Highs & Lows

No project, period or PhD is super-excellent all the time, or super-terrible for that matter.

There’s ups and downs, highs and lows. I can remember some of mine from my PhD days…

Highs from my PhD:

  • Realising the fundamental structure of the first algorithm I created.
  • Winning a poster prize from my department.
  • Realising a key step of a proof before my supervisor – and being able to explain it to him.
  • Being asked to help with two residential skills workshops…
  • …and being invited back to help again after I did a good job the first time!

Lows from my PhD:

  • Postponing two months of supervisory meetings because I was ashamed I hadn’t solved something.
  • Comparing myself to office-mates who seemed so much more capable than me.
  • Not finding an answer to the problem in my seventh chapter.
  • Being super-anxious before every presentation I did.
  • Not admitting when I didn’t understand things.

What have yours been during your PhD? As you get closer to the viva, perhaps make a list of highs and a list of lows. File the lows list away – don’t throw it away, just don’t give it your attention. It doesn’t define you.

Keep the highs list to hand. Give it your attention from time to time through your preparation. You can find confidence from considering the highs of your PhD.

Postscript: this is another variation on the Make Two Lists approach of the wonderful Seth Godin! Credit where credit is due 🙂

Post-postscript: my viva doesn’t feature on either of my lists. I don’t think I know anyone who would put their viva on a list of PhD-highs or PhD-lows. Something to keep in mind maybe…