Monday, 26 January 2015


Okay, so January is almost over and I totally meant to write this down earlier. However, better late than never. 

It seems that there is a bit of a trend of picking a sort of theme word for the year in January. Kind of like a lazy person's New Years resolution, I suppose. So I thought I would try it - pick one word to aim for in 2015. 

I went with Fluency. In the cognitive literature, perceptual fluency refers to things that are easy for the brain to process, usually because they are familiar or something you've seen before. Items that have a high level of perceptual fluency are rated as more pleasant, probably because your brain has to work less hard to process them. (This is why seeing something over and over makes you like it more - it also works for pop songs, sadly - in something called the mere exposure effect. Merely being exposed to something multiple times increases how much you say you like it). 

Anyway, I would like to have more fluency in my life. To me, this means quitting things that are a huge struggle, even if I think I should do them. There's a line here, obviously - what I'm aiming for is flow (defined [on Wikipedia, I'm afraid] as the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a  feeling of energized focus, full involvement and enjoyment in the process of the activity ). Basically, activities should be just hard enough to be a challenge but not so hard they are frustrating. I think I spent my entire postdoc on the "frustrating" side of that line. This year, I want to learn new things but things that work with my natural leanings and skillset. Happily, so far qualitative research (unexpectedly!) seems to fit this template. (Writing a qualitative paper is like putting together a really interesting jigsaw puzzle). 

I also want to learn some new skills, but I want to figure out how to work with my natural inclinations to make it enjoyable. Crochet is like this for me, especially either challenging patterns or making up my own. Sort of hard at first, but eventually you become fluent and then it's fun. I also want to learn to make my own dresses (gonna start with a skirt, though!) This is going to be a HUGE challenge for me to do right. For one thing, the entire idea of doing the whole thing in muslin form first is anathema. SERIOUSLY?! The full amount of work for a fake version of what you're trying to make?! (This is also why I almost never do a gauge in crochet). I might try doing one muslin though - because although it is deeply annoying, it will make the actual skirt-making much more fluent. Presumably. 

So yeah. Stick with things (as much as possible) that work with my brain instead of against it. Learn some challenging things but try to set myself up for later fluency. Develop my skills so that I can more easily get into a flow state AND create cool things. And sort out my environment so that it is not always throwing up barriers to fluency (e.g., unable to find anything or tripping over stuff). We will see how it goes, but if all goes well it could be a fun year!


lisaandrichard said...

Good description of qualitative research.

Judith said...

Post on your progress, I am interested in how things go.

Theresa said...

This is very inspiring. Maybe even a 60-year-old could become fluent in something new.