A Series of Experiments (Life is)

15 August 2013
11:26 AM
Manila

M.–

While at the shower I was thinking how fast time flies, how it is already the middle of August, and how days fade into one another. How strange and funny and beautiful it is to feel that absolutely everything and nothing has happened to me this year. I was asking myself, what have I done?, and I tried making a list and came up with very little: a bit of work. I asked again, what do I have?, and the answer was: debts, lots of self-doubt and despair, and a view to the abyss.

I was washing my hair, and I watched the soap and the water stream past my feet to the drain. I took a deep breath and tried again:

What have I done? I have been writing letters every single day to one of the most important people in my life since early February. To date, we have written more than three hundred letters to each other. I have read books that challenged my perspective of the world, that have spoken to who I was, that have changed my life. I have rearranged my creating space. I have discovered music that stirred my soul. I have started a few side projects that would not earn me money but would give my life a lot of meaning. I have had fleeting thoughts of death, but the idea of surviving, of rising again, preoccupied me more.

What do I have? A better sense of what I want my life to be, even if I do not yet know how to make that transformation. A branching of goals, a window where I can be allowed to think about pursuing other interests, without feeling guilty that I’m betraying myself. The knowledge that dreams can change, and that it’s okay. A heavy amount of fear still, but also a desire to be braver, to be stronger.

I think all those time that I loathe everything that is my life, it was because I couldn’t reconcile who I am with who I expect my ideal self to be. And it’s a pity, isn’t it, to chase after an ideal self, and ideal life, when I already have one in my hands.

A surprising amount of our day is filled with decisions: what to do with an email, what to do with clutter, opening paper mail, grocery shopping, whether to go out with friends or stay home, whether to add someone as a friend, whether to take a job, to move, to take a class, to go on a vacation, and so on.

And a good amount of stress can come about from all of those decisions, because many times we don’t have the information we need to make a good decision.

How can we make a choice when we don’t know the outcome of each choice?

If the choices had clear outcomes, we could just weigh them and decide. But most of the time, the outcomes aren’t clear. So how do we decide?

Most of the time, people don’t decide. They put off deciding, which is why inboxes are full and clutter piles up and life choices are postponed and stress grows.

But here’s a simple method that works for me:

See decisions not as final choices, but experiments.

The anxiety (and paralysis) comes when people are worried about making the perfect choice. And worried about making the wrong choice. Those are two outcomes that aren’t necessary to make a decision, because if we conduct an experiment, we’re just trying to see what happens.

With an experiment, you run a test, and see what the results are. If you don’t get good results, you can try another option, and run another test. Then you can see what the outcomes of the choices are (the info you didn’t have when first thinking about the decision), and can make a better-informed decision now.

A bigger-picture perspective helps here. Experiments might take months, or a year. That’s a tiny amount of time in the space of a lifetime, and those bigger experiments are worth learning about.

– Leo Babauta, via Zen Habits

Maybe I don’t tell it to myself enough: it’s going to be okay.

Small Song
A.R. Ammons

The reeds give
way to the

wind and give
the wind away

Good morning,
T.

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