In my work with students, we are always looking toward success. Students want better grades, relief from parent pressure, confidence, and more time to relax. No matter what their top goal is, they desire the satisfaction of success. Toward this end, I like to turn the whole game of success on its head with one easy mindset shift: become your own scientist.
When a scientist conducts an experiment, she develops a hypothesis based on her expectation of the results. And then she does this really, really important thing. She lets go of her idea of results. She goes about her business and conducts the experiment, gathering data along the way. And then finally, at the end of the experiment, she draws conclusions. She either finds out that her hypothesis was supported by the study, or she finds out something else. Either way, she has learned something and therefor has made a contribution to her scientific inquiry. From this data, she is able to design new studies and make new choices based on what she learned. Success!
Let me tell you a little story from my week. As you may have seen, I’ve been in the process of experimenting on myself weekly for this whole year! Have I always met my expectations for each experiment? Far from it! Have I always learned and grown from each experiment? For sure! This past week I decided to try to improve my sleep by setting my phone on airplane mode from 7pm to 7am to give myself time to wind down at night without being jarred by texts and notifications. Sounds like a good idea, right? Well, on the second night, I was having so much trouble sleeping, I got up and just watched videos for an hour. I felt totally icky afterward. Tired, headachy, but still no closer to sleep. Did I fail my experiment? If the goal was absolute commitment to my agenda, then I did for sure. But since my goal is to experiment and learn from a particular arena of my life, then as long as I was paying attention, I couldn’t fail. I learned a valuable lesson, in fact: watching videos in the middle of the night probably does not help me get back to sleep. (I say probably because to be truly scientific, I would have to try it a few more times.)
The bottom line is that the whole point of an experiment is to create a focal point for your attention. You are building awareness around a certain area of your life. This is the first and most important step in making a change. Yay! Pat yourself on the back! Are you ready to try out an experiment in your own life?
The key ingredients to a successful experiment are:
- a curious, experimental attitude, free of judgment and expectations
- a do-able and simple plan with a clear timeline, and a clear way of evaluating results
- results tracking and documentation – you can’t learn from your experiment if you aren’t paying attention!