Perspective and Project-Induced Stress

Perspective and Project-Induced Stress

It’s the wise project manager who garners tools for dealing with stress. One such tool I have to suggest:Perspective.
Last night I went to the memorial service for a friend of mine. A swell guy, gifted musician and teacher, wonderful husband, father and friend, was taken from us in an untimely manner by that most wily of foes, cancer.
I didn’t know him as well as I wanted to, but I liked him. Sitting in my seat in the sanctuary of the church he’d attended, I thought that one of the most appealing things about him was the calm he seemed to have. Maybe that came with his being, among other things, a jazz musician—playing it cool just came with the territory. Stress, at least as far as I could tell, wasnot a big player in this man’s life.
Reminiscing about my friend’s constant aplomb got me thinking about all the times I’ve let myself become stressed out and wondering, “Was it worth all that?
Which brings me to project management.
We project managers are the herders of cats, the ones with the lion’s share of the responsibility and the kitten’s share of authority, the traffic cops trying to get everyone to get where they’re going without a catastrophe. Stress comes with the territory.
But how to we deal with it? Does it rule our lives or do we allow it to roll over us like a wave, shaking us for a moment and then draining away?
If we can keep our work in perspective, we can have stress break over us and drain off more often than not. Put the fact that Project Z is going to be over budget next to the fact that you have an unknown, but certainly limited, number of days to enjoy this life. I think you’ll find that when placed in perspective this way, Project Z’s budget woes look pretty insignificant.
Buddha is quoted as saying “Many do not realize that we here must die. For those who realize this, quarrels end.”* I propose that stress ends, too, or at least subsides a good bit.
Regardless of your beliefs about what occurs after death, this is the only chance you’ll have to enjoy this particular lifetime. There is much more to life than our projects—the love of our families, the inspiration of our religions, the warmth of our communities and the beauty of the natural world, to name a few.
When the inevitable problems come along, stress for a moment or two if you must—nobody’s perfect—but no more. Then let it go. Because you only go around once, and the ride can be awfully short.
The Dhammapada: A New Translation of the Buddhist Classic with Annotations, by Gil Fronsdal. Shambala Press, 2006.
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