Grad school is all about being able to bounce back when things don’t go as planned. Whether it’s a class assignment that didn’t turn out the way you expected, a manuscript that gets rejected, rejected again, and still rejected once more, or data that just do not want to cooperate with your hypotheses, adaptability is one of the most important skills to have as a graduate student. Ironically, most graduate students tend to be a little neurotic (after all, chances are that to get this far academically you have to care, ya know, a little bit). So, how did I, neurotic grad student Evelyn develop the adaptability skill? Glad you asked. Here are a few tips:
1) Focus on what IS working for you. Make a list of your tasks for the week, and cross them off as you go along. That way, even if you hit a road block, you’ll be able to objectively see what you have accomplished. Hopefully that will give you the “oomph” you need to push that road block out of your way.
2) Play an upbeat song. My go-to is “Roar” by Katy Perry (I’m *almost* not ashamed to admit that). Whether it’s something cheesy or super serious, find music that speaks to you and put it on repeat until you’ve found a new solution.
3) Think outside the box. If you’re banging your head against a wall with no luck, try banging your head against a different surface–maybe you’ll get different results! But, in all seriousness, sometimes a little change in perspective will help you discover your Plan B. For example, if it’s data that’s not working, what’s a new way you can think of your hypotheses? Try sharing your thought process with a friend outside your field. They may see something that you have taken for granted differently.
No matter what you do, don’t give up! Even if it feels like you’ve gotten all the way to Plan Z and still don’t know what to do, pat yourself on the back for your resilience, and keep pushing. Maybe plan AA will be the one that works 🙂