The way in which we label and think about our world along with the ways that we think about ourselves seems to be impactful and important for us to evaluate and think about. In a social constructivist fashion, Gergen (2015) would argue that “understand the world in terms of mental categories, or construals. This is to say, we construct the world in our own terms” (p. 28). This carries over into both how we see ourselves poset degree and our personality types.
When a student completes a Ph.D. they have gained a significant amount of expertise in their area of study. There are many ways in which they might label themselves. Terms such as intellectual, scholar, academic, researcher, expert, thought leader, and a creative scholar could be used. To describe the dive they have taken into their studies. I have a varying affinity for these terms.
A podcast that I have enjoyed for the last quite a few years, Back to Work with Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin (an interested reader could find the podcast at http://5by5.tv/b2w), has a running bit that they come back to every so often. In the bit, they have some discussion about emails that they have received from people soliciting them to be on their show as a guest. These people, or probably their publicists or other helpers, will write about how much they appreciate their show and think that they would be great guests. It seems like they always are people who self label themselves as thought leaders in an area and that they would be perfect for the show. I guess because they have a somewhat popular show, it is more of personalized spam that misses the fact that their show doesn’t have guests join them. It might be related to my self-doubt, but I have a difficult time trying to decide how I would want to be labeled, and I don’t want to come across as pompous.
Terms such as intellectual, or academic (when used to describe an adjective for a person versus an activity) feel disconnected to me. While I feel that I have some expertise and could probably rightly call myself an expert in my subject matter post-graduation, I think I would feel uncomfortable introducing myself as such. One term that I do like is that of a scholar (maybe as a creative scholar, but I don’t know if I have a firm impression on that description yet). The term scholar feels more grounded. Maybe because it also feels more old-timey, that it feels more wholesome of a word to myself. The word scholar also feels like more of an active word verses a self-label that I might give myself (e.g. it is about the work I do, not who I am). While I disagree with myself in many ways (any scholar has to have some good dichotomy), I would almost rather have others label me the way that they would like to. My way of labeling myself, I’d rather be known for the work that I do or the things that I accomplish. Maybe a label of somebody who does cool shit, and changes peoples lives, would be my more aspirational way of describing myself if I had to label myself.
The work that it takes to complete the Ph.D. degree is significant. Jackson (2017) describes the various stressors that students go through in their studies, in their financial and work lives, and through their social environments and relationships. She describes a theoretical and practical model for what she calls self-creation self-care. This model looks at how the act of self-creation can intersect with self-care. She even describes the basic outline of what a curriculum could look like in addressing some of these problems students face. This model could be effective at addressing self-care needs students have.
Newport (2016) descriptions of how to move away from distractions and give ourselves times and opportunities to do what he calls deep work is another great way to help manage the stresses and difficulties of being a student. I listened to the audiobook by Newport a while back and found it to be full of great ideas for disconnected from the world to reconnect. While I can’t claim to be the best practitioner of doing deep work, I do feel I work much better during those uninterrupted times and being purposeful about creating them. For me, even his discussion on email stood out to me. He described that he will tell people that when they don’t have to reply and detailed instructions to limit the number of distractions he receives or to spend doing the shallow work of much of correspondence. Handcox’s (2016) in his review of Newport’s book, describes the having set aside times to be distracted and having a routine to the times that we are practicing deep work as being relevant for him and they are also good advice.
How we work, and how we best interface with the world, I think many would describe that our personality plays a major factor in that. I’ve been around personality testing and some of the different models. My mom is very sure that I am seven in Howell (2014) description of an enneagram. In 2016 I took a similar test to MBTI’s from NERIS Analytics Limited (see https://www.16personalities.com). For that one, I was rated as ENFJ. When I took the test from Individual Differences Research Labs (see https://www.idrlabs.com/), I came out very different being an ISTJ. I tweeted some pictures and asking people if our personalities change, and they can be seen below:
Do our personalities change over time, do we focus on different things at different times in our lives. I took a personality test today as a part of my degree program and here is my comparison results from back in 2006. pic.twitter.com/gaiGLPqBL1— Jacob Campbell (@campjacob) September 20, 2019
From the pretty pictures at the 16 Personalities website, this is caricature what they would have drawn for me, a logistician. pic.twitter.com/hbglonp5YQ— Jacob Campbell (@campjacob) September 20, 2019
The scores had me scored highly on introversion, sensation, thinking (although this was just over 50% and close to feeling) and judging. It is important to evaluate how our personality is. Somebody who is more prone to extroversion might struggle more with Newports push to seek solitude or on the other end of the spectrum, somebody who is closer to introversion might struggle with the having planned distraction. I’m a believer in roundedness in our lives. I can’t have all solitude or all intense interaction (I would say I like both… just find bigger crowds harder to relate with unless I’m in a facilitatory role). But it is about finding our balance in our lives and determining what works.
Howell, J. B. (2014) Becoming conscious: The enneagram’s forgotten passageway (2 ed.) [Apple Book]. Bloomington, IN: Hay House. Available from https://books.apple.com/us/book/becoming-conscious/id565866663
Jackson, L. A. (2017). The implications of self-creation and self-care in higher education: A transdisciplinary inquiry (Order No. 10618919). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. (1952114348).
Gergen, K. J. (2015). Social Construction: From “What is” to “What Could Be.” In An Invitation to Social Construction (3rd ed., pp. 1–33). Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications. https://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781473921276
Handcox, J. [Productivity Game] (2016) Success in a distracted world: Deep work by Cal Newport. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTaJhjQHcf8
Newport, C. (2016). Deep work: Rules for focused success in a distracted world [Audiobook narrated by Jeff Bottoms]. New York, NY: Hachette Audio. Available at https://catalog.midcolumbialibraries.org/polaris/search/title.aspx?ctx=1.1033.0.0.6&pos=1
This essay was originally posted as a discussion topic for TSD 8005: Introduction to Transformative Studies.