I live by experimenting. By that I mean I’m continuously observing different parts of my life that I’d like to challenge or improve upon. It may be to get healthier, to gather self-esteem, to change a preconception, to prove a point.
I am constantly experimenting in order to keep growing. And I keep doing it in order to avoid getting settled; in my footsteps, by my thinking or through my actions.
An experiment could be to try out a new haircut, to stop eating candy for a week, to finish a book this month, take a new approach to the work I am doing etc. When I’m dissatisfied or excited by something, I conduct an experiment and watch where it takes me. The result of an experiment can have two outcomes, and no, they’re not success or failure. An experiment can either transform into a habit or a lesson.
Failure is such a terrifying word and sometimes it’s so scary that we don’t even start what we intended to try out. When I started experimenting with my life there were a lot of things I didn’t do because I was determined from the outset that I’d fail. So I did other things that I knew I could succeed with. When I am doing that I’m not really experimenting, I am doing assumption based speculation and safely staying within the limits of my comfort zone.
If an experiment doesn’t work out for any number of reasons, I’ll drop it and put it in the back of my head labeled as a lesson learned. There’s no need to keep pursuing something that doesn’t work out. This way I know it wasn’t for me, but that I got new information about myself from the outcome.
When the experiment takes the other way, i.e. I am excited, surprised and filled with joy when I am doing it and see the positive result by continuing; it’ll turn into a habit. For an example, 14 months ago I decided to completely stop drinking alcohol. That was an experiment. I’d no idea how it would turn out.
When noticing I started waking up earlier and overall becoming more alert, even on days after the parties, I got thrilled. Also, to gather the strength and being able to say ‘no’ in this case got me elated. It turned into a habit.
When the experiment reaches the habit state it needs to be protected. Here is where the sheltering environment comes in. How many times haven’t I got exalted about how well I am proceeding a habit at the beginning, but later been let down by more quickly satisfied whims of the moment such as playing video games. Many potential habits have faded just because they weren’t treated right.
Setting up a healthy environment depends on the habit. Some people like the method of other people forcing them to go through with it, that may take the shape of me posting a social network update to all my friends saying that I owe them $10 if I don’t finish my paper this afternoon. This method is very forceful and I don’t like to use force when there’s no need. Instead I like to construct a way that automatically leads me to the particular goal. No pushing, no force, no stress, no pressure, just my choice to proceed.
Pretend that I am standing in the middle of a mud pool and there is only one road available out (the road is the healthy environment I’ve created to keep me from crawling the mud.) Now, I can either choose to stand still or I can choose to walk, but when I do the walk there’s only one way to take. This is the way I nourished my reading habit while I used an iPad. Turning off other features, deleting unnecessary apps and putting the reader app in focus led to increasing reading activity.
When I no longer need to protect my habit, if I tear down the walls and design some new roads, open up for distractions and other possibilities but still can’t stop myself from keeping on; it has become part of my lifestyle. I no longer need the sheltering environment. It’s like the caterpillar, finally crawling out of its cocoon and turning into a beautiful butterfly. The experiment has taken the whole way from being new and exciting, to getting nourished and protected, to something that’s part of my way of living and will now support itself without shelter.
What I’ve described is the type of life formula I live by and is crucial for me to keep evolving. It is when I stop experimenting, that I put on some extra kilos. It’s when I stop paying attention in how I am doing what I’m doing that I get sloppy, which leads to apathy and self-pitying. It’s when I stop caring, that I allow my backpack to get overwhelmed with trash. In other words, when I stop experimenting I’m getting statically framed in my mold.
So, in short: I am conducting experiments to evaluate my way of life, some leads to a lesson learned, other forms into habits, for habits I create a sheltering environment, when the habit manages by itself without protection it’s become part of my lifestyle.
That’s my formula for a never stagnant, ever-growing life.