There’s no failure in a scientific experiment. You either achieve your goals or you find out what doesn’t work and gain experience.
Lately, “intelligent people feeling miserable” became a popular blog topic. It’s a bait topic to make miserable people feel better about themselves. “I feel miserable, so I must be intelligent.” And let’s face it; most people feel miserable about themselves, because pessimism is ingrained into our brains.
Pessimism had its evolutionary advantages back in the day. You might be better off feeling pessimistic when you see a lion instead of trying to pet it. The flip side of pessimism is to feel miserable.
Pessimism is not necessarily productive when it comes to working towards your goals. It makes you feel miserable. If you keep feeling miserable, you’ll give up on your goals eventually, unless you have world class self-discipline. There’s a way around pessimism though.
Define Your Goals as Scientific Experiments
The way to eliminate all negative feelings about your goals is to define them as scientific experiments. You can do that by carrying out the following steps.
- What is the outcome you want to achieve? Specify the outcome you want to achieve.
- What are the conditions of the experiments?
- Which actions are you going to take to achieve the outcome?
- Formulate the outcome and conditions as a hypothesis you will test.
- Carry out the test.
- Evaluate and report your results.
- Update your experimental design and repeat.
Define the Outcome You Want to Achieve
When you define the outcome you want to achieve, be as specific as possible. This definition must be measurable without any doubt. Imagine you are a scientist. When a group of scientists look at your results, they should be able to assess your results without any doubts and decide unanimously. Instead of stating your goal as “getting rich,” state your goal as “having a net worth of ten million dollars within ten years from now.” The first definition of your goal, “getting rich,” is vague. The second definition of the goal, “a net worth of ten million dollars within ten years from now,” is precise. A panel of economists would agree unanimously whether that goal is reached or not.
Define the Conditions of the Experiment
Under which conditions are you going to execute the experiment? How long will the experiment last? Which actions are you going to take? What is your plan for each day, week, and month? For example, if your goal is to lose weight, what will be your daily meal list? What will the amount of each meal be? How many calories are you going to consume in total each day? What will be your daily and weekly exercise regimen? How long is the experiment going to last? How many pounds do you expect to lose every week?
Keep the Feedback Loop Short
When designing your experiment, keep the feedback loop short. That way you can evaluate your results and update your experimental design faster. If you have a long term goal, you can break it down into smaller parts with the divide and conquer algorithm and the reverse engineering method.
Evaluate Your Results
Once the experiment is over, it’s time to evaluate your results. Did the actions you planned result in the achievement of your goal? If not, why not? Were you able to carry those actions out? If yes, how close were you to the achievement of your goal? You can ask these and other questions to analyze the results of your experiment.
Update Your Experimental Design and Start Again
As you see, there’s no failure in a scientific experiment. You either achieve your goals or you find out what doesn’t work and gain experience. Once you find out what doesn’t work, then you can update your experimental design according to your experience and start a new experiment. Just keep repeating until you succeed. Even success is not a reason to stop your experiments. Once you succeed, you can set another goal and apply the scientific method to that goal.
What are the benefits of applying the scientific method to your goals?
When you apply the scientific method to your goals, you work in a well-defined framework. There’s no room for procrastination, deviation from the initial plans, and arbitrary decision-making. Everything is well-defined and clear. You either follow the experimental plan or not. If you can’t follow the plan, then you need to evaluate at the end of the experimental period, why you could not. If you followed the plan but couldn’t achieve your goal, then it’s time to come up with another plan towards the achievement of your goal.
There is no failure in scientific method. All you have to do is to formulate hypotheses and to verify them with experiments. Either the experiment passes or you find out that the action plan you came up with doesn’t serve the goal you have set. Then it’s time to update your action plan and continue working towards your goal until you succeed. When there’s no failure to working towards your goal, there is no stress, and there is no feeling bad. This type of approach to your goals eliminate all the bad feelings about them. It puts the focus on what you can control instead of what you can’t control. That eliminates the stress as well.
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.