Project Management

Self-Mastery: Being Self-Directed

Doug is the author of the landmark book, Extreme Project Management®: Using Leadership, Principles and Tools to Deliver Value in the Face of Volatility. He works with clients who undertake projects in very demanding environments: those settings that feature high speed, high change, high unpredictability and high stress. Doug has lived in the trenches—from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to Beijing, China—with over 275 project teams with budgets that ranged from $25,000 to over $25 million. He is one of the founders of the Agile Leadership Network, an organization dedicated to connecting, developing and supporting great project leaders. He is known for his hard-hitting and humorous keynote speeches that address vital issues facing today’s project-based organizations. You can visit Doug at

Extreme projects can press us to our limits. These high speed, high change, complex ventures can take over our lives. For many project managers, their projects follow them home at night and live rent-free in their heads. Instead of having projects, their projects have them. This is precisely what had happened to me. All of my waking (and sometimes sleeping) hours were focused externally on my world of projects. In the process I neglected and lost control of the most important project I have: Me.

Self-mastery is the ongoing practice of leading oneself as opposed to being led (or perhaps, misled) by the world around us. It is art of being self-directed under any circumstances as opposed to having the circumstances direct our own sense of well-being. The ultimate goal of self-mastery is inner peace. When working under adverse circumstances, extreme projects put us to the test. Unless you choose self-mastery, you are choosing self-misery.

There is, and there always will be, plenty of reasons for suffering and experiencing emotional turmoil around projects. If we choose, we can spend our lives complaining and waiting for outside circumstances to change in the hope that we will experience less anxiety and more happiness. But to think this way is to give away our power and ability to be at peace because we end up placing our happiness in the hands of circumstances over which we …

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