Feb 02, 2017

Attainable Personal Projects

I read The secret to living a meaningful life by Christian Jarrett on the BBC website this week, which focuses on research by personality psychology expert Brian Little related to gaining satisfaction from personal projects.

Recently I’ve been thinking quiet a bit about what my own personal projects and so Jarrett’s article contained a lot of things that sparked thoughts related to what I am currently trying to achieve.

I was particularly interested in the discussion of how the attainability of projects, and the frustrations that come when a project doesn’t feel destined for success:

You are especially likely to be happier if your personal projects feel attainable. In fact, Little has found that our confidence in achieving our projects is an even more important factor for our wellbeing than how much meaning a project has.

The advice in the article gives dropping those projects as one option, but also talks about reframing those projects to make them more attainable:

…Little recommends various strategies for making progress, including reframing the project to make it more attainable. For example, you could reframe the goal of “Try to write a book” to become “Try to write for half an hour each day”

That’s something that I’ve practiced in my work life a lot in the past by breaking down tasks like “Complete project X” into smaller, more attainable subtasks like “Call Bob to find out how Y relates to project X”. However, I’ve only recently considering applying the same techniques to my personal projects.

Taking one example from my now page, I have been trying to learn guitar, but it’s frustrating to be a complete novice as a try to learn new techniques without having the satisfaction of playing many real songs. After reading this article, I have decided to reframe the project. Instead of “learn guitar”, a large and poorly defined task, I am going to “play guitar for at least 10 minutes, 4 times a week”. That’s less that an hour of “work” per week, and easily measurable too. Hopefully that will do something to address the attainability of the project, and if Brian Little is to be believe, my well-being!

Jan 26, 2017

What’s on my mind

I haven’t got a clear idea of what I intend to write about on this site, but I figured I’d start with a short post on what has been on my mind a lot about recently.

Pinpointing Passion

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what I’m passionate about in life, and how to identify things that could becomes passions.

In the last few years I’ve moved countries and also become a father. That has resulted in a lot of changes in life, and while there are many good things that come with this type of reset in life, there are downsides too.

I had groups of friends in the place I used to live, routines that I followed and hobbies that I enjoyed. Moving to a new country and the change in schedule that comes with a baby in the house has meant that I’ve stopped doing many of the things I used to enjoying filling my time with.

To take just one example, I used to play Starcraft II, an online multiplayer game, most evenings. However, it’s not the type of game that is easy to play with a toddler in the house as it’s not easily paused, and it rewards playing frequently or skills quick atrophy. As a result I’ve stopped playing.

I have tried to pick up new hobbies and interests, but I’m fighting against the frustration of starting fresh in everything. Going from being relatively proficient at something like Starcraft (“relatively” is the operative word!) to being completely new at something like, say, guitar is frustrating! I can’t say that I’ve become passionate about fumbling through Karma Police just yet!

I don’t have an answer yet on how to find new things to be passionate about, but I’ll continue to think about it. There are some good suggestions in the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth, but I’ll write about those in a separate post.

Financing Contentment

Another thing I’ve been considering recently is the concept of contentment, particular in relation to the use of money.

I’ve reached a pretty stable point in life, and that’s good. I’ve got a job, a wife, a child, a roof over my head, and we’ve paid all our debts. The temptation for a lot of people is probably to celebrate at this stage, and spend a little money.

That’s not been the case for me. I’ve reached a point where I don’t have any great material needs. That new Macbook doesn’t really seem worth it. I’m fine with a phone from last year. Our car gets us around and doesn’t give us any trouble. I’m content with my worldly possessions.

That’s great, right? Contentedness with worldly possessions means automatic happiness, and I never need to worry, right?

While it’s good, especially for the household budget, I can’t help but wonder if there is something more I could or should be doing with our money. Is saving 15% of income for retirement, and a bit more for a house deposit really what brings people happiness? It seems so boring! Am I going to do this for another 30 years?!

Again, I don’t have any great insights as yet. Maybe my expectations for excitement or purpose in personal finances are wrong. Maybe being responsible, out of debt and able to save is the best anyone can hope for. Or maybe financial contentment is not thinking about finances.