Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Nurturing new projects

At the start of the year, we are often drawn to new, big projects!  As spring rolls around, another surge of energy hits, as the world is waking and starting to grow, we are also called to grow and change.  Getting the energy to actually start a new project, figuring out the details and getting the gears moving takes a lot of work.  We spend a lot of time preparing to start new projects, and thinking about them in the long-term:  how we will handle problems, how we will stick with them, and what will happen at the end.  But what often gets overlooked is that fresh, tender beginning.

Much like seedlings and babies, our new projects need special care.  We may need to be more attentive to them, create nurturing environments or get help.  It is very easy, at this stage, to completely kill (or at least put into a long dormancy) a project, by not giving it proper care at this crucial stage.

Thinking back to the idea of new year's resolutions, a lot of people like to hit the ground running when they start a new project.  They burst in with all this energy and enthusiasm, and work furiously. And sometimes this is a great approach.  It really builds some good momentum and you can ride that wave to continue moving forward.

But not all projects are the same, and sometimes, this full frontal assault can have the opposite result.  Instead of building momentum, you crash and burn.  I think this is especially true when it comes to diet and exercise.  It is very easy to set these really huge goals, to get a little crazy with them, and then to fail utterly because it is not a pace that we can maintain in the long term (not without proper conditioning).  And so, all your work has the opposite effect of what was intended.  You push too hard and end up hurting yourself (or starving yourself..which is also hurting yourself), and find it virtually impossible to continue at your current pace.

Not only do you get set back, but you build this expectation in your head, that "this is what happens when I work on my goal."  Logically, you may know this isn't true, but your subconscious keeps throwing it back in your face.  Every time you go to work on your goal, even at a slower and more reasonable pace, you are reminded of what happened when you failed, and you start to self-sabotage.  While it is definitely possible to course correct, it can be a long, uphill battle to remove those blocks.

Another place in which new projects need special consideration is their environment.  Kind of like some seedlings need to be started inside while others need a good hard frost in order to grow properly.  Your new project might need to be something you don't share with other people.  This is very common, magically.  In fact, quite a lot of traditions suggest keeping silent about your work until it has come to pass.  While there are many practical reasons for this silence, one thing that it does is it keeps you from hearing any doubts or worries from other people, even if they have only your best intentions in mind!

It is very easy, when you hear about someone's new interest, to want to remove the obstacles that might pop up for them.  Often, this means we talk about all the things that might go wrong.  While our ultimate goal is to help them overcome or bypass these things, if you tell a bunch of people about your project and keep hearing the same warnings, over and over, they start to weigh heavier on you.  Things you may have already considered, figured out a plan for, or dismissed, might now start to haunt you.  You may find yourself second-guessing your ideas, and creating problems where there were none.

On the other hand, you may be inclined to keep your new project to yourself, out of fear.  You may worry about what other people will think, or if they will support you.  These fears may start to grow and multiply, simply because you don't have the support you need!  You may find that you need people to cheer you on, to bounce your ideas off of and who will help you brainstorm solutions when you are coming up dry. 

It seems like these two sides of the coin are contradictory, and in their extremes they are.  But since every project and every person is different, it is up to you to determine what type of environment each of your projects requires.  Some projects you may want to keep to yourself until they are much further along, while other projects you may want to announce right away, so that everyone can add their energy in to yours and help lift it off the ground.  I find that most fall somewhere in-between. 

Most of the projects I work on, whether they are big ones like my "Year of..." projects, or small ones like my weekly goals, get shared with select groups of people.  Not only do I not share all my projects with everyone I know, different types of projects will get shared with different groups of people.  I have writer friends, gamer friends, Pagan friends, women's spirituality friends, and of course family.  I have lots of different types of people that I interact with!  Based on what the project I am working on involves, I may announce it to any or all of these groups.  Typically, I announce projects to only groups that share an interest, so I don't typically share my gaming goals with my (non-gaming) Pagan friends.

But I also share my projects at different points in their development.  I make a lot of plans, and I start a lot of projects.  I have quite a lot of interests, and I know that I have the tendency to start things that I may or may not finish.  I also know that the more people I share things with, the more motivated I am to actually follow through on them.  If lots of people know about a goal or project, I feel almost obligated to finish it (on time, if there is a time frame involved).

This can be a two-edged sword for me.  I absolutely use this to my advantage, and when I know that, deep down, I really want to do a thing, I will work up the courage and start telling everyone about it.  I know some very supportive people, who will give me encouragement on anything I do.  I also know some very pushy people, who tend to prod me to step out of my comfort zone, to do things that I normally wouldn't...which can be very good on some of these more uncomfortable projects.  The downside is that, knowing I will feel compelled to work on a project (and will feel back if I fail to complete it), I may hesitate to announce it, and therefor not get the help I need to bring it to completion.

The amount of attention new projects need can also be challenging.  If you think about different types of babies, human babies require quite a lot of attention, while some animal species have babies that are quite self-sufficient only hours after their birth.  I think this is one thing I often don't think about, when I am planning new projects:  how much attention they will need at the start.

And it's not just a reflection of how much work the actual project will entail, rather, it's an indication of how much work it will take you to do the work of the project.  For example, if your new project is to meditate for an hour a day, that pretty much takes one hour a day.  It doesn't require a lot of attention beyond that.  There isn't a lot of preparation or after-care that you need to do.  If, your new project is to go to the gym for an hour a day, that project will require more attention.  You still have the hour commitment, but now you also have driving time involved.  And, you may need to spend time working out a good schedule, so that your gym time works with the rest of your commitments (and the gym hours).  And finally, you will probably want to shower afterwards, so that is one more thing to take into account...and plan for. 

Now, both of these things don't actually require a lot of attention throughout the rest of your day.  I don't tend to spend a lot of time thinking about an upcoming workout or meditation.  But sometimes your projects have unexpected preparations that come in the form of mental attention as well as preparation.  Take my Year of Magic.  I am quickly learning that this requires a LOT more planning and attention than I had thought it would.

Two years ago, I did a Year of Moons, where I wrote about the moon phases all year long.  That means, coming up with something to write about that particular moon and phase every 3-5 days.  I thought this prepared me for a Year of Magic, after all, I'm already doing magic throughout the year, so it can't be that much more, can it?

But, I forgot that I am a discovery writer.  Which means that I barely plan out what I am going to write, and mostly write off the top of my head.  Before my Year of Moons, I had done my homework.  I had looked up (and made basic notes) on each of the full moons throughout the year, and of course about each of the moon phases.  So each new one, it was simply a matter of looking at my notes, picking the theme (from the full moon, like family or gratitude) and seeing how it related to the type of energy (from the moon phase, such as facing challenges or releasing).  With those two basic prompts, I could easily write the rest of my thoughts out.

What I didn't consider, with a Year of Magic, is that I would have to plan and think about a lot of my activities, as I went.  So even knowing that I wanted to work on feeding my hungers this moon cycle, and knowing that Imbolc was coming up, I still had to sit down, plan my actions for the day (and look at the upcoming days, to make sure everything got done in time).  On top of this, I found myself thinking about my plans throughout the day.  I had to keep coming back to my project, to my plans, to my ideas, so that I could actually work on them when the time came.  Without all this thought and attention, I wouldn't be prepared when the Sabbat rolled around, or when it was time to set goals or reflect back on what had already happened.

New projects can be exciting, and it is really fun when we start to see the changes happening.  But we need to stay mindful of the health of our new project!  Tend to it, like we would a newborn.  Watch it's vital signs, to see if we need to adjust our actions to better suit it's needs.  The more we tune into this state of a project's growth, the easier the rest of the project will go!

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