Without projects you lack experiences that cultivate positive habits, emotions, and character. You lack experiences that become the centerpieces of a life. In short, you lack growth.
What exactly counts as a project? Anything that is a planned endeavor to achieve some aim. This can range from painting your house to handling a marketing strategy for a very large company. There are more benefits, however, than the tangible one’s we usually are interested in acquiring.
There are intangible benefits and these may be the most important:
- Cultivation of habits
- Cultivation of emotions
- Cultivation of character
Cultivation of Habits
Habits are common ways of behaving routinized by use. You wake up in the morning, go to the bathroom, take a shower, and then brush your teeth–every single day. You sit down at the computer, open your browser, and automatically start typing in “fac…” to get to Facebook.
The term ‘habit’ is morally neutral. The kind of habit determines its moral worth. There is a big difference between the habit of saying hello to strangers and the habit of slapping them as you walk by.
A project cultivates good habits by its very nature. You have to behave in such a way to finish and that means routine work. You have to set actions in stone in order to make headway each day.
Without good habits any project worth finishing will not be.
Good projects require good time management and being able to manage your time requires good habits.
Let’s say you want to build a fence around your house. The planning and gathering of materials is done. All that is left is to work on it. But you are a very busy person and in between trying to go to work, take the kids to practice, etc. you find yourself unable to work at all.
Finishing tests your ability to mold yourself into the kind of person that can juggle all of those things.
- Can I cut back on this activity?
- Am I able to do things in a different way?
- Do I need to just cut out useless things? (TV, Facebook, Games)
A good manager of time is that way because they have to be in order to finish projects. Questions like these are important to them.
Becoming a better “fence-builder” for a short time improves your general time management for life. That is worth more than a fence.
Quality of Work
Cultivating good habits also improves your work quality over time.
For instance, you are writing a paper for a difficult professor with high expectations. He has particular standards that you must comply with. So you write in accordance with those standards. The next paper is the same, and the one after that.
After several papers your ability to write quality work has greatly increased and it is not quite the grind that it was with the first one.
You must hold yourself to standards even though they may be difficult to deal with at first if you want to produce quality work.
Things will get easier over time and you allow yourself the ability to reach even higher quality.
Carryover of Habits
The cultivation of habits from a single project can carryover into others.
That time management you gained from building the fence can help you write those difficult papers as well.
When you forge yourself into a person capable of performing great quality in good time then you have significantly increased your chances of success.
Cultivation of Emotions
Our emotions can be our best friend or our worst enemy. Let them get out of control and disaster strikes. Reign them in and learn their significance and they will allow you to achieve great things.
Think of professional athletes. They are able to go from calm to genuinely serious in an instant. How is this possible? Because through the training of their bodies they have realized when to rev up the engine and when to let it cool down.
Take that athlete and put him behind a counter with a customer yelling in his face and he may not know those emotional boundaries.
To feel angry is human. Aristotle thought it okay to be angry if for good reason. What is that reason?
Put simply, something needs to be done.
How does a project cultivate your anger into a positive thing? By putting it to use. The athlete can use anger to help him/her break new barriers. Getting angry while working on a project can give you the extra umph! needed to go forward when times get tough.
Anger becomes a pusher.
Anger can be dangerous, though, if you let it consume you. Yelling at your wife/husband because you are frustrated at work is never right.
Being involved in projects allows you to cultivate anger in a positive manner, as a tool for creation, not for destruction.
Not every project is going to be completed while some are but not up standard.
Sure, this doesn’t matter much when we’re talking about re-seeding the yard, but let’s say you had a goal of saving enough money to go on a much needed vacation when suddenly your car breaks down with a massive repair.
These kinds of things can hurt…bad.
The side effect of setting out to accomplish something is that it may not be accomplished. This is the risk of any project, big or small. And when we set ourselves up with expectations we feel it in our hearts when they aren’t met.
Cultivating a positive kind of sadness (yes, there can be such a thing) is imperative in order to grow and projects allow the chance to do so.
Failed projects are failed for reasons, whether in our control or not. Either way, reflection weeds out expectations we had in ignorance. We become more mature in what we should expect when we set out on paths.
When sadness is cultivated in this way it is productive, not like the anguish of complete helplessness.
A person with many projects (finished and unfinished) will be emotionally mature. They understand the significance of emotions and proper responses to a situation.
Most importantly, they use emotions as tools of growth, whether through fueling it, or reflecting upon it.
Cultivation of Character
When you see the word “character,” what do you think of?
You may think of specific people as being “characters.” They have something about them that makes them unique, good or bad. Or you may think of “character” as someone’s moral backbone. Without it they falter to the wishes of everyone around them.
Each of these conceptions has the same idea behind it: Character is what makes you stand out. It is what makes you…you.
Engaging in projects cultivates your character. Involving yourself with goals and attempting to tackle them gives you valued self-knowledge.
While character is having qualities that make you unique your personality is comprised of qualities that make you interesting.
A lack of interest in the way things play out can make for a boring time. Think of watching a football game with no care of who wins with someone else who feels the same. Things will happen, points will be scored, tense moments will occur, but you will not care.
Sometimes its okay to bore away a Sunday afternoon but true cultivation of personality and character is spending your time with things that you care about and have interest in how they end up.
Projects do this for you. Taking part in a project is taking part in something that you care about, at least minimally. You care about outcomes, your emotions get stirred, you learn about yourself, and you are an active player.
This makes you interesting. It gives you color. It makes you human.
Painting your house not only gives the house personality, it gives you personality as well. Your work is a reflection of your character, your patience, your resourcefulness, and your disposition. Your work is an extension of yourself.
A person’s personality is their style, and style is cultivated through projects.
Projects help give you backbone. When it comes to having a goal and achieving that goal there are all sorts of paths to take.
For instance, if you are wanting to make more money you could do all sorts of things. You could get a second job, you could ask a friend to loan it to you, or you could steal from your workplace. Each of these has its own moral consequences. You could possibly lose a friend over money issues or lose your job and end up in jail.
Finishing projects is important but how you finish the project is important as well.
By keeping moral principles in the back of your mind and adhering to those principles you fashion yourself into a morally outstanding person. You are unable to be swayed by shallow opinions.
Taking part in projects oftentimes involves taking part in very tough ethical situations, but pushing through those situations keeping to wholesome virtues builds your backbone better than anything else.
Endurance is at the heart of any great project.
Whether its Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel or a construction foreman planning a stadium, the greatest of projects takes the greatest of perseverance.
The problems that great projects face along the way are large in quality and quantity. The ability to push through even when the obstacle seems too high is the mark of a truly successful person.
Taking part in projects of this caliber are what gives you the most character. They shape you and make you stand out and above the crowd.
Direction & Striving
The projects you choose to take part in determine your direction in life.
If you constantly search for shallow projects your life will reflect those projects. They are easy, take little effort in changing habits, do not evoke emotions, and lack character. You will gain little self-knowledge from them leading to a life where you are at the whim of others.
Sometimes the projects you undertake are not of your choosing. Things get thrown in our lap that must be dealt with in order to continue surviving.
However, to let yourself constantly be thrown into things is not a viable way to live either.
You have to be the master of your own ship, steering yourself in the direction you wish to take, and while storms may take you off course, you have to have the perseverance and backbone to find your way again.
You may not have an absolute life goal yet but do not refrain from choosing a direction. Move towards a way of living that is full of opportunities to improve yourself. It is through living this way you will find your path.
Finally, you must never cease striving for great projects. The meaning of “great” may change over time but you must still be involved in meaningful experiences.
For the adolescent this may be graduating with honors. For the middle-aged man it may be trying to raise his children to the best of his ability. And for the grandparent it may be being the emotional support for the whole family.
Our interests change throughout life but our way of engaging them must not falter.
Your life without projects is boring. Without being invested in activities and outcomes you are not tested mentally, physically, or spiritually.
Secondly, without these experiences you lack chances to cultivate aspects of yourself that are conducive to a life well-lived: Emotions, habits, and character.
Projects test these faculties and allow them to flourish. That is why it is important to take part in projects that require the best of ourselves. While these kinds of projects can be frustrating and take large amounts of time the self-knowledge we gain through the struggle is worth more than any formal education can offer.
If you take away anything from this article let it be these points:
- Without good habits any project worth finishing will not be.
- You must hold yourself to standards even though they may be difficult to deal with at first.
- A person with many projects (finished and unfinished) will be a person who is emotionally mature.
- A person’s personality is their style, and style is cultivated through projects.
- Endurance is at the heart of any great project.
Finally, realize that taking part in great projects gives us experiences which become centerpieces of how we define who we are. They become the stories we tell our family and friends, our children and grandchildren. They warm our soul when we remember them in passing. And they forge us into characters taking part in something meaningful, our own life.