Rémi Thériault | Student Success Series

Rémi Thériault, PhD Student

This blog has been reviewed by Katya Santucci & Elizabeth Razzouk

Rémi, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi, I’m Rémi and I’m a unicorn… just kidding! I am someone who likes to be spontaneous, to make jokes, and to make people laugh! I’m also passionate about martial arts, breakdance, and parkour! Perhaps I could have been a comedian or acrobat… that is, if I hadn’t chosen to study psychology!

Indeed, I am actually a PhD student in social psychology at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), and I completed both my B.A. in Psychology and M.Sc. in Psychiatry at McGill University (always in Montréal, Québec). But just what made me choose psychology over the other careers I was considering?

When I was in high school, I went through a very, very difficult time. It lasted a while, but at some point, I kind of “magically” stumbled upon a popular book that introduced me to spirituality, personal growth, and psychology. This experience deeply changed my life, and as a matter of fact, profoundly changed me (but that’ll be for another blog part of the Resilience Stories Series)!

Long story short, given the extraordinary benefits of the practices, mindsets, and strategies that I discovered, I thought it was a shame that so few people knew about them. It meant that so many people were suffering while there are things that can be done to radically improve our lives!

All this to say that: this is basically how I landed within the positive psychology community; this was the field that would combine my interests for spirituality and personal growth with the rigour and power of science. I had finally found my family! This is why I am honoured to participate in the Student Success Series today.

What do you think made you successful as a student?

One of the things others always compliment me for is that I don’t give up! I have grit: passion and perseverance. When I experienced my personal transformation many years ago, I told myself that I had a responsibility to the world to share these insights. In a sense, I had this sense of higher purpose, that I had to do this, that this was my “mission” in life. This was one of the biggest reasons I have persevered through so many hardships. I still have this sense of higher purpose and it is still driving me today.

I had this sense of higher purpose, that I had to do this, that this was my “mission” in life.

When I got into college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I picked social sciences. At the time, I had this preconceived notion of what a psychologist was: being in an office and listening to depressed people all day. That wasn’t what I wanted to do. Yet, when I attended my first psychology classes, I realized that psychology was much broader than I expected! And that it involved all sorts of scientific research on various topics, such as the study of the brain, of meditation, of motivation, of altruism, and even of social change — I realized the possibilities were virtually endless and that there finally was something in there for me. Understandably, this really helped boost my motivation and confirmed to me that I was on the right path.

What strength, skill, strategy, mindset, or habit allowed you to get where you are today?

Although I had grit, passion, perseverance, and motivation, one of my problems was that I was thriving so much on spontaneity that I was completely disorganized for the most part! This was my Achilles’ heel! I knew that at some point, I would need to address that and get organized and disciplined, too. And I got there, although it took a while.

For example, I learned that, according to author of Gettings Things Done David Allen, the mind is for having ideas, not holding them. So, this basically implies putting every single idea you get down on paper (or electronic noteholders such as OneNote/Evernote in my case) or in your calendar. And eventually organizing them appropriately (e.g., in to-do lists, calendar events, lists of ideas, and so on).

According to the author of Gettings Things Done, David Allen, the mind is for having ideas, not holding them.

But I think that the key to my success was the mindset that I could learn. It was knowing that if I identified the right strategies, I could make it all work! Being able to be (constructively) self-critical, and asking yourself: is there a better or more efficient way to do this? Or a way that doesn’t jeopardize my wellbeing or my time with family and friends? Am I sharing the “vibe” I want with others? Am I aligned with my emotions and intentions?

So I think continuously looking to self-improve by reading books or online resources, asking for feedback from others, asking people what they think on something or how they got successful themselves (ding ding ding!) — or sometimes asking the right people the right kind of questions — and just constantly looking to challenge and improve myself and developing “systems” to make my life more efficient and intentional, has been a tremendous reason for my success.

Those things are among those, in a sense, that distinguishes me from my peers. One public figure I find really inspiring is high-performance trainer Brendon Burchard, who says he’s been reading one personal growth or psychology book a week… for 10 years straight!!

Now, that’s WAY too much for me! But it did motivate me to actually get started on my huge pile of books I said I’d read one day! But I’m so busy, so how do I do it? I told myself that if I put a single drop of water in a large pot, one day, it will get full (ok, I took this analogy from the Buddha!). Similarly, I said, if I read just one subtitle section per night (a few pages only), then one day I’ll have read an entire book! And since implementing this “minimalistic strategy”, I’ve read about eight such books! But that’s just an example, there are many more things generally, and it can be different for each person too.

How would you invite other students to cultivate those qualities?

If I were to sum up my advice on developing those qualities, I’d say something like:

  1. Develop a sense of purpose by trying to think and visualize where you would see your contribution in the world. How can you make an impact that would be meaningful to you?

Any last words you’d like to share with fellow students?

Thanks for reading this blog! Feel free to ask me for book suggestions and I’ll give you some! My email address is theriault.remi@courrier.uqam.ca. Also, if you haven’t already, please consider getting your Canadian Positive Psychology Association membership and joining our wonderful community!

If you liked this blog or if it has helped you in any way, please take a moment to like, share, or comment!

We are the Student Ambassador Program of the Canadian Positive Psychology Association (CPPA). Find our website here: https://www.cppa.ca/Student-Zone