By Bija Bennett
Thanks to COVID-19, all activity involving human interaction is canceled. For two to three weeks? Not likely. Experts say coronavirus quarantines are likely to last far longer than that — perhaps far into the year. But instead of canceling 2020 and becoming a victim of this hateful scourge, use the time to pause, ponder, reboot and launch a “Project Self.”
Let’s start with the basics on why this is a good thing to do right now: Americans are lonely, according to Cigna’s 2020 Loneliness Index. And loneliness is lethal. It not only contributes to depression, heart disease, diabetes and dementia, it also increases the risk of death by the same amount as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, Cigna’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Doug Nemecek says.
That’s where a Project Self comes in. Keeping busy is an obvious antidote to the loneliness we are all experiencing with self-isolation. But cleaning cabinets or binge-watching Netflix series are not likely to be calming, nurturing and consequential long-term activities. And frankly, time is too valuable to waste when we are faced with the fragility of life.
What is Project Self?
Much like how it sounds, Project Self is a commitment to creating a self-directed endeavor that will inspire you to embrace a new and better way of thinking, being or acting. It’s a way to focus your energy and choose an undertaking that’s meaningful — and will lead to transformation and self-development. Besides combatting boredom, it should engage you and expand your mind.
Project Self is an idea my mentor and friend Richard Moss, a physician-turned-transformative healer, posed to 20 of us in a workshop I took from him eight years ago. He asked us to do a “Project Self.” Not surprisingly, the guidelines were vague, which made it all the more difficult.
In truth, it’s not that easy to find a truly compelling Project Self — one that will hold your attention now, and in the future, so that the time you put into it never goes to waste. Using an idea or concept to inspire this endeavor that can be sustained long-term, or maybe forever, is the most effective type of Project Self. The more substantial, significant and profound a Project Self, the more stimulating and rewarding it will be for you in years to come.
A Project Self Can Help You Achieve Your Goals and Dreams
Some of the projects I’ve started have turned into businesses, books, relationships — even films. And most are ongoing, such as my personal yoga practice, my deep involvement in wellness and, most significantly, my website and Wellness Blog.
A Project Self can be a great way to build or expand a network of people who share ideas or goals that are similar to yours. It can also be the perfect tool to help you to attain your goals and dreams, when you know what they are.
Best of all, a Project Self is a gift that keeps on giving. Just like all of us, we are works in progress, and each of us continues to grow as we rethink our priorities, strive to build a rich inner life and exemplify honesty, courage, commitment and love.
How to Get Started on Your Own Project Self
Fine-tune your attention to what’s on your mind:
- Is there something that’s an undercurrent in your consciousness?
- Do you have an idea or a concept you keep coming back to but aren’t sure how to use?
- Direct your mind there again and again over time, even without knowing where it’s going.
- Consider all the offshoots of this idea or concept, from how it impacts you and what it means to your life to how it will affect others and perhaps the world around you.
Figuring out what should be a project — or not — is not always a logical process, but rather the creative continuation of deepening your focus. When you can do that, something inside of you begins to happen.
Build a Better You
But if you’re truly perplexed by what should become your Project Self, consider the words of a rabbi I admire. Last year, during a sermon, she told a story from an anonymous poet who asked God, “What is my task in life?”
“To build a better world,” said God. The poet answered, “How? The world is such a large, vast place. It’s so complicated now … and I’m so small and useless. There’s not much I can do.”
But God, in her great wisdom, said, “Just build a better you.”
So here’s to a better you as we pause, ponder and reboot at this challenging time.
Bija Bennett is an acclaimed author, speaker and wellness industry pioneer whose practice focuses on the tenets of mind-body health, a discipline she teaches through accessible and engaging strategies. She has developed pioneering programs and workshops for Fortune 500 companies and major medical institutions, authored four seminal books, including “Emotional Yoga: How the Body Can Heal the Mind” and myriad articles on health, healing and personal growth, and is currently the chair of the Global Wellness Institute’s Yoga Therapy Initiative. She counts Deepak Chopra among her colleagues and has taught numerous celebrities, including Joni Mitchell, Calvin Klein, Barbra Streisand, George Harrison and Laura Dern. Through her website, www.bijab.com, Bija provides a range of wellness services tailored to individuals, businesses and audiences.