but letting you know that it will test you in different ways. For example, I am (naturally) an impatient person. I dream about things, plan them and hope everything goes according to any of the plans I’ve set in motion. However, things rarely go according to plan in the lab and life in general, and this can lead to frustration and depression.

As a result, this journey is not necessarily about intelligence nor hard work but patience, persistence and flexibility. It teaches you that patience is a virtue and impatience is not a vice but can be harnessed in the right way.

PhD equips you with a lot of transferable skills that can help you in any sector you decide to go into. A colleague once said, “the good thing about science is that a scientist can work in any field.” I am getting to that stage where I have to repeatedly ask myself what I want to do next – politics, business, academia, industry, research?

Whatever I decide to do next, this phd journey has tremendously helped me to learn, re-learn and unlearn a lot of things about myself and life in general. Prior to now, I liked to tell people negative stories about myself than positive stories and this was for a reason. Sometimes, I even act dumb and naive.

The reason why I do these things is because being a naturally observant person, I found out at a young age that we are all narcissistic to some extent. People feel better when they think they are better than you so I found it easier to read and understand them this way. However, doing this phd exposed me to a lot of experiences that made me realise this was more detrimental to my mental health and sense of self.

Our minds are our gateway to success, happiness and sense of accomplishment. The way you see yourself regardless of external opinions, perceptions about problems or undesirable circumstances and reactions to things beyond your control have an ample effect on our end products.

Is everybody an addict?

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I was listening to the song John Doe, performed by B.O.B and Priscilla, last night and some lines from the song go like this.

Errybody’s addicted to something
Errybody gotta grip onto something
Even if it’s just to feel the response of appeal
Maybe once, maybe twice
Maybe hundreds of times, hundreds of times

This got my mind racing; is everyone really addicted to something? Is addiction part of our make up as humans? Does it help one to fight his/her inner demons?

To answer these questions; yes I think everybody is addicted to something or capable of being an addict and addiction is a part of human condition. However I don’t know if it helps us crush our inner demons.

Whether it is drugs, sex, violence, alcohol, porn, nicotine, food, gambling, coffee, shopping or something seemingly innocuous like gossiping, exercise, power, religion, love, attention, TV series, music, looks or obsession to work, every individual has addictive tendencies. So, it is left for one to acknowledge that particular bane of his/her life.

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Our world encourages and demands addiction. Just like Oliver Twist, we yearn for more – more money, more power, more knowledge, more success, more status, more gadgets, more cars, more happiness.

Boredom is directly proportional to addiction. Most people can’t handle boredom. To be fair, nobody likes being bored. Once we are bored, we look for things to keep ourselves busy until we cross that fine line between loving or using something a lot, and being addicted. You know what they a say, an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.

In the end, it is safe to presume that everybody is addicted to something and everybody is an addict but we can channel our addictive tendencies into something positive.

What are you addicted to?

Procrastination: Good And Bad

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I have been trying to write this article since my last post but procrastination got the best of me and I’ve found myself giving excuses why I shouldn’t.

Sounds familiar? I guess so. You have something important to get done but you keep putting it off till the very last minute.

We are all guilty of procrastination – one way or another. Everybody procrastinates at some point for a variety of reasons, some of which are unconvincing to anyone including ourselves.

Procrastination is a bad habit that can prevent one from meeting his/her deadline or preparing well for an exam/meeting/interview. As a result, it is a basic tool for prioritisation and time management.

As students, we procrastinate for assignments, dissertation, thesis and/or exam at some point. For instance, it’s exam time and you’ve planned to make most of your day but at the end of the day you find out that you’ve actually read for just an hour and wasted time sleeping, watching television, cleaning your room, calling your friends/family, surfing the net, chatting or whatever other diversion you can devise.

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We try to avoid doing an important task by becoming involved with less important tasks. In the end, we feel guilty, race against time and thence put ourselves under unnecessary pressure/stress due to our fire-brigade approach to things.

Fear may be the reason why we procrastinate. The fear of failure or success can prevent one from doing a task even when s/he knows s/he should. We are often afraid to start a task because it appears tedious, or don’t know how/where to start, or feel our effort will not be appreciated.

Fear can make one anxious when faced with a task but imagine the adrenaline rush one feels when a deadline for an important task (that will not be completed because of procrastination) is around the corner. We often procrastinate to avoid stress but are faced with even more stress, anxiety, shame and guilt in the long run.

Completing your work on time gives one a sense of strength, peace of mind and self-control. It saves you from receiving an earful from your boss and also, mental stress which be harmful to your health.

However, procrastination isn’t always a bad thing; it can be a good thing. It is sometimes good to procrastinate. Sometimes it is good to delay life decisions; take a step back, relax and think the whole thing through.

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Sometimes we can get too emotionally attached to a problem and become psychologically drained to come up with a solution. For instance, replying a mail or SMS when one is angry can make one regret his/her actions but procrastination can help one come up with the most useful answer.

Procrastination can give you a break from work which is actually a good thing. Being glued to your work can leave you stressed and out of ideas. Procrastination helps you to take some time out to re-energise thereby improving the quality of your work.

During my Master’s degree, I found my dissertation hectic. I spent months trying to find the solution to a problem. Surprisingly, the solution came to me when/where I least expected it. I took my foot off the pedal, travelled and came up with a solution whilst taking a shower.

Procrastination is a natural phenomenon. Some tasks will always be more important than others on our scale of preference. We have to purposefully prioritise the important ones and defer the less important ones.

Procrastination becomes a problem when it is used as a form of escape from reality or when it diminishes productivity. Learn to procrastinate well.

Thank you for making out time to read this article. If you have enjoyed it, please comment and share your view on this issue. Also, do like, share and follow the blog.

Good Health is Underated

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“To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind clear and strong” – Budha

As we go through the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we often lose focus on what’s really important – we tend to forget just how important good health is to leading a successful life.

Health, they say, is real wealth but
not many individuals make out time in their busy schedules and lifestyles to care for themselves. We are so engrossed in our ambitions and aspirations, without realising all these are meaningless in the absence of a healthy lifestyle. However, health is dynamic; our health levels change in tandem with our changing lifestyles.

Good health is a priceless asset to oneself, his family and nation at large – it is a heritage to be passed on due to the importance of heredity in this respect. Consequently, it is a burden not just to oneself but to one’s family and one’s nation to maintain good health.

I found it alarmingly disturbing that something as important as health of the citizenry was played down by erstwhile President of Nigeria, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and his successor, Muhummadu Buhari during the Presidential elections campaign. Whilst focusing mainly on infrastructure, economy and anti-corruption; both paid no heed to the words of
Will Durant, who said “The health of nations is more important than the wealth of nations.”

A decline in health levels of the citizenry will affect almost everything – including economic growth/development via total factor productivity. An ailing citizenry lack zest for daily pursuits hence retarding the pace of functional activity and economic development. This provides an insight why  underdevelopment persists in our country despite the massive turnover of Nigerian graduates year in, year out.

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Health is central to one’s whole personality and optimal state of well being. When discussed, people have varying definitions of health but most focus on the conditions of their bodies – physical aspect of health. Although physical health is important to overall health, our social, emotional/mental and spiritual health are just as important as physical health. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), Health refers to a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

Good health is pivot to human happiness – a state of the mind – through well-functioning mind and emotions. Everybody lusts after happiness and desperately relishes the pursuit of this holy grail.

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Attaining/maintaining good health is not a single-action but continuous process. People practise good health in diverse ways ranging from food, exercise, rest, cleanliness to social interactions. I am not a dietician so I can’t offer you expert advice on what to eat to maintain good health but I do know this..exercise and sleep really help.

Adequate sleep and exercise are extremely important to staying healthy both in body and mind. Arianna Huntington, the owner of Huntington Post, described sleep, in her book Thrive, as “the most underrated health habit”. Sleep can stimulate imagination/innovation, enhance one’s memory and attention, ease stress and depression, and boost one’s performance/grades but lack of sleep has a huge effect on mental health, hormonal imbalance and susceptibility to heart disease and diabetes.

Furthermore, exercise, for the body and mind, is highly recommeneded to be done as often as possible. Whilst the recommendation of physical exercise is common with various workout manuals and videos out there, mental exercise is often neglected but is vital as well. One can also exercise his/her mind by learning new things everyday, reading a book, doing cross word puzzles/scrabble/sudoku, calculating sums in your head etc.

The importance of practising good health is evident in every aspect of one’s life, including your relationships. Without good health, we fall short of the joys and pleasures of life – our aspirations and ambitions. Always remember: everybody dies but not everyone lives. Start living today.

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