I’ve been doing an exercise lately that has really been valuable to me, though the results are difficult to measure.
Once a day, I question something that I know to be true, or have good reason to believe to be true.
I usually give myself about 20 minutes (not to be confused with 20 Minutes of Awesome), so that I know I have at least that long to pursue the thought, but I let myself go longer if the need arises.
And from there I just think, ‘What if?’
What if humans are the only life in the whole universe?
What if terrorists were not responsible for the attacks on 9/11?
What if everything we’ve been taught in science class is wrong?
What if some other economic strategy is better than capitalistic meritocracy?
What if I’m not doing what I should be doing with my life? What if the path I’m walking is the wrong one?
What if the life I experience is just a dream? Or a simulation? Or a game someone else is playing?
What if what if what if?
Answering these questions won’t necessarily change your mind about anything, but that’s not really the point.
The point is to put yourself outside of yourself temporarily. What we know is the sum of our personal experiences, including our educational background, and it’s rare that we find ourselves thinking from outside of that box.
I have no goal with this except to exercise my ‘what if?’ brain muscles.
Try it for a week and let me know what you think.
Or rather, let me know what you would think if it wasn’t you thinking.
Update: February 7, 2017
This is something that has worked its way into my daily sit-and-think time, alongside other ruminations. But I kind of miss the idea of focusing completely on these sorts of questions, and may bring it back, if perhaps every other day. I do recall it being insanely valuable in terms of coming up with new things to research in particular, as I would ask myself not just ‘what if,’ but what it would mean, and how I might be able to understand the consequences.