Experimental Life

How do you change? What would you change if you could? If you changed one thing, what else would change with it?

In his article Successfully Integrate Your Work Life, Stew Friedman looks at rebalancing life, work and self by changing how you integrate them together.

If you are like me, you would love to make some changes in your life – but how? We each are like massive planets in orbit in our lives. When we try to move a little bit from where we are – the other planets in the solar system tend to pull us back to our nice safe gravity well of status quo.

Stew suggest that you start with some small experiments – life experiments. In design thinking this we might call them prototypes. But why not prototype changes to your life.

Small changes, that you spend little time on are easy to abandon, transform, or take the next small step.

Big changes, where you make a radical change, gear up, spend time and money pressure us to “make it work” or “succeed” and failure comes with huge stopping power.

Try it now

  1. Choose anything you would like to change in your life.
  2. What is the minimal step you could take that moves it a little bit – maybe even right now as you sit there reading this.
  3. Try it a few times and hold these questions in your mind while you try – “how is this working? what else would make this a little better?”

The main idea here is when you want to change – Don’t try to boil the ocean! make small tests, steps, changes and see how it works.

What can you start changing today with a small change? What is a big change you are trying to make that you can simplify? What have you tried that didn’t work so far?

Even the best laid plans will change

Do you plan or fly by the seat of your pants? What happens when the plans go wrong? Are you prepared for the unexpected?

“plans are useless but planning is indispensable” said, Dwight D. Eisenhower when talking about planning for battle. And Helmuth Von Moltke said “No plan survives contact with the enemy”.

Now not every plan is preparing for war, and I certainly don’t think of everyone as the enemy. However, the sentiment of these quotes is about the balance of planning and thinking on your feet – or improvising.

I first really learned this lesson whilst walking from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail – a National Scenic Trail in the US. After a few days I met up with a nice group of other solo hikers and we hiked together for almost 2000 of the 2654 mile trail. Each day plans were discussed, debated and defined with some good amount of data, maps and opinions. What really happened was always a variation of that plan based on the actual situation, flow of the stream, beauty of the lake, view of the valley, or difficulty of the climb.

This is true with prototyping – the idea is to have a rough idea of the goal, and then to see it when you get there. You can’t plan away the work of building or doing.

Once you start building , new ideas will come to you. You need to adapt to what is, not what you thought it would be.

What have you been planning that you need to get into action? Start on it today, let it be an imperfect version and see what you learn by doing.