My project is looking at the relationship between planning, goal progress, and happiness. The basic idea is: if you plan to get 10 things done, but you only have enough time to get 5 things done—you’re probably going to feel kind of down. Because of this, it would probably be better for your happiness to plan and get 5 things done. I came up with the idea for this project because I have always been a goal oriented person. I have usually been able to make consistent progress towards my goals, but I was never able to make progress on all of my goals. Any joy I had from making progress on one goal was usually offset by my disappointment over not progressing in my other goals. Talking to other people, I started to find out this was a pretty common problem people had. I was motivated to pursue this project because I knew it would benefit me, but also because it would benefit a lot of other people.
Speaking of goals, this project also plays a vital role in my longer term plans. After getting my bachelor’s degree, I plan to pursue a PhD program in Industrial Organizational Psychology. Industrial Organizational Psychology is the study of human behavior in the workplace. When I apply to programs, this project will show potential grad schools that I am capable of coming up with and executing my own research ideas. Working on this project also gives me a realistic job preview of what to expect in graduate school and after, if I choose to become a researcher.
What I actually do on a weekly basis varies a lot. Research consists of an interesting dichotomy of tasks. Everything I do is either the highest level of intellectual tasks or the lowest level of menial tasks. For example, one day I may be thinking about the scientific and philosophical arguments for my project, and discussing that in depth with my advisor. The next day I could be filling out paperwork, saving links to articles, and punching data into spreadsheets. The menial tasks may sound boring, but they are actually a calming break from rigorous intellectual tasks. Currently, I am creating the survey and practicing writing what will hopefully be the research article that comes out of this project.
I think the main thing I have learned this term is that you need find a balance between structure and flexibility. You definitely need plans in order to succeed at research, but you also have to be able to accept that those plans could change completely at any moment. I think finding this balance is a true challenge for most people, we all either love structure or love flexibility. I think the solution to this dilemma is to think of things that could possibly change or go wrong, so that you’re prepared if it happens. Also keeping yourself emotionally detached from your project is vital. You’re investing a lot of time and energy in this project and it’s easy to get emotionally caught up in it. It’s an amazing feeling to be passionate about what you’re working on—but you don’t want to have a mid-semester mental breakdown because you find out your project is going to take three months longer than you expected.