Lately, I’ve met a lot of people who are pre- or post-retirement and I wonder about their interests and projects.  What will they do with their time and resources when they transition somewhere from full time work to full retirement?  It’s the ying-yang situation of both a crisis and opportunity.

What you do affects who you are. That’s because personal projects are all about the future — they point us forward, guiding us along routes that might be short and jerky, or long and smooth. By tracing their route, we can map the most intimate of terrains: ourselves. Most thrilling is that we can learn to adjust our trajectories, riding over the rough patches and extending the smooth stretches to make our endeavors more effective. In this way, projects help define us by shaping our capacity for a flourishing life. In a sense, as go your projects, so goes your life. ~ Brian R. Little

It’s an interesting hypothesis which I understand to mean we are what we do.  Certainly, our projects can express who we are.  But there is more to it than just doing.  Attitude matters.  We all approach some projects with disinterest or passion and that impacts the outcome.  As philosopher Elbert Green Hubbard once said, “it does not take much strength to do things, but it requires a great deal of strength to decide what to do.” 

Psychologist Brian R. Little’s research can be relevant to your choice of projects during pre- and post-retirement transitions.  His research identifies six general categories of projects that adults pursue.  Think of a ‘project’ as something you pursue to accomplish a certain goal.


Here’s a brief questionnaire that I created as prompts for you to think about your projects and how they define who you are now.

  1. What do you need to accomplish soon in your career or volunteer work?
  2. What activity would you like to do soon with a friend, family member, or co-worker?
  3. What do you need to do, purchase, or learn to keep your personal or worklife well functioning?
  4. What do you want to do soon to fulfill your recreational or travel interests?
  5. What do you plan to do to fulfill your fitness, health, personal attractiveness goals?
  6. What inner personal growth work do you want to accomplish?

What do these projects say about you now?   Please share your ideas in the Comments.

Sometimes I think, Why invent projects? What is the point? How will I ever accomplish what I set out to do, what I imagine? Then I think of the past, even before I was born, the great small feats people accomplished.[…]
Those people had to work to accomplish those things, they thought of details, they followed through. Even if I come off as naive and zealous, even if I get on everyone’s nerves, I have to follow these examples. Even if I fail, I have to try and try and try. It may be exhausting, but that is beside the point. The goal is not necessarily to succeed but to keep trying, to be the kind of person who has ideas and sees them through.

~ Esmé Raji Codell, Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher’s First Year

Expressive Links

How our projects shape our personalities — and how we can use them to remake who we are includes 15 minute video

Six Personality Traits that can Sabotage your Projects

Elbert Hubbard – Wikipedia