I truly believe in the notion of having a project you are working on at all times. It doesn’t have to be a big ordeal as projects come in all shapes and sizes.
Whether it’s wanting to build a fence in your backyard or write a symphony, the mere act of doing makes your life exciting and rich.
Projects give a direction to your daily life and allow you to start a journey towards a finish line while building your knowledge, emotions, and character along the way. Completing a project is uplifting and gives you motivation to continue to build in both scale and excellence for your future projects.
To ensure a project you have set out to do really challenges you and builds you into a better person, you should make sure all of your projects have similar characteristics.
Here are 5 of those traits that a project should have.
1) There is a Focused Outcome
“First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”
~ On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy
Projects are special because they direct your efforts towards a singular outcome. One cannot claim they have a project to “be smarter,” or to “make more money.” These are much too broad to be considered a feasible project.
What you need is a finish line, something observable and measurable that can settle whether or not the goal you set out to do was a failure or a success. There is nothing left to guesswork; you either accomplish what you set out to do or not.
Specificity for the project is the way by which you can then plan your undertaking. Since you will have limited time and resources the specifics of the project will determine how you must allocate you energies. If President Kennedy had left out the portion of “returning him safely to the Earth” and they had generally not cared if they made it back then they could have cut down on quite a bit of research, knowledge, and resources in order to accomplish what they did (as silly as that seems).
A definite finish or outcome for the project, psychologically, gives us a point in time where we can detach from the project and begin something new, whether it’s within the same area or something completely different.
Finally, we are given a sense of closure surrounding the project. Whether we failed or succeeded, we at least know that fact and can move on with the knowledge and skills we gathered along the way.
Examples of broad goals made specific projects:
- I want to be smarter. —-> I commit to reading four books this month, each from a different field of thinking (physics, chemistry, philosophy, economics).
- I want to save more money. —-> I plan to have $1,000 saved up in 5 months by putting away $200/month.
- I want to be more creative. —-> I plan to attend an art class in which the final is a finished, original work.
2) You Finish By “Doing”
Many of us want to be great people. We have those that we aspire to be like, whether it’s athletic ability, intelligence, social charm, or wisdom.
We focus so much on how we want to “be” we forget that to get there takes “do.”
Doing is exactly the point of a project. Since we’ve already determined a specific and focused activity we have to get there by “doing.” If you want a fence built it just doesn’t magically appear one day. You don’t just magically know a new language by wishing to “be” a multi-lingual person.
The project should involve an active effort by you, whatever role you need to be in. If that’s the role of team leader or hands-on worker, it doesn’t matter. You need to be actively involved.
Active involvement gives you more stake in the project than just the outcome. You are putting your fingerprints all over it and as such the outcome will reflect the work you put in.
This might go without saying, but while the outcome is important, the means with which you accomplish it are also important as well. We can’t separate the two, as the outcome will later become means for something greater. If you are gifted the outcome then you will have learned nothing through the journey to get there.
3) You Are Tested On Your Degree of Excellence
The outcome of the project should be one that challenges you to perform in an excellent way. We don’t typically assign ourselves projects so that we can keep up the status quo. We want to make or achieve something great. This means we have to do it right.
Setting up your project to be put to a “test” to determine its quality will help you ensure you are putting in the extra effort to make it excellent.
This means you don’t just challenge yourself to produce a work of art, you attempt to get that work of art accepted into an art show. You don’t just work on your speaking skills, you volunteer to do a speech at work on teamwork and goal-setting.
Putting a stake on the outcome accomplishes multiple things:
- Emotionally involves you in the outcome. Since you have a stake in the way things play out you care more about how things go.
- Makes you liable for the outcome. You have a portion of the responsibility in the matter.
- Gives you incentive to finish. Finishing a project is tough work, especially one that you want to be good, therefore it is important to give yourself as much incentive as you can to get to the end.
Also, shooting for a certain degree of excellence leads me to the next characteristic…
4) It Draws On Prior Talents While Forcing You To Build New Skills
A great project calls for great people. Are you not that great person yet? Then you must build the necessary skills in order to accomplish the task.
If you don’t currently have the time management, self-awareness, or willpower needed to finish then you will have to work on those things lest the project fails.
If the project calls for a hammer you must fashion yourself into a hammer. This attempt to change your behavior builds different traits:
Character and Personality
You understand what it takes to be self-aware enough to know what to change while also having the power to make those changes possible. Going through these rough patches builds your character while simultaneously building your personality.
You learn who you are, what makes you tick, and what drives you to succeed.
Consistency is the enemy of failure. To finish great projects you need consistency, and consistency requires good habits. It’s simple: You either build the skill or you fail. This is why it is so important to have a stake in the outcome, giving you that extra motivation.
Your current talents set the foundation by which you can build these new skills, giving you the chance to “make the project your own,” so to speak. You leave your imprint on it, throwing in a dash of your own creativity.
Great projects make you be more than you were in order to get them done. This builds you into the kind of person who is better equipped to handle bigger or different projects down the road, should you choose to pursue them (and you should).
5) Your Life Is Made More Wholesome Having Completed the Project
There is a necessity to talk about the moral element when it comes to undertaking projects. To engage in “self-improvement” is to attempt to raise one’s life to a higher standard, so it is important to determine what that higher standard is.
The projects that you set out to do should be of the kind that unlock further successes. For instance, robbing a bank is a project which builds habits and requires technical proficiency if wanting to be successful. However, this just isn’t the kind of project one would deem wholesome. In addition to being kinda, sorta, I don’t know…evil, it severely impacts your ability to pursue future projects (with the jail time and all).
While that is an extreme example the truth is many things we do mimic this growth-blocking endeavor. We save money to buy something we don’t really need, we are just interested in it because it’s shiny and new. We want to learn social skills so we can manipulate people into buying our product. These are not wholesome projects; they hinder us from developing real relationships and authenticity.
A wholesome project is one that sets you up for future growth. Getting in shape to run a 5K builds physical health and healthy habits which can be utilized in other projects.
The outcome of the project must not only be specific, it must fit in with how you want to continue to grow as an individual, a team, a community, or a society. Projects that hinder a group of people or work to close communities off to each other limit the further growth of those groups.
What we consider wholesome, good, or conducive to further growth is up to debate, but the important thing is that we at least talk about it before setting out.
Great Projects Call For Great People
Take a look at the great projects of the past, whether your own, a group you were involved in, or one you read about in a history book. Why were they great? The characteristics of those projects are what we should try to emulate when we plan our own.
Great projects push the limits of human imagination, strength, character, and capacity. They show us that the line between impossible and possible is the power of human ingenuity and work ethic.
We work on the project but the project works on us as well. The outcome is worth it; it makes our life more wholesome, enriched, and interesting. When we come out on the other side we are forged into the kind of person that can handle the many difficulties the toughest projects can dish out.
To finish a great project you have to be a great person in whatever kind of fashion that calls for, whether through creativity, strength of will, or leadership. We don’t know what we are capable of until we attempt to go to our own moon.