We all like to develop. Whether it is losing weight, getting fit, becoming less angry, becoming less scared… most of us have a pet list of self-improvement projects on the go. Even if we don’t, we can be acutely aware of ways in which we want to change our behaviour.
The only people who might not want to change themselves, are those who put all the burden on other people to change, or those who have such an empty view of life or human nature that they do not consider change worth aiming for. These are reasonable points of view, but not very optimistic.
ISOLATED AND COHERENT PROJECTS
An isolated project is a project set in its own ‘bubble’, without any necessary coherence with a person’s life as a whole. An example might be passing an exam in an irrelevant subject. The problem with isolated projects is that the results do not stick very well. We may well achieve what we ‘want’, but then we let the benefit go, because we have limited reason to keep it.
A coherent project is a project contextualised in the framework of a person’s meaningful life. An example might be a project to give up an addiction, in the context of a person who has a young child whom they want to care for. Coherent projects can stick better, because there is a network of reasons to achieve and maintain the result.
CAPABILITY AND CAPACITY
Capability is any developed skill. An example might be the ability of a professional musician to play complex pieces. When asked, such a musician may be able to achieve extraordinary focus for the period of time of their performance. However, because all activity uses energy, this may come at a cost. They may end up periodically overtired, and their life may become an unbalanced lurch between intense activity and exhaustion.
Capacity is capability wisely seen in the context of its environment. Using the example of the musician above: they may notice that they suffer from frequent exhaustion, and decide to balance their life better. They may learn, for instance, to build in recovery time between practices and performances.
ARE YOU ISOLATED AND CAPABLE?
You may notice that your life is out of balance. If so, perhaps your days are full of isolated projects, irrelevant to your meaningful purpose. Furthermore, perhaps you are showing yourself to be very capable, but without wisely managing your capacity.
The symptoms of an isolated and capable life can include: loneliness (even in company), anger and frustration (even when apparently ‘achieving’), and frequent exhaustion.
ARE YOU COHERENT AND CAPACIOUS?
Alternatively, you may be developing your ability to make life meaningful, and to master life balance. If so, you may notice yourself choosing improvement projects that matter to you in the context of your whole lived existence. In addition, perhaps you are becoming better able to manage your capacity, taking time out to recover, and moderating your abilities with peace and restfulness.
The symptoms of a coherent and capacious life can include peacefulness, patience and health.
Most people like to develop themselves.
Firstly, when choosing projects, try to bear in mind what matters to you. Self-improvement projects that are meaningful in your life context have a much better chance of success.
Secondly, when managing projects, try to keep in mind your capacity. Be kind to yourself, and make space to recover. Learn to say no to what makes you exhausted.
Following these two suggestions can help you to live a more balanced, peaceful and healthy life.