Essential to Raptitude is the idea of experimentation. Concepts and insights can be useful and encouraging, but it is the application of those ideas that effect big improvements in one’s life. It can be very revealing (and fun) to try on a new habit or technique for a week or two (or four), and observe the results.
I will conduct experiments in my own life and post my observations and conclusions. I would love to hear about your experiments too.
All Raptitude experiments will be listed here.
In this experiment I attempt to engage in formal sitting meditation every day for thirty days. I’ve meditated many times before, but not in a disciplined stretch like this. Will I become the Buddha, or succumb to the restless monkey mind?
Result in a nutshell: I struggled. I was not ready for meditation. Not willing. But that didn’t prevent me from making some very revealing discoveries…
In this experiment, I employ a low-tech Russian implement, the kettlebell, to see what sort of improvements I can make to my physique in six short weeks. Will I achieve world domination, or will the kettlebell crush me under its ironclad boot?
Result in a nutshell: I did make considerable strides in my six weeks, but an injury and a peculiar internal resistance staved off miraculous results. Still, I was quite proud of myself. There is a before/after picture in the final report.
In this experiment, I attempt to throw off the cultural shackles of casual drug use, notably alcohol and caffeine. Will I stand sober and self-assured amidst the crowds of tipsy twenty-somethings, or will I find I don’t belong anymore?
Result in a nutshell: Changed my life forever. Completely altered the way my mind and body respond to drugs, and now I’m free of virtually all negative effects of my casual drug usage. I am in love with the sober, base-state and my body doesn’t let me forget it.
In this experiment, I set out to renegotiate my relationship to food and lose the “spare tire” that has formed during this summer’s ice cream binges. Eating with care and mindfulness, I vow to no longer eat to the point of sluggishness, and to hit the kettlebells again. Will I deliver a fit and strong David to New Zealand this fall, or will I slip quietly back to “almost healthy?”
Result in a nutshell: I did eventually slip back to “almost healthy.” I found that social and cultural factors play a HUGE role in how, what and how much I eat. You too probably. Some interesting discoveries in the progress log.
In this experiment, I aim to eliminate the habit of casual negativity using a simple method pioneered by a Missouri minister. The experiment will be over when I’ve gone 21 consecutive days without complaining, disparaging or gossiping. It will probably take a lot longer than 21 days. Will I achieve a state of total non-negativity forevermore? Or will I finally collapse into a heap of cursing and bitterness?
Result in a nutshell: Well I did it, without compromise. I effectively killed my impulse to complain. But I found it strangely dissatisfying, and I developed a rather negative view of the whole “Complaint Free World” idea. This is an interesting one.
In this experiment, I track everything I do that takes time — which is everything. With the ultimate goal of dismantling unproductive habits, I aim to find out exactly how much of my time is invested in getting the things I want, and how much is slipping through the cracks. Will this trigger a personal productivity revolution, or simply expose the bad habits that have me at their mercy?
Result in a nutshell: I completed it as planned. More than anything I learned that productivity is not so much what you do, but where your mind is when you do it. I also learned that laundry only takes twelve minutes, not the 90 I previously thought, and much more.
In this experiment, I return to meditation with the tenacity of one hand clapping. Meditation has revealed itself to me as an indispensable ingredient to a healthy psyche, and it’s time to make it an everyday thing for me. Will I sit at the centre of the universe as often as I eat breakfast, or will I continue to act as if it just isn’t important enough to earn a steady place in my schedule?
Result in a nutshell: Terminated prematurely. I was forced to delay the experiment while I traveled because I could never depend on having a suitable meditation spot, and now that I’m home I do not have the same desire to meditate I did back in Australia. It will come back, but until then it will stick to active mindfulness instead of sitting meditation.
In this experiment, I attempt to overturn the conventional wisdom that multiple concurrent habit changes are doomed to fail. My secret weapon is ridiculously low standards, allowing me to hit my mark every day in every habit, for a month straight. Will I master the Art of Showing Up, or will my long-running self-sabotage habit prevail?
Result in a nutshell: Aborted! Two in a row now. The principle really backfired for me, for reasons explained in the experiment log. Check it out below.
In this experiment I resolve to get rid of everything that I am not prepared to use and give a permanent place to in my home. I’m going room-to-room, closet-to-closet, box-to-box, and when I’m done, I will have no stuff, only things. Will I strip down to my minimalist skivvies, or drown in ugly clothes and cracked jewel cases?
Result in a nutshell: Well look at that, I live in a tidy house now. Reversed 30 years of clothes-on-the-floor living, and gained some other benefits I didn’t expect. Check out the final report below.
In this experiment I resolve to eat a vegan diet for 30 days. No meat, dairy or other animal products. I will also refrain from knowingly buying any non-food animal products but this experiment is primarily about diet. I want to see what happens in my body, my mind, and my social life as a result of this rather “alternative” lifestyle. Will I grow stronger and steadier on a plants-only diet, or will I wilt like spinach in the microwave?
Result in a nutshell: Smashing success. Not only did I change my diet, but my philosophy and lifestyle.
In this experiment I resolve to dislodge my lifelong procrastination habit by committing to certain regulatory behaviors for 37 days. I’m allowed to goof off if I really, but only if I’ve consciously decided to goof off. No blind avoidance. Will I conquer the beast of procrastination, or will I end up putting this off until next month?
Result in a nutshell: Mixed results. I didn’t cure procrastination, but I am much more aware of it now and I can’t let myself get away with too much of it.
In this experiment I attempt to transform my lopsided writing habits so that I write a modest amount every day, rather than do it all on one or two days of the week. One thousand words a day, every day, for 30 days. Will I become a consistent, prolific wordsmith, or remain a literary weekend warrior?
Result in a nutshell: Outright failure. Writing became something I hated and dreaded even more than before. Making myself do something every day makes me an angry person who hates that something.
In this experiment I conduct a daily “excitement ritual” in which I sit and visualize things I want, for 20 minutes a day, for 30 days. The idea is to inject a regular period of extreme arousal in order to learn to think more about what I want and less about what I don’t want. Will I blossom into true optimism for the first time in my life, or revert back to obsessing about unfavorable outcomes?
Result in a nutshell: I quit. Same thing as last time. I took something that was important and attractive to me, then forced myself to do it when I didn’t want to, and I began to hate that thing. I don’t think I’ll do another experiment for a while.
In this experiment I attempt something I have never done: work a full eight-hour workday on my own creative work. I’ve done it thousands of times for employers, but never for my own purposes. Will I become the disciplined, self-directed writer I yearn to be, or will I play an eight-hour game of Angry Birds?
Result in a nutshell: Excellent! Check out the experiment log for details.
In this experiment I give up one of the most iconic post-war domestic conveniences: the dishwasher. I want to be required to attend to the dishes by hand, so that some part of my day requires my full attention. Almost everything else is automatic, it’s time to start unplugging.
Result in a nutshell: Went very well. Un-automating a small part of my life left me feeling more responsible and a little more clear-minded.
In this experiment I attempt to clear the bar set by the celebrated genius George W. Bush by reading a book a week for a year. Will I become the daily avid reader I believe I’m supposed to be, or spent 30 of the weeks slogging through a single Steinbeck?
Result in a nutshell: Catastrophe. I quickly began to see reading as a chore. I fell behind immediately and really hated everything about this experiment. Abandoned it about halfway through the year. Now I don’t place quotas on reading any more, and I read more than ever.
In this experiment I attempt to use the last two weeks of 2013 to get used to standing up straight (as opposed to my habitual slouch.) Will I become the upright man my mother always wanted me to be, or will I regress into a reptilian precursor?
Result in a nutshell: Moderate success. Two weeks is probably way too short a time to make major corrections in posture, and it’s difficult to evaluate, but I am more aware of my posture and standing up straight more often.
In this experiment I attempt to live on a home-made superfood called soylent for about two-thirds of my meals, for 30 days. Will I become a 21st century superman, or a tragic example of idealistic technology gone awry?
Result in a nutshell: Smashing success. Six months later, I still consume it for 50-67% of my calories, still feel great.
In this experiment I do what productivity nerds have been telling me to do for a while: work standing up part of the day. Will I burst out of my winter slumber with renewed vigor, or will I just be another poor sap left standing when the music stops?
Result in a nutshell: Definitely a success. Working standing up was surprisingly natural, and I find I get distracted less standing than sitting.
In this experiment I restrict my food intake to an eight-hour period every day, and go without for the rest of that time. Will I emerge lean and clean, or succumb to irritability and overcompensation?
Result in a nutshell: This was awesome. I learned an important skill that has served me well ever since: how to not eat without getting cranky. Weight loss and portion control isn’t a struggle any more. I am in great shape now and getting better all the time.
In this experiment I go through every single object I own, hold it in my hands, and keep it only if evokes some amount of joy. Will I cut loose years of life-destroying clutter, or will I end up simply packing my life into a roomful of Rubbermaids?
Result in a nutshell: Excellent. Culled all of my possessions down to what really serves me, and I want to keep it that way. Highly recommend this method.
Raptitude Experiment No. 22 — Studying my own sleep
In this experiment I test the quality of my sleep under different conditions, in an effort to discover what really does create the best sleep for me. Will I find a well-marked path to Dreamland, or will the Sandman go AWOL?
Photo by ArtemFinland