Lately I have been aimless, in automaton mode, without a goal to aim towards. Fortunately, I think I have found the cause and how to remedy it.
The cause is that I have become diluted in a routine around the research work I am developing and also, being too involved in basic and often isolated tasks, I have lost the perspective of the initial objectives of the project. Before starting the project I had written that it is necessary not to reach this point, to always manage to see the importance of the small and boring activities for the final objective and to always have perspective. However, this is not always easy, especially when, as in most of the cases I know, we are working to achieve other people’s “artificial” objectives. That is, generally, we are working for projects designed by supervisors and in most cases the projects have no real relevance, but exist for the mere pleasure their designers get from pursuing an objective. I dare say that I have never met a scientific research project with real impact, but most of them end up publishing a few papers and that’s it, to the trash. The goal of a modern scientist is to publish, not to do research.
For these reasons, being a researcher who is hired to develop a small part of a project means that most of the time your task is to work and obtain results in order to publish a certain number of articles. Many, especially those who want to pursue a career in science, also aim to publish papers and thus achieve “prestige”, thus aligning their interests to modern science and projects. Others not so much, and it is in the latter group where I fall, in the group of those who do not give a damn about publishing.
One task I have to do at present is to develop certain calculations which, although my supervisors say that ça c’est enorme, and actually have some probability of finding significant practical applications, from my point of view, they simply do not interest me. The other task is precisely to write a paper based on the results obtained for a thesis I defended 6 months ago, and this one is, indisputably, just for the sake of publication. So, as you can deduce, I think that the work I am doing has no real implications other than publishing, and we have already discussed that publishing is as important to me as an apple falling from a tree at the other end of the world: I simply don’t care.
So, how to reach a solution and get out of this bad time of feeling no fulfillment? Well, by identifying what I could influence and what I could not influence, as well as establishing clear objectives I really want to reach and to direct my work towards them.
It is not because of science that I work, obviously nobody does it for the sake of science. A proof of this is that if someone really worked for science, then it would not bother him to make a publication and then not be included among the authors, giving it away to someone else. — But it’s his work, how can he give it away to someone else just like that — you might ask. Well, let me tell you that when we invest months and even years of work in developing a publication, we give it away to a scientific journal with full copyright, to the point that even we (the actual authors) cannot access it without paying whatever that journal is charging for what is now their property. Evidently most scientists work to publish and have a certain status within the “community”, not for the sake of science itself.
In my case I have no doubt that I do this as part of the macabre exchange of time for money. Fortunately, I had the two months following my thesis defense free, with nothing else to do but to set up this blog, and I was able to identify then that if there is one thing I do not want to do in the next 50 years (if I am lucky enough to get that far) it is to continue exchanging my time for money.
Some time ago I had stumbled upon [Mr. Money Mustache]’s blog (https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/), and although I found it very interesting, and even wanted to put into practice many of the things I saw there, I was not able to keep them over time. Why? Simple, because I was not able to change my attitude.
When you find the points of view shared by MMM as a revelation, when you identify with their style and philosophy of life, when you see yourself in the future with similar achievements, it is common to want to apply what you have learned and even take some action. However, when the weekend you read his blog is over and you return on Monday to interact with the circle of people around you, they generally function as a black hole that pulls you back to your initial state. —How dare you want to move away from “the center” and bring new ideas into our space— Surely by Thursday, in the process of being consumed once again by the dark forces of the universe, the asteroid collisions, radiation and high velocities to which we are subjected will have made us give up what on Sunday seemed to us to be what we wanted to be.
Therein lies the key: to be invulnerable to the centripetal forces of your environment. Take life with the right attitude.
My goal is then defined: continue to trade my time for money, and as a general rule, whenever possible, in work where that time is wasted as little as possible. Then, to achieve economic independence, and to be able to dedicate my time to the most basic and fundamental things that satisfy my biological and social needs.
Evidently modern science is a big black hole that attracts anyone who approaches it, and few manage to come out of it with any positive experience. Anyway, as what will make the change is the attitude we take, I have identified that my local objectives in this area are not to carry out the project or write that article, but to do the minimum necessary that is enough to fulfill my obligations, and thus get closer and closer to the real goal which is to achieve economic independence suffering as little as possible in the process.
Other than the minimum necessary, if something doesn’t pass the rule Hell yeah or no, then it doesn’t get done.