Researchers can often refer to at least one inspiring person or event that has instigated their academic endeavors. As a marine biologist, I have been interested in shell collection from beaches since I was 3 years old and I have always wondered what lies underneath the ocean. Eventually, I got inspired by famous scientists like Marie Curie, Brahmagupta, Francis Crick, and Carolus-Linnaeus whose major inventions in science prompted me to study zoology and biotechnology. Based on my own personal experience from shell-collector to marine biologist, I found that curiosity and dreams can play a more vital role than motivation from others, and studies now show that creativity can play a vital role in one’s scientific career. To improve creativity and vision, I would therefore like to share some simple shortcuts that I believe can facilitate scientific success.
In order to achieve what you want in science (and life in general), it is important to be able to visualize your goal and how to get there in detail. After my PhD in the taxonomy of marine sponges, if someone asked me about my life goal, I would say, “to be a marine scientist.” It did not take much time to understand that “marine scientist” is a vast term where you can jump into various career options like research fellow, lecturer, consultant, science communicator, conservationist, ecologist, biologist, etc. Many of us struggle to answer the “career goals” question. If we are not focused and specific on what we need, it will certainly be difficult to reach the right substratum. Apparently, the best time for visualization is after you wake up in the morning and before going to bed, spending at least for 5 to 10 minutes envisioning your goals.
Cultivate Selective Ignorance
Learning the art of selective ignorance is the next important step. I used to spend a lot of time reading and watching the news, but I found that it took my valuable time away from my work. As Herbert Simon rightly said, “Abundant wealth of information creates poverty of attention.” Sometimes, we tend to read one thing and then get distracted and continue reading one article after another. Instead, when you cultivate selective ignorance, and choose your priorities, it will open a lot of your own creative possibilities that you may never see otherwise. So, to develop selective ignorance, first it is important to have a clutter-free work space. Mess creates stress and disorder creates distraction. It is one of the reasons why Steve Jobs started his Apple products and his workspace in ‘White’ as he wanted clarity in thinking. Going on a ‘low information diet’ while at your lab or workplace may help us channel our thoughts for clarity of thinking and productive work.
Reach the Right Mentor
Mentors are important in any career not only for knowledge and skill transference, but to provide professional and personal support. Working with an incompatible supervisor for you is like getting on the wrong train and finding that every stop is not what you expected. If you are aware that you are on the wrong train, get off at the next station and find the right one–the supervisor that is perfect for you. You can do this by seeking out mentors in your professional community. For example, one day during lunch with one of our museum entomologists, I asked if she had any tips for a conference presentation. Without hesitation, she gave some wonderful tips. When I confirmed if the acronym for an excellent presentation is K.I.S.S. (Keep It Short and Simple), with a big smile she responded that nowadays to grab the attention of any audience, it is better to ‘Keep it Short and Stupid’ and yes, it worked. At the recent sponge conference, my presentation grabbed some attention as I didn’t give any detailed or crowded slides.
Staying positive can make a big difference to our productivity. Though we cannot avoid negative people around us, we need to be aware that we cannot allow ourselves to waste time on envisioning a pessimistic future awaiting us. Sometimes the negativity can start from home or school or workplace. You may be surrounded by doubters, critics and disbelievers. However, if your passion and dreams are stronger, you can convince your parents, teachers and friends to transform their thoughts. In India, where I was born, trends in the 1990s suggested that information technology was the ideal profession for woman to have a secured job. However, I stayed optimistic that my passion in science would lead to a good career. What lies inside you is always more important than what surrounds you.
Believe in Yourself.
Finally, whatever happens, don’t ever stop believing in yourself. As suggested in all the above four tips, thoughts are one of the most powerful catalysts to trigger our life’s happenings. To achieve what you “really” want in life and to overcome self-sabotage instead of leading to concentration, mindfulness and success, try to get some anti-procrastinating apps and start doing the impossible things you fear the most. In my case, marine research was not considered as an appropriate profession for women in India, which has varied cultures and subterranean thoughts that women should have some ‘imaginary’ limitations in the society. When I chose a marine profession with diving (I’m a rescue diver now!), none of my parents, professors, or friends discouraged me or criticized me for staying in this adventurous and fun-filled career. The reason is that I never allowed myself to be impacted by the opinions of others. My community knew that my passion and belief in myself was more powerful than negativity around me. As Thomas Alva Edison said, “If we all did the things we can do, we would literally astound ourselves.” Let success be yours!
Featured Image: Prelude To A Successful Career In Cultural Production belonging to the flickr account of Aitor Calero licensed under CC BY 2.0)
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