I’ve been spending time this month reframing how I think about my projects.
I kept catching myself shelving projects because they didn’t feel like The One. Good projects. Projects that I’d enjoy building and that I’d learn something from and that people would pay me to use.
Because “I don’t want to be a ____” – the blank representing any activity one can turn into an identity.
An example of this thought process in action:
“I don’t want my identity to be ‘coach.'” –> “Therefore I won’t offer coaching sessions.” (Not a problem I have. You can sign up for a coaching session here ;))
You know what one is balking from when they say “I don’t want to be a ‘coach'” — those airbrushed websites with studio portraits and a CTA at the bottom of every page. That’s not an identity that lights you on fire, so you shy away from associating with it at all.
But just because somebody finds your perspective interesting and your advice valuable, and you charge them to take advantage of your input, doesn’t mean you have to think of coaching as your identity.
Maybe it’s just a way to exchange value for money.
Or learn something by forcing yourself to articulate solutions to someone’s problems.
Or build credibility so people will take you seriously in areas you’re far more interested in.
Maybe it’s just a lucrative side hustle.
Nothing says being a coach locks you into the life trajectory of being a coach. And we don’t even assume that of other people — but it’s easy to put that pressure on ourselves.
If you catch yourself falling into that pattern (like I did), you need to sort the projects you’re thinking about into two categories: means and ends.
An end: a goal in and of itself. Example: I want to be a course creator.
A means: a step in a process moving one towards something else. Not a place one lingers, just a milemarker. I want to build courses, which will help me coalesce my thoughts, which will in turn help me become a better writer.
When you stop thinking about projects as ends and start thinking of them as means, it takes a lot of pressure off. There’s no need to choose the right one, or do something perfectly, or change your identity.
Offering your time in exchange for money doesn’t throw you into the category of “coaches.” It just gives you a new avenue to explore, learn, and make money.
Your “ends” feels important. It’s also much bigger than any one project. It’s the sweeping physical expression of all your values and deepest desires.
Expecting any one project to fill that category is going to lead to pretty much every idea you ever have going on the shelf. Nothing will ever be good enough. But when you think of your projects as means — only fulfilling one small step in the process of moving towards your ends — suddenly almost everything is back on the table.
As a means to explore, to learn skills that will translate towards your ends, to fund your other projects.
And who doesn’t love all of that?