experiments on ourselves

I’ve found that it is very difficult to let go of, or change our beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours. Acting out of line can feel inauthentic or unnatural, and it’s scary and difficult to change at this level. Now this would all be fine, if our current beliefs, attitudes and behaviours served us all the time. But the reality, as we know, is that they do not.

What I have found incredibly helpful in letting go of these old beliefs and behaviour patterns is giving myself permission to “try on” or “experiment” with new ways of being.

Just as a scientist conducts experiments in a lab, how might we conduct experiments on ourselves?

Let me give you an example. A couple of years ago I discovered just how self critical I was to myself. On one hand, I really value self development, striving to be better everyday; but I also began to realise how this was going too far in my life, and leading to very negative inner chatter where I was constantly focusing on aspects of myself that weren’t “good enough” and needed improvement.

I noticed simple things from waking up later than planned and how I got frustrated with myself for not utilising my time better to just an overarching focus of what could be better in my day rather than what went well, during my nightly reflections.

A coach I worked with at the time observed this and asked me, what would happen if I were self compassionate? What would happen if I were kinder to myself? Perhaps even accepting of myself, my full self, flaws and all, as I am? In this inquiry I discovered a fear that I held – I feared that if I accepted myself completely, that if I were compassionate to myself, I would stop growing.

Fears and beliefs at a subconscious level often underpin our behaviours, grateful for the coach who helped surface and question the tension I felt between self acceptance and personal growth

So rather than over-analyse whether this was true or false I decided to do an experiment. For just a week I decided to see what would happen if I was more self compassionate and accepting. I decided if I really did stop growing or found this unhelpful, I could then go back to my old way of being.

It was safe, just to experiment for a week.

So what happened?

The next time I woke up late, I acknowledged my body was tired, probably needed the sleep and was gentler to myself. I started paying more attention to what I was doing well. And I actually found, counter to my fear, my growth was not hindered. I felt lighter, happier, and found I could be both be kind to myself whilst still acknowledging what I could do things different (eg go to sleep earlier). Two years on, after a lot of practice and time, I continue you to choose being self-compassionate over being self-critical and can certainly say the journey has been enjoyable, rewarding and far more joyous than it may have otherwise been. 

My appreciation of my own value has grown, my self confidence has deepened, and I feel more content

Adopting new beliefs or behaviours are always scary. They take us beyond our comfort zone to an unknown place

Herminia Ibarra, a wonderful leadership professor acknowledges that “Stepping out of your comfort zone means it’s not going to be authentic, it’s not going to be natural, it’s not going to be the real you right away – but that doesn’t matter as long as you’re not violating your integrity,”

So I encourage you to bravely enter new territory. What are beliefs you notice that don’t serve you that you could experiment with?

And rather than over-analysing, how can you act first and think later? What if you try on a new behaviour and just see how it goes?

For it far is easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking, than think yourself into a new of acting

P.s. if you’re keen to see an amazing example of this in action, have a read of “The Surrender Experiment” where Michael Singer shares his life story of how he experimented with letting go of his own beliefs of what is ‘right’ or what ‘should’ happen, which took his life on a remarkable adventure!


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