In today's post, I share a task that I'm using with early career academics here in Berlin. It's designed to make explicit the projects that we are committed to, be that a PhD or a life in painting. I have been through such a process over and over again in my life.
What's your passion? What's your project? What's your life about?
“What are you working on just now?” (that conference networking question…)
We need to know. You need to know.
Of course, it's always changing. Never fixed. Never complete. Of course, it's not entirely clear or knowable.
But, as the existentialists remind us, we need to choose. We need to try to work it out. So that we make sense to ourselves. So that we can tell people when they ask - and when they forget to ask. So that we can take the next step.
I've been challenging people to ...
... identify your project so that you can talk about it.
I offer some questions that may help to bring it into the light:
- Take it for a walk, and let it speak to you.
- Talk about it with yourself.
- Sing it to yourself.
- Write, write, write. Just write about it. Start “My project ....” Keep writing for three pages. Keep your pen moving. Just write.
- Write about it with your non-dominant hand.
- Stand on an imaginary stage and proclaim it.
and some checking questions about it:
- Do you love this project? If not, what changes would make you love it more?
- Does this project fit with your core values as a person? If not, what needs to change?
- Is this project big enough? For all of who you want to be? What could you add?
- Does this project feel too vast? If so, congratulations, it's probably big enough!
- How does this project provide you with life's necessities? (Food, shelter, connection....)
Keep working on the shape of your project until you love it. Speak out loud about it until you can answer the opening questions without apologising, hesitating, feeling embarrassed. Try it out on some friends.
Inhabit your project.