Project Management Applied to the Mind ($)
While the things you do are projects, you are a project, too.
“I think the key to transforming your life is to be aware of who you are.”
— Deepak Chopra
The Mind as a Software Project
Software is unusual because it focuses entirely on function, with little concern for form. The function that’s needed is as variable as the environment in which it operates. In a dynamic environment, the needs are always changing, so the requirements are always changing. Software is not so much a thing, as the connection between things.
The most variable thing in our lives is us. We try to be constant, but our situations always change, and, in most cases, we cannot make the best of situations because we are inflexible. Most of us are software in constant need of revision, and most of us are not revising.
Our brains are often compared to computers, and this is not accurate. It is more accurate to say our minds are like software. In this sense, and for the purposes of our personal development, it would be valuable if we could apply the best practices of software development to the development of our personalities.
The Agile Manifesto
In response to decades of failed software projects, an adaptable and responsive approach was developed. This Agile Methodology actually emerged from architectural theory, but is more applicable in the fluid context of software design. Agile Methodology may be of even greater value in managing our mental health.
Written as a set of principles, the Agile Manifesto sounds like an ill-fitting attempt to satisfy conflicting interests. Like all compromises, it leaves all parties unsatisfied. This isn’t the fault of the design method so much as the diverse interests and weak alliances of the parties involved. We hope for stronger alliances in the context of our minds.
In software, the three parties are users, owners, and developers. In architecture, the parties are the occupants, the owners, and the architect. In mental health, the parties are the part of you that is responsible (the user), the part of you that is emotionally invested (the owner), and the part of you that structures your behavior (the designer).
Users are the people who need to get something accomplished. Developers make the tools the users need. The users are rewarded by a tangible result, while the owners are rewarded by something less tangible, increased asset value in business or greater personal value in personal development.
The contrast between owners and users reflects the ecology of consumers and providers. The developer is a catalyst whose creativity uses the owners’ assets to solve the users’ problems. Ideally, the cycle is restorative and self-sustaining. Whether or not the project succeeds, its result creates a new vision and a new creative cycle.
Consider these basic Agile principles as they apply to the user, developer, and owner as parts of yourself. This breakdown is referred to as the Agile Manifesto (Beck, et al., 2001):
Satisfy the user first; focus on meeting genuine needs.
Adapt the system to suit the user’s changing requirements.
Embrace change as a necessary part of improvement.
Focus on delivering value quickly and appropriately.
Owners and developers work to support users.
Develop autonomy and engage responsibility in all parties.
Encourage communication and understanding wherever it is effective.
Working solutions are the primary measure of progress.
A balanced, responsive process is never thrown off balance.
Shed what’s unnecessary.
Be adaptable, responsive, and self-organizing.
Reorganize as requirements change.
Written in this way, the Agile principles feel like a personal strategy. In software development, Agile is a revolutionary methodology that evolves (Team AdaptiveWork, 2020). It might be just as revolutionary if we can apply it to our mental health.
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