Researching Your Own Life
As I was writing my current research analysis, I began thinking about the elements needed to conduct scientific studies: a focus, outline, objectivity, committee, alignment, adherence to standards, and social change. It occurred to me the similarities that we need to live life. Life, as in research, does not always require us to be perfect or experts, but that we do our best.
In research, there is typically a human or social condition prompting the study and then a direct focus is narrowed to finding a solution. This focus is the guiding light that shines through every stage of research. It hangs in front like a large bright neon sign. At this point, while knowing the problem, we do not focus on it but rather, on the solution. This is a critical element. In life, finding purpose or passion with a singular focus guides us. There are times when one might have challenges finding a purpose especially when our world is so filled with social conditions warranting support. Where to begin?! Once you find your passion, keep it in front of you like that neon sign. Energies cannot go both to the problem
and solution at the same time. If there is a focus in your life, either business or personal, it must be a true north for you always. If you deviate, realign your path--just like a GPS system redirects you back on track.
Example: Perhaps your goal is losing weight. You determine a goal of dancing to lose weight.
Next, you will need a plan of attack--an outline--to keep you on the path facing your True North which is your focus. This outline reflects all the steps and stages needed to accomplish this goal.
What if you don’t know the steps?
You study and read about similar people that have accomplished the same goal. It seems simple enough. As you write your outline, keep in mind your main focus. Note the various people, tips, and stages; compile them as YOU resonate with the findings. Remember, this is your passion, your goal, your dream.
Example: You have your focus now, dancing. You study all types of dancing and components of where to dance, and how to learn to find which one is aligned with your interest. Perhaps you might try several types of dancing until you find that particular genre. You decide on swing dance. Do the research on famous swing dancers, find dance studios, learn the clothing needed, and the details of swing dance. Begin writing your outline--your path--to become a swing dancer.
In research as in life, we all need our “right tribe,” those people who uplift us, encourage us, and help us to achieve our goals. In a doctoral program, we have a committee, a group of a few professors, who keep us on track and provide insight. These people often remind us of our True North should we get off our path. Remaining focused can be challenging at times, perhaps lonely, and demands our mental, physical, and emotional dedication. Others may not even understand your goal and unintentionally offer unusable advice. Stay focused with your Tribe! Keep looking at your outline and that neon sign.
Example: So, we have a goal which is losing weight and a focus on swing dancing. You have your outline to become a swing dancer and you have your committee, your group supporting you. You will also develop a greater tribe through your dance courses.
As a researcher or scientist, it is critical to remain objective by leaving bias and subjectivity at the door. Critical peer review involves only the facts and data; when bias is interjected, the perceived quality of the research is diminished, and not taken seriously. In life, as we have seen, bias or prejudice serves only to propagate negativity; it is not respectful. Remaining objective when on our path is an important component of fulfilling our goal. In life, we are bombarded with news, social media, and people offering opinions and advice, so we sift through it all to find our own truth or interpretation. Stay close to your Tribe as you navigate on your journey and limit whom you invite to share in your goal.
Example: You have outlined your dancing program and have listed the steps needed as you begin pursuing your goal. As you stay aligned with your path and goal, listen to your Tribe for encouragement. As you begin dancing, perhaps you will find others to add to your Tribe who are excited about dancing and enjoy a similar passion. Sometimes bias comes from internal dialogues, and we listen to our voice of negativity which can derail us. While your own voice is often deafening, find key activities that turn that negativity around and help you to focus again. Dance more! Take your passion and excitement to the dance floor, or watch dance videos, read about dancing, and stay connected to your path.
When I was a doctoral student, alignment was the keyword of the day, every single day! Alignment! Alignment! Alignment! I have already addressed the need to stay on your path and in the direction of True North. Alignment in research is defined as keeping all aspects--all sections--focused on the topic. There is the research question, the theory, the methodology, the studies referenced, and on and on. If any student was moving off track, the Chair or committee would gently nudge them back on their path. Sometimes not too gently!
In life, as I noted earlier, we often get off track with television, social media, our own internal voice, other opinions, and challenges. When we make a plan (an outline of how to accomplish our goal), we have a roadmap that leads us to our destination. Staying in alignment means daily, yes, daily, pursuit. Pursuing a goal doesn’t have to be done at a warp speed like the Tasmanian devil. Taking time away to rejuvenate is just as important. Finding a balance in life has been the goal since the beginning of time. We need to balance our lives for well-being and harmony.
Example: As you begin dancing, it takes time to build skill and muscle memory; daily exercises help you stay on track. Staying in alignment might be taking classes two times a week and attending swing dance socials to put your newfound skills to practice. Alignment is perhaps meeting others who enjoy swing dance and who offer tips or nuances to enhance dancing. Again, finding your Tribe is key! As you begin on your dancing path, your thoughts are also key to staying aligned with your goal. Often, we are critical of ourselves. In research, we often list the obstacles and then list the options for overcoming these obstacles. If you hear your voice (or others) being critical, list the critique, and then list how you can move forward without them. Remember, stay focused on that neon sign! If you feel misaligned, call your Tribe as they will be there to uplift you and remind you of your fabulousness.
Standards and Methods
There are many standards and methods for conducting research; they are established to maintain consistency and objectivity. In life, there are also standards that keep us on track with our purpose and goals. We must learn those methods for the particular goal that we are pursuing. In a doctoral program, there are writing standards and methods for conducting quantitative statistics, which keep us focused. We learn these by example from our reading, tutelage, and our Tribe. Establishing our own standards for our lives must be examined to ensure that are moving in the direction we desire. We ask ourselves if we need to spend hours watching social media, or television, or playing games. While relaxing and play are needed for finding balance, there are other elements that are important for harmony. Are we moving our bodies, learning, organizing, practicing, or working on our goals, and nurturing relationships? Whatever your goal or passion, learn its nuances and methods.
Example: Swing dance has its own diagrams for movements and steps that are learned to maintain consistency with a partner. Learning these standards not only empowers us to dance proficiently but it ensures trust with a partner. Timing, movements, coordination, and body posturing are all part of the methods needed.
So, we have discussed finding a passion or goal, staying aligned, finding your Tribe, learning methods, and being gentle with yourself as you learn. Each step brings you closer to your goal and achievement. As someone who has pursued goals, been knocked down (usually by my own doing) and found those people that carried me when I thought I couldn’t carry myself, I realize how important it is to just enjoy the process. My Tribe is my everything and each one is a hero. When it came time to present my dissertation after I pursued that goal, well, it was a joy like no other. Typically, a passion or purpose develops from a social or human condition as bettering our financial position, finding joy, helping others, creating art, and finding solutions. We realize that once completed, we have the ability to create change. Pursuits come many times in our lives as we grow and mature, and each new goal allows us to see the beauty within ourselves and others. We take our learning and share it with the world. Who knows? We can become role models for others. As we can find solutions to social conditions, we can create a better world.
Example: So, now you are on your path to becoming a swing dancer, taking courses, attending dance socials, developing new friendships, and before you know it! Your health and wellbeing are elevated! Your initial condition of losing weight was no longer your focus but the joy of dance. Your neon light guiding your path shifted to an activity that brings you, and others, joy. Through your dedication, focus, daily practice, and interaction, it all came together, and now you are sharing your pursuit with other dance partners.
Who knows what is next?... Tango?! Let’s go!