Pau Porras (ESR14)

Dear PhD Diary – from Pau

In this post, I will talk about my experience as a PhD student, and I will share 5 tips that have been my mantra during the last months.

First, when we think about a PhD, we can picture in our minds many concepts such as knowledge, training, autonomy, personal growth and passion. I was extremely happy to start a PhD program in environmental sciences and microbiology because I was passionate about it.

One day, while I was performing some chemical analysis in the lab, I was listening to a conference of Sir Ken Robinson talking about the idea that each one of us has an Element. He described The Element as the point in which natural talent meets personal passion. In that moment, I started thinking about my Element and I realised that I did not know what my Element was.

I started asking myself what were my passions, but what was its meaning? At the beginning I was mistaking it for a strong enthusiasm. After some research, I understood that passion is not a mental conception about something that you like, it is all about feelings. It is a state of connection where you lose control of time; you have unlimited energy; and you can’t describe the strong sensation with words. This feeling appeared in me in some moments but in very different contexts and actions. So, what was the common element in all these situations? I still don’t know it.

In addition, during these last months, I have been seeking things that really fulfil me. I realised that it was easy for me to get lost in my lab routine and to focus on a specific process and get disappointed when experiments didn’t work. But then, I learnt to focus on the purpose. What is this experiment/analysis for? Why do I need to read this? What is the purpose of doing this training? What is the purpose of my PhD? of the other activities I am committed with?

My conclusions are that at the end of the day, the most important thing for me is the common good. I am not doing things just for myself, selfishly, only to acquire more knowledge and skills, to earn more money (I recognise that I’ve passed through this stage). I am now asking myself almost every day, how can I contribute more? It is in meaningful interactions and contributions where I am finding happiness and peace. So now, my challenge is to write my PhD thesis with tranquillity and joy.

Coming to the end of my post, I want to share 5 practical things that I’ve been doing lately to deal with this intense journey:

  1. Healthy eating and spending time cooking delicious meals;

2. Doing some physical activity every day like climbing, cycling or practicing yoga (even though at times it has been very challenging to stay consistent);

3. Repeating myself that ‘it is in the doing that the idea comes’;

4. Switching off screens after dinner and reading some interesting books such as The Mirror Rule, Yoshinori Noguchi, The Eight Mountains, Paolo Cognetti or Letting go, David R. Hawkins;

5. Daily meditation.

Pau Porras

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