Experimental Stippling

I’m a big fan of personal experimentation.

I find that regularly tweaking the variables that inform my thinking, shape my day, and feed my productive output helps me stay excited about all the things I do (and might do), while also giving me a more three-dimensional view of those same things—which at times helps me identify better ways of doing them or alternatives that might be a more optimal investment of my time and energy.

Such experiments also sometimes help me realize that a dramatic change of some kind is warranted, or that I’ve changed and might want to consider doing some mental recalibration so that my actions align with my beliefs and perceptions as precisely as possible.

Which is a verbose way of saying that I like to mix things up and see what happens. And I sometimes learn something from the resultant, temporary transformations, which can in turn point at worthwhile, permanent adjustments I might make to myself, my work, or my lifestyle.

Some of the most vital shifts in the way I do things and see the world have been the consequence of this mode of operation.

I allowed myself to consider the possibility of full-time travel by mapping out a plan to try it for a year and then, after that trial period, decide whether to keep going or return to something like what I was doing before. This allowed me to see what such a lifestyle would be like in practice before making a determination about whether or not it was actually for me.

I transitioned away from doing branding work after deciding to try my hand at writing a book to see if the resulting artifact would be valuable for folks who read it, and if the undertaking would prove valuable for me—if I enjoyed the process and grew from it.

In both cases, I didn’t know what to expect before I got started; not really. But deciding to give both efforts a try, taking an “it may work or it may not, and either outcome is okay” approach, helped me get past the many valid concerns I had about upending my norms and tip-toeing out of my comfort zone.

Not all experiments lead to such changes. Most of them result in a broader understanding of things, but no permanent adjustments after the investigatory period is over.

Just like with real-deal scientific experiments, it’s important to remember that efforts resulting in negative outcomes—we didn’t discover a new cure, we didn’t find a new way of living that seems more ideal than what we’ve got now—are just as important as those that completely redefine medical knowledge or radically reshape our lives in a fundamental way.

All such explorations, as long as we approach them earnestly and with an open-mind, can tell us something we didn’t know before. Sometimes that something will reinforce what we’re doing now, and sometimes it will call our current state-of-affairs into question.

Stippling our lives with behavioral nudges of this kind can help keep our minds malleable and ever-iterative, while also helping us feel more confident about and contented with the decisions we make—wherever those decisions might take us.

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