A project-based lifestyle

I changed the byline on my website to “Psychologist leading a project-based lifestyle”.

The term ‘project-based lifestyle’ refers to centering one’s life around projects. These might be work-related – in my case, this might include something like developing and delivering wellbeing programs for students. Or they may be personal projects – in my case this might include something like doing art or learning the guitar.

This can be contrasted against other things which a person might centre their life around: career, kids, relationships, public service, self-development, exploration.

In my case, the projects are many and varied, providing a diverse range of experiences, but also meaning that no single project takes priority and thus all progress at a slower rate than they would if there weren’t so many.

There is a definite cost-benefit frailty to this kind of lifestyle.

For example:

Diverse range of experiences

Gives you lots to talk about with people

Provides you with a growing range of competencies

Means you are rarely ‘bored’

Produces some nice outcomes/productive

Builds different aspects of self

Always able to entertain self
Diversity prevents any single project from advancing quickly

Tends to draw your attention away from people

Tends to leave you feeling like your worth is dependent on being capable

Always feel pressured to be doing something

Don’t take the time to appreciate one’s achievements

Can leave you wondering who you really are

Often neglecting time with others to work solitary

Considering what you centre your lifestyle around and the costs and benefits of that choice can be a guiding light for personal growth.

For example, as I look at that ‘costs’ column, I consider that growth for me might include:

  • putting some limits on the number of projects, or scheduling them in a way that allows for more rapid progression in any give one
  • finding better ways to blend projects/interests with opportunities for social connection – e.g. joining clubs or groups of people with similar interests
  • finding ways to celebrate project milestones so achievements are not simply lost to moving to the next task
  • recognising multiple selves and how each finds its own home in a given project
  • looking for crossovers between projects to integrate those different parts of me

In this process a person might discover that they are centering their lives around something that no longer resonates for them. I can imagine getting to a point where projects no longer feel like the appropriate anchor point for me. Reaching such a point is not negating the past value of that anchoring point, it is just a recognition that it might no longer be the case. Change is needed.

In the meantime, projects remain a good secure foundation for me. The important thing is to be honest about, and put things in place to address the costs.

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