Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Are you staying in your PhD program because you're afraid of failing?

Recently I discovered that someone that I grew up playing sports with is now doing it professionally and is climbing the ladder towards the top of the field. They travel all over the world to compete and even have a fan page on facebook. It's amazing and I'm really proud to know this person, but it got me thinking - I never aspired to be a PhD. I did always say I wanted to be a doctor while I was growing up, but I meant the medical kind. After entering the PhD program I started drinking the kool aid of superiority and along the way have come to think of getting a doctorate as the end-all, be-all. If you don't get your doctorate, then really, what are you worth?

That feeling has been one of the main motivating factors behind my drive to finish in my darkest PhD hours, and for the first time in a long time I realized how silly it was. This friend of mine has an amazing and exciting life doing something we both love and is becoming famous (in that community at least) for it. Meanwhile, I'm stuck in an office all day working. How did I convince myself that this was the coolest job in the world? On the flip side, when did I decide being a professional athlete was a cool job - I never felt that way before this moment, I never aspired to go pro, it was always just a hobby. Is this just a reaction to my feeling trapped in doors all day long? Is this the same reaction that causes other engineering PhDs to leave give it all up to pursue fashion design or photography or anything opposite of science?

So the survey today is one question:
Are you like me, does the fear of failure keep you in your program?

Is there another, non-doctorate requiring profession that you fantasize about pursing? If so, is it is the polar opposite of what you're getting your PhD in? Leave a comment and tell me what this fantasy job is! I want to hear what you have to say!