Religious fundamentalists are people who sometimes carry on attacks to spread their version of religion at the cost of others’ lives. Some questions that are often asked of them are: How can you justify killing others in the name of God? Which God asks you to kill innocent people? How can you possibly be representatives of a religion that proclaims love and peace as the highest ideals? All of these are great questions. However, as a grad student who sometimes struggles with motivation to edit papers and get them ready on time, I often have a question that nobody else is asking: where do they find the motivation to do so much work?
What are some reasons that they could be motivated to work very long hours, without adequate nutrition or sleep, single-mindedly focused on their objective?
- They are responding to a call that is greater than themselves. In some warped sense, God is commanding them to carry out his wishes. Hence, this task takes clearly higher priority over all others. Procrastination is perhaps about not having one task with clear priority.
- Their task at hand is of infinite value. If they die in the course of their duty, they will be in heaven for eternity. This is of course of infinite value. If I write another paper, although it will add value to my profile and perhaps some lesser value to Mathematics, the value added will not be infinite.
- They are on a tight deadline, and are perhaps being hunted by the police/army. Hence, they are in fight and flight mode. This would of course make them work purely on adrenaline. This is something grad students have experienced just before a deadline. I don’t have to force myself to work for longer hours before a deadline; my anxiety just takes over and gets the job done, albeit in a not-so-great manner.
Let us now ask these questions of ourselves. Are grad students responding to a call that is greater than themselves? Well, they sometimes are, especially if they are writing papers that answer fundamental questions of their field, or perhaps those that are truly uncovering a secret of the universe. But mostly, no. Are grad students doing something of infinite value? See the above. Are grad students often on a deadline that would make them work faster? Not the way graduate school works in the United States.
Perhaps the way to make yourself work for longer hours is to not download the latest productivity app, but to find something to do that is greater than yourself, and has infinite value. Also, work with self-imposed deadlines. Elon Musk built rockets because he wants to transport the whole of humanity to Mars in the case of an existential crisis; he was also on a deadline, because the Earth is likely to face an existential crisis within this century. You want to write a paper that will add one line to your CV. Do you see why he works 18 hours and you work 7 minutes before going on Reddit?