How to stay motivated in research

I recently attended a very entertaining and interesting talk by a chronic kidney disease doctor, ‘The who, why and where of clinical research: a personal view’.  As the title promised, Dr Charles Ferro, presented a personal view on his medical career and (a few of) the things he’d learnt along the way about research.

One of the lessons that most stood out to me was motivation – he argued that intrinsic motivation (i.e. interest in the work itself) would endure longer, make you a better researcher, and ultimately be a lot more rewarding than, extrinsic motivation (i.e. a drive for praise, recognition, a higher salary or promotion).

While I absolutely agree, I have found that one of the biggest problems with motivation is that it can oscillate so much.  In Shearer and Davidhizar’s (1998) words – “motivation is constant, neverending, fluctuating, and complex” [1].  As humans, though we have motivation to do things (sometimes too many things), motivation has to be focussed on specific goals in order to be maintained; as well as continually renewed.  It can be so quickly lost or forgotten while becoming bogged down in the planning, logistics, and preparation for research…  Dare I mention the long and confusing road to ethical approval?!?

Personally, I have found no better or quicker way to rekindle my passion in the project than to talk about it with someone who was genuinely interested; and no greater way to raise my self-belief that I will complete my project than talking to someone that really understands the trials and tribulations of research because they’ve been through them all before.  (Sometimes they can even offer solutions!)

This is why I think that attending meetings such as the Early Career Research Academic Group (ECRAG) brown bag lunches, and the Public Engagement Breakfast Brainstorms, is so vital.  As well as finding out what other research and research activities are going on in your area in a relaxed setting, they connect you with people that remind you (and keep reminding you) of exactly why your research is worth all the hard work in the first place.

Natalie Tyldesley-Marshall

[1] Shearer, R., and Davidhizar, R. (1998) ‘Getting yourself motivated’, Hospital Topics, 76 (4), p.5.


Edited by

Farina Kokab

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