For many people, much of the day centers on routine and process. Although this can mean good efficiency and productivity, living a more experimental life has enormous benefits for many professionals. Here, Dr. Kevin Dalby, professor at the University of Texas in Austin, outlines several everyday advantages of adopting a more experimental way of living.
Reduce The Fear of Failure
When life is lived as an experiment, we are more willing to take risks. If we fail at something we try, we can simply acknowledge that our experiment didn’t work as we had hoped. We can choose another hypothesis and try again. In many ways, an experiment is all about failing. Sometimes the best way to determine what will work is to eliminate the things that won’t work.
For example, suppose you want to improve a problematic interpersonal relationship with a friend, family member, or colleague. You may be at a loss about how to go about breaking down emotional barriers that have been constructed over time. Fear of taking action that may move the relationship to an even more untenable level might immobilize you.
Try looking at the task of improving your relationship with this person as an experiment. When experimenting, you first document the stated goal, in this case, improving the relationship. Then you might list a series of potential solutions to the problem or your hypotheses.
If you see this endeavor as an experiment, you will not be emotionally invested in any single hypothesis’s success. You may find that refusing to engage in contentious conversations with this person only exacerbates the problem. Document that and cross it off the list of possible solutions. Move on to the next idea. You will eventually find the right answer if one exists, and avoid the fear of failure as you search.
Try New Things
Living life as an experiment will free you up to try new things. We often avoid new things because we think we won’t enjoy them or that we will not master them. It may be true that you won’t like the recent activity, but there is only one way to find out, and that is to try. Acknowledging beforehand that what you are trying is just an experiment alleviates the pressure to succeed and allows you to learn more about what you like and dislike.
Break Old Habits
It is often said that the best way to break a bad habit is to replace it with a better one. Experiment to find out what that “better one” might be. For example, if you want to break a habit of snacking throughout the day, think of some replacement habits that might work for you. Maybe you can develop a habit of drinking a certain amount of water each day, or possibly a mid-day walk around the block may replace the snacking habit. The point is that each of these will be an experiment, so if you fail, you will not likely label yourself as a failure. You’ve just learned what doesn’t work, so in that sense, it was a success. Keep trying new hypotheses.
Know When to Let Go
One thing to remember about experiments is that they have an end. It is important to continue trying out new ideas. Don’t give up on your goals and objectives, but once a potential solution has proven itself to be inadequate, abandon it. One benefit of living life as an experiment is that you can continue to pursue what is important to you without being restricted to a single route to success.
If you want to become more physically fit, that is the goal or objective. If you try running but hate it, walking and it’s too dull, and biking but it’s not for you either, don’t abandon the goal; keep looking for the right solution. It is out there; you just need to keep experimenting until you find it. There is no shame in examining other potential solutions.