You have every right to question my proposal – haven’t projects at work already tamed our lives for the worst? Well, yes definitely. But I’m not talking about work-related projects, or even the side projects that your cool workplace encourages. I’m talking about every other little project that needn’t advance your career or make you money (at least to begin with). The reason I’m distinguishing this from hobbies is because a hobby can keep you amused for an entire life-time – like numismatics for me. Projects on the other hand will usually have an end-result.
The result is what is crucial to creating a sense of achievement & satisfaction. It is only one of the benefits you would you see while engaging yourself in a pet project. Here are some more:
1. Sense passion and purpose
The monotony or stress at work takes a hit on passion. A project with the right amount of challenge can bring you back in the grey zone and you will experience passion. Additionally,
the achievement will boost your self-esteem and make you feel purposeful.
2. Rejuvenate energy levels
I’ve remained glued to my PC for 10 or 12 hours at times and still found the energy to cook for my wife (and compensate for the time I’d been away). Doing things that you like doing will never tire you, and instead refresh, energize and rejuvenate you.
3. Cultivate new line of thinking
We already have a cheat-sheet for routine problems. Finding solutions to new problems is limited by what we already know. Every new skill or tool helps inspire creative thinking and helps the brain develop new lines of thinking so you can look at problems from new perspectives.
4. Experience failure stress-free
Failure is not so rare that it needs to be attempted on purpose. But failing in a stress-free situation helps developing yourself to work-around failure. Acceptance failure and finding quick solutions is easier done when there is no risk or pressure of time, life & money. This will help you in all walks of life.
5. Might just be the next big thing
There are no bounds to what passion can create. Facebook, Google are all outcomes of projects that their founders were passionate about. Who knows, unknowingly, you might just end-up creating a new business – in the area you are already passionate about. A cake shop for example.
To sum it up, pet projects should carry:
No risk, No deadline,
No pressure to earn, Only the love to learn
Finding your pet project
Over the last 15 years, I’ve done everything from Winamp skins to Symbian themes, and mobile apps to open-source components – all for fun. My brother thinks this is anyway what I do at work, but he’s wrong. Honing my coding skills adds very little to advancing my career. Sometimes, I write blogs, cook, clean my house or organize stuff. All of that relaxes me and creates that sense of achievement. My wife paints bottles or recycles cassettes to make beautiful night lamps – that is where she finds respite. I know others who go on treks or take up a fitness challenge. You might have to try a few things before you’ve found that mojo.