Prompted: Dealing with the Deep End
Designing experiments to inform life's big decisions.
Dealing with the Deep End
Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
No one complains about the free samples at the ice cream shop. With so many choices, it becomes difficult to make an informed decision without trying a few options, but the logic that makes perfect sense in the ice cream parlor doesn’t always translate to real life.
Although we love trials when it comes to ice cream, we tend to think of subscription services as “scams” because we forget to cancel the trial before we get charged. Whether it’s ice cream or a new subscription service, we’re still getting a risk-free experience to make a better-informed decision about the future, and that’s something we all need more of.
When the stakes are higher, we’re overcome with the intimidation of commitment. We won’t try lifting weights at the gym because we’re afraid of becoming bulky. We hesitate to switch careers because we’d have to stay at the new job for at least 2 years.
When we think about things on a larger scale, they become binary. It’s all or nothing. We resort to overanalyzing decisions or avoiding them altogether. Neither strategy helps us make informed decisions, but the larger the decision, the more important trying something out becomes.
Despite this, we rarely try things out with larger-scale events, activities, or hobbies because it feels too big of a commitment. Tasting a new ice cream flavor is about as easy as it gets, but trying a new sport, hobby, or job seems like a big commitment.
Our brain is standing at the edge of a pool, so focused on agonizing about jumping into the deep end that it doesn’t see the staircase and gentle gradient on the other side of the pool.
Although trials and tests of a larger scale are more work, they provide a larger return. We can build a business on the side to see how we like it before quitting our day job. We can train for a 5 or 10 mile race before registering for a marathon. We can rent a house for a month before buying a house and moving to a new city. We can shadow a lawyer before dropping everything to study for the LSAT. We can take a month off of work before retiring completely.
While running experiments like this is more work than creating pros and cons lists, it’s a small price to pay for confidence in some of life’s biggest decisions.
If we put as much effort into trials and experiments for the big choices in life as we do in trying out different flavors of ice cream, then we’ll put ourselves in a position to make confident and informed decisions.
A mediocre ice cream cone is a smaller problem than a mediocre life.
Any test or trial is better than ignoring a decision and sticking with the status quo or making a blind guess based on how we think we might like something.
When in doubt, try things out.
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What is one experiment I can design and implement this week?
Do I tend to avoid change entirely or jump into new things too quickly?
What’s a big piece of my future I’ve always imagined? How can I test it before I commit to it completely?
Thanks for reading! I’ll see you back here next Sunday.