ARTICLE: Your Big Experiment

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“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.” – Albert Einstein

scienceOver the years it has become apparent to me that for many people on a journey of personal development or spiritual path, the subject of science often doesn’t sit very well. It is as if taking a scientific approach to living in the world somehow devalues the ‘art’ of living and finding true fulfillment.

Perhaps this is due to the association of skepticism that science carries with it. When we position it in that light it seems pretty obvious that we don’t want to put our most treasured beliefs and values under a skeptical scientific microscope. I’ve yet to meet anyone who enjoys having their beliefs and behaviours scrutinised with the soul intention of being proved wrong.

I have found in my work, though, that personal development and science have always been able to share a bed quite happily together. This is because (to me anyway) the real purpose of science is not to pick an argument with what we hold to be true, but rather to seek more truth; to keep investigating and experimenting with different approaches in order to discover the true nature of how things work out best for us. This can be applied on multiple levels:

Thought – “I have discovered that when I frame my thinking in this particular way as opposed to other ways I seem to feel happier and more creative, even though my circumstances remain the same.”

Action – “When I do it this new way rather than that old way I seem to get better, quicker results and experience less conflict or resistance.”

Others – “When I interact with other people using this approach rather than that approach they tend to agree with me more and we enjoy a stronger depth of rapport.”

That’s the essence of science!! It is realising that the world and everything in it responds in exactly the right way according to the uniqueness of whatever triggered that response.

If I walk into a well lit room, find the dimmer switch and turn it to the left, the room is likely to go dark. Now, I could get upset by that and blame my luck or convince myself that the world is a cruel and unfriendly place, or I could realise that, due to the nature of electricity and electrical resistor devices, that my action could only ever have led to darkness. If I want the room to be brighter I’d have to experiment by turning the switch the other way. When I get a better result I can take the new learning and ensure that my experience reminds me to do it that way again in the future.

Obviously, that is a ridiculously simplistic example, but principle remains exactly the same when applied to more meaningful and complex aspects of life; how we get things done, how we relate to others and how we treat ourselves. What we see unfolding around us is, for the most part, only a response to what we have specifically done, said or thought. But unlike in the dimmer switch example, where we know it was the action that was misaligned to the desired result, in life we tend not attribute our negative experiences to the specific ways that we went about triggering those effects in the world.

If we consistently find ourselves having the same kinds of conflicts with others it is usually more palatable for us to blame them for being so unreasonable or neurotic!! But all the conflict is alluding to is that the way we have been interacting with them up until now doesn’t create the effect we want. In the same way as we don’t have to know everything about electricity in order to turn a light on, we equally don’t have to understand everything that is going through some else’s head in order to tweak our approach to see if that changes their response.

There is an old Hawaiian saying that I originally heard from Michael Neill. It goes:

“you can have anything you want in life, but you have to pay… attention”

This is probably the best advice you could ever adopt. Contrary to what we like to believe we don’t get to choose how the world works. All we can do is be curious as to what naturally occurs within the law of cause and effect as we shift thoughts and behaviour. If what we’re doing isn’t causing the effect want, that’s great news. It means we don’t have to do it that way again! And because we are not in control of the way the world (or the Universe, or nature) works, then that means we don’t have to beat ourselves up about getting it wrong. When all is said and done, you are simply conducting one big experiment in Life’s great science lab.

Some may think that is too much of a cavalier attitude, but it is actually a pretty healthy way of looking at things. Regardless of your personal values or spiritual beliefs, being willing to pay attention to what happens in the world in relation to what you think, say or do, and to keep trying out new approaches (even if you don’t fully understand why things haven’t worked out the way you hoped) means you are only ever getting closer to what you really want. Doing the same things over and over whilst expecting a different result is like trying to push a square peg through a round whole (and it will drive you mad!!)


HOMEWORK


Think about what is going on in your life right now and pick an area where you have not been experiencing the kind of outcomes you want. That may be to do with your goals, your relationships, your finances, your health, your work…

Now think about what you have been thinking, saying or doing repeatedly despite the fact that the same result keeps cropping up time and again.

Next, grab a piece of paper and write down at least 5 other ways you could look at, speak about, or respond to that same situation that you haven’t considered before. If you need inspiration, contemplate how your most trusted advisers might do it differently.

Now, here’s the fun part. Pick one of those new ideas and go out there and play with it. Remember, you’re not looking for this to be the answer to all your problems, you’re just experimenting with cause and effect. As and when you do it in that new way take a step back and, with a genuine curiosity, pay close attention to how the world (or other people) responds differently than before. Be patient.

If that new way still doesn’t get you what you want, move onto another idea from your list and give that one a go. Keep experimenting, adapting and tweaking, but most importantly, keep going!


Take great care. Namaste. 

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