Experimenting

Experimenting.  A test under controlled conditions that is made to demonstrate a known truth, to examine the validity of a hypothesis, or to determine the efficacy of something previously untried. The process of conducting such a test; experimentation. An innovative act or procedure.

Experimenting, as I mean it here, focuses on these lines of the definition;  to determine the efficacy of something previously untried. An innovative act or procedure.

When do we stop experimenting? Why do we do stop experimenting? When do we become afraid of experimenting?

There comes a point in life when we stop trying new things.  When we do this our mind shrinks. Our mind is like a muscle that needs to be exercised, otherwise it will atrophy. When our mind shrinks, our world shrinks.  We do not realize that our world has shrunk, it happens over time and subtlety.  We become comfortable and complacent. We make it through each day and often that is enough.

Our routines and what we know become the boundaries around our mind.  We are safe within the confines of our boundaries, why would we ever leave?  This is how I do “X”, this is what I do on Friday, this is where I go on vacation, this is what I do and this is what I know.  Every time we say or do these things the boundaries we put up around ourselves are drawn closer, an ever tightening circle.  We shut off possibilities.  We choose not to view life and the world in its entirety.

Ask my friends about me and routine. They will tell you I was the King of routine. They would be right.

The neural pathways of my mind carved in stone, I slip into what I call default mode efficiency.  I easily fall into routine, I perform tasks in the quickest, most efficient, tried and true way I know how.  I put blinders on my eyes and only see what is in front of me, nothing more. I have come to the understanding that when I do this, I am no longer present in the moment. I am no longer actively engaged in whatever it is I am doing. I am merely doing. Not being.

I have deceived myself into thinking I am doing my mind a favor by doing this. To execute a task in the most efficient way possible without any real thought.  Don’t get me wrong, there are times when this an enviable skill.  But most of the times it isn’t. I’d rather be present, I would rather be aware and engaged.

I think about when I was young. So many new experiences and challenges.  Big and small presented to me on a daily basis.  My imagination salivating at the opportunity to solve the problems. I think it is within our youth that we do some of our best thinking. Our worlds are huge and anything is possible.

 So I experimented. I would try one way and it would fail. I would try another way and that would fail.  Maybe I would fail over and over again, but I would always keep trying. And then, finally, I would get it right. It is through this process that so many great things occur, and also where the trap of the default mode efficiency kicks in.

Through trial and error we learn so much. But once the correct solution is found the mind grabs hold of it and starts carving that process into the brain. Perfecting the process until it becomes efficient and the blueprint of how you perform task “X”.

 When we are young so many things are new and they are exciting. Our minds expand at an exponential rate. Until the time when they no longer expand, and without experimentation they contract.  We grow secure and comfortable in our constricted worlds, content to abide by the status quo of “this is how it is done”. Our jobs become efficient, our home lives become efficient, our relationships become efficient. We no longer pursue challenges, we cease growing. We become stagnant.

I write all of this now because I can see  how my world had shrunk. And how, without work, it would continue to shrink. Time and repetition have taken their toll and constricted the boundaries of my mind.

I see this now because of my gift of a second chance at life. I have to start over, I have to rebuild – not what once was, but something new. A life that doesn’t have a blueprint, but rather a doodle on a napkin. A rough sketch that points me in the direction I want to go.  Within this opportunity is the ability to experiment. To throw away so much of what I know and start over.

I realize the importance of experimenting and don’t ever want to stop.  Life is a laboratory. Mix this, mix that., try this, try that.  I want to expand the boundaries I have put around my mind. I want to expand my definition of what is possible and to challenge that which I deem as impossible.

The idea for this post came to me because of the dinner I cooked last night for a friend.  I was going to prepare the meal in the same way I had made it in the past. I knew how to do this, it was safe and it was easy. I was going to take the easiest path to prepare something good for somebody I wanted to impress with my cooking skills. At the last-minute and with her encouragement I switched on the fly and made it up as I went along.

Reading this back now it sounds ridiculous. Patting myself on the back for such a small step.  But the rewards. The rewards were huge. It was fun, it was spontaneous, and it tasted delicious. OK, the asparagus needs some work, but the tuna was awesome.  I could feel my mind expanding at what was possible and what I learned.

The act of doing this alone made me realize the importance of just trying.  Doing something new.  My mind lights up when I experiment. Synapses fire, neural pathways are created.  I once again look at the world with a child’s eyes.

I want to always ask myself, what if? What if I did this, what if I tried that?

I want to throw perfectionism out the window and stop hiding behind it. I want to take risks.  I want to always be learning, and always be trying. To understand that I will probably learn more from the failures than the successes.

Our minds are like goldfish, they will expand and contract within the boundaries we put around them.  Pushing the boundaries and what is possible gives the mind more room to play. I want to let my mind roam free. Let it off the leash and see what happens.  By expanding the boundaries of our brains we make room for the big things in life.

Each post I write is an experiment. I don’t know if it will work. If it makes sense. If people will like it. It doesn’t matter. Each post expands what is possible through the power of writing.  I learn something with each post I write.

“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

My 1% today, and ideally this should happen everyday, is to experiment.

I will walk a different way to work, I will cook something I have never made before, I will change my workout, eat something I have never eaten, go places I have never been. Say “Yes” to as many experiences as I can.  I will change the small to make room for the big. I will do my best to take the status quo and throw it in the garbage.

Every day is a new day. And within each day is the opportunity to experiment.

 

 

 

 

 

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