Self-limiting habits

So, through a friend, I came across this link the other day. It’s about 10 self-limiting habits successful writers don’t have. (The key in the title is to notice it says don’t not do). Anyway, as usual, these lists cross disciplines and doesn’t apply strictly to writers. But to other people, like grad students. 😛

So what’s on the list? (You should go read it.) But, if you’re being lazy, it boils down to the following:

  1. Habit of only writing when you feel inspired.
  2. Habit of making it all about yourself
  3. Habit of silly, wishful thinking.
  4. Habit of playing it safe.
  5. Habit of negative self-talk.
  6. Habit of contrived pessimism.
  7. Habit of trying to control everything.
  8. Habit of constantly demanding things.
  9. Habit of constantly comparing yourself to others.
  10. Habit of quitting when things get a little tough.

As you can see, there’s very little mention of writing in the list. And, the one about writing *still* applies to grad school. If you only write when inspired, you’ll never finish that candidacy document, paper for that conference/journal or final dissertation. Sometimes you just have to suck it up.

When I look at the list, I know that my biggest problems are 5 and 9. I’m constantly down on myself. Which is tough to deal with, because you already know you’re going to be the hardest person to please, so why make it more difficult? I can easily see the great qualities in my friends, but I find it much harder to find them in myself. I need to figure out how to get better at this.

When it comes to 9, I think we all do so as grad students. However, there’s actually very little data available on how to compare yourself to other students. Which means, I’m probably making comparisons that have absolutely no basis in reality. And yet, I’m still making them. And I’m still feeling worse about myself because of them. Which is really not a good place to be. Generally, the only “real” information you can easily find about other grad students, is how many papers they’ve published. But, unless you’re doing very similar research, it’s not easy to judge the quality of the publications, or how much of their research is being repeated between publications. Maybe they’ve got 10 publications, but 8 of them are workshops. How is that any better than your 2 or 3 non-workshop publications?

Because a lot of the problems of grad school (the depression and stuff as noted in my last post), you would think we’d all be much better at being straight with each other and realistic about how things are going. But we’re not. We all think the person next to us is just flying through their research. And that everything is going perfect (or at least not as terribly as yours). And yet, we don’t (except for maybe our closest friends).

So, for now, while I’m aware that the comparisons don’t make sense and that I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, it’s not going to be enough to stop them. But, I should start making a conscious effort to start actively acknowledging when I do so. Hopefully that will help me start to acknowledge things in a more realistic manner. And not feel quite so bad when an experiment fails.

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2 thoughts on “Self-limiting habits

    • Very true. I find I can get caught up in the wanting to control everything. Which just ends up with me frustrated and angry. Which doesn’t make focusing on important things I can control any easier. There are some people I have to interact with pretty regularly, that I tell myself after each interaction to just breathe and forget. Only way to get through the day. That, and potentially giving a giant vent to a friend.

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