Pragya Saboo, a tech graduate living and working in NYC, is changing priorities of the Indian youth by taking them on a lifelong journey of personal development. Breaking the “boring” cliché of self-development, she is making the youth un-realise the paradoxical chase of academic grades and seek self-awareness instead as the ultimate dream. Through her work, Pragya is spreading the message that spiritual, intellectual and professional development are hand-in-glove.
Hello Pragya. Can you please tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
I’m Pragya Saboo, a recent graduate from Georgia Tech with a degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering. I am currently working in New York City as a Product Manager with a tech startup. I was born and raised in Kolkata – attended Modern High School for Girls and came to the US to pursue my undergraduate degree in 2012. At Georgia Tech, I pursued a 5 year engineering program, co-founded 2 startups (Hubble and For the Environment), was involved with Research, Student Government, Police Department, and the Ambassador Program. Currently alongside work, I run my nonprofit – PROJECT XXI (www.pragyasaboo.com). I’m extremely passionate about reading, meditating, golfing and spicy food!
Project XXI is a non-profit for high-school children aimed at their personal literacy and self-development. What inspired you to start this initiative?
The primary inspiration for me to start PROJECT XXI was the visible lack of self awareness and self motivation amongst high school and college students. I think most of us end up getting very distracted or get caught in the the meaningless rut of high grades, and eventually end up ignoring the importance of continuous self development. Through my non profit, I hope to help the youth function at their full potential. PROJECT XXI focuses on overall development of the child – spiritual development (meditation, gratitude), intellectual development (reading, time management skills) and professional development (networking, goal setting).
How many lives have you helped transform through Project XXI? What kind of reaction do you get from your audience?
PROJECT XXI works in two types of settings: Group Classes and Individual Mentorship. Between these two types, I’ve helped over 700 students across India and USA. I’ve been receiving an exceedingly positive response and that’s been quite motivating.
I have helped my mentees start their non profits, clear national exams, secure admission to the colleges of their choice, develop a habit of reading — but at the same time ensured that they were leading balanced lifestyles.
It’s almost indispensable to not only focus on your goals but also to pay attention to your day to day activities which slowly amount to your goals.
What, according to you, are the common challenges towards self-development among today’s youth?
One of the biggest challenges would be lack of self-motivation. I think most of us end up becoming complacent and comfortable with where we are. Another common issue that I’ve noticed that focusing on ‘Personal Development’ is deemed ‘boring’- especially activities such as meditation, goal setting and reading. But honestly these activities are second to none. It’s extremely essential for us to be able to focus on self development as a part of our daily routine!
I’ve always been an avid reader – I usually read fiction books while in school, and I started exploring non fiction in college and loved it! Being able to read non fiction books through the year, would definitely improve and widen our skillsets and perspectives.
I started meditated in 10th grade, since my mother really pushed me to explore it. It was a young age to start but I think I was at a point where meditation provided almost a sense of instant gratification.
Within a few days of doing it diligently I started noticing that I was more focused, more married to my goals and definitely worked with much more clarity. Since then there’s been no looking back. Initially I did waver with my commitment but the advantages of meditating kept drawing me back to it, and now I make it a point to meditate and practice gratefulness everyday!
Where do you see Project XXI five years from now?
Five years from now, I sincerely hope that I am able to impact the curriculum taught in schools (K-12) by incorporating topics of personal literacy in it.
If we are taught to give importance to our over all development, mental well being, strategies of time management, coping with stress and anxiety right from our formative ages – it could become second nature to us.
It’s critical that these issues are taken as seriously as the other subjects taught in school as they help us develop resilience, clarity and strength. The most impactful way to incorporate this in our day to day lives would be making it a part of the school curriculum.
What is the latest book you’ve read that you would like to recommend to our readers for their self-development?
This is such a tough one! One of the books I read recently and absolutely LOVED was ‘Principles: Life and Work’ by Ray Dalio. The book has a lot of lessons which could help us professionally and personally. It’s basically structured around two important concepts of ‘radical truth’ and ‘radical transparency’. I think this book has significantly influenced me and helped me improve my decision making abilities.
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