National Institutes of Health: Becoming a Resilient Scientist

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Today, I attended a seminar held by the NIH called the ‘National Institutes of Health: Becoming a Resilient Scientist.’ Through this seminar, I was able to gain insight into the importance of wellness and understand the significance of the growth mindset.

During the hour and a half seminar, Dr. Milgram discussed her background at the NIH and the need to destigmatize mental wellness. One concept that really stood out to me was the idea of the enthusiastic beginner, disillusioned learner, cautious performer, and high achiever. When learning a new skill, this is the order in which we experience gain competence alongside differing levels of confidence and types of needs. In fact, for the enthusiastic beginner, competence is low, confidence is high due to excitement, and there is a need for direction. For the disillusioned learner, there is some competence, low confidence, and the need for support. For the cautious performer, there is moderate competence, variable confidence, and a continual need for support. For the high achiever, there is high competence and confidence alongside the need for independence.

When a learner is disillusioned, they may feel quite low and want to quit, procrastinate, compare themselves to others, avoid, distract, doubt, or overthink. Because of these negative thoughts, disillusioned learners need support from their peers and from themselves. One concept that is key for disillusioned learners is resilience. Resilience is the ability to ‘adapt and grow through adversity.’ One way of doing this is to become aware of the task/goal’s difficulty and find a constructive way forward. A few ways to do this are through journaling, mindfulness, community, and therapy. Additionally, it is important to focus on the process much more than the outcome. Focusing on the process is helpful because there will be less pressure to be perfect and decreases fear of failure. Moreover, growth is better analyzed and is made the main goal.

Something that really stood out to me was the concept of ‘if-then thinking.’  This thought process gives people the opportunity to assess a negative situation and predict their reactions. For example, if someone fails, then they will expect themselves to take a walk to cool off. Or, if my experiment fails, then I expect myself to ask my PI for help. This ‘if-then thinking’ helps reframe the negative situation and turns it into a more positive one by practicing self-care and wellness.

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