For no particular reason, in 2010 I decided to give up dessert. I didn’t eat cookies, candy, chocolate, or sweets of any kind. Seemingly out of no where I just remember having this sense, this desire, to engage in something hard. To attempt something for an extended period of time. I didn’t want it to be a New’s Year Resolution that came and went in a matter of weeks. I wanted to feel the effort and intention and pacing required to do something for an entire year.
(Side note – this was also the year that I started this blog – another idea I ventured in to with similar intentions. Although this idea had less focus and fewer boundaries than not eating dessert.)
Turns out, I actually loved not eating dessert! I loved having a way to frame and remember the year. I loved having a focus. I loved that it was challenging, but completely possible. I loved that for some strange reason it made me feel more engaged in the year. As 2010 drew to a close, I found that I was sad to lose this focus, that I wanted something for the next year (and that I wanted some freaking ice cream!). And that’s when I realized the power of the project.
(Another side note – my 2011 project turned out to be a bit of a bust. I wanted to take a picture every day for a year. I was only mostly successful through May. By nature, a project is challenging, but possible. I failed and learned to accept that this kind of failure is part of the process.)
In hindsight, I’ve done lots of projects, even just through this blog. There was the 30 Days of Ideas. My mixed-tape projects: Fully Known, Fully Loved; Put Back; and still in process Severe Mercies. Becoming a vegetarian started as a month long project. Deciding to blog everyday is an ongoing project. I recently came up with an idea for a Hope Book project.
Seth Godin just ended his year long, Domino Project. As 2011 ends people will be making countless “Best of” compilations – each one it’s own project.
My point is that if you aren’t currently engaged in any projects, I suggest you find one. Give yourself a framework and go for it. For example, my mom started a project in which she collected, scanned, labeled, and organized every picture that exists in my extended family. It was her Christmas gift to us last year. She loved it so much that this year she’s moved on to home video compilation.
But first, five ground rules on projects:
1. It must be challenging but possible.
2. It should have a deadline, or an end point. Forever is too long to try and do anything.
3. No one, other than yourself, can be requiring this of you. The nature of a project is that it’s a gift of some sort – to yourself or to others.
4. It needs to be measurable. I knew at the end of each day if I had eaten dessert or not, taken a picture or not, written a blog post or not. There was no second guessing the level of “success.” Either I did it, or I didn’t. The measurable part can be a final product you create or a simple checklist of some sort. If it’s only abstract, you will give up.
5. It’s okay to fail. Move on and find a different project that sticks better.
It’s December 1. That gives you one month to think, journal, process, and/or pray through a potential 2012 project. While it doesn’t have to start on January 1, I think a new year is a motivating place for projects to begin.
Finally, if you’re willing to share, I’d love to hear any projects you’re considering.