What’s the worst that could happen if we lived life as an experiment? What if we played around with requests and made asks just to see what could occur?
This idea may feel unfamiliar, especially if we’re used to holding back. When was the last time we went for something that we really wanted? When did we speak up? Push back? Ask for a bigger piece of pie, a helping hand, or even a raise? Many of us hold back from making requests and even living the life we want because we think it’s not within our capacity. We may believe we can’t, or we may feel afraid we’ll fail (or perhaps both).
But what if we start to view life as an experiment? What if we decided to test the waters and see what happens when we embrace possibilities, take opportunities, and learn from mistakes? Let’s ask ourselves—what’s the worst that could happen?
The Power of a Growth Mindset
As human beings, we’re gifted with an infinite number of ways our life could go and paths we could take in our life experiment. The possibilities and outcomes are literally endless. Yet, the path we take is often dictated by our self-fulfilling prophecies and shaped by our limiting beliefs—ideas about ourselves and our world that keep us from realizing possibility.
Counteracting and overcoming our limiting beliefs is a challenge, but if we develop what’s called a “growth mindset,” we shift our way of thinking.
A growth mindset focuses our thoughts and drives our actions toward learning, discovery, and advancement. Confronted with the barrier of a fixed mindset, we make excuses and tell ourselves that each obstacle we encounter in our life journey is a reason to stop our progression. On the other hand, a growth mindset shifts our thinking to realize that a barrier is a challenge to overcome. By breaking past the border, we’ll further grow and develop into who we could become. We’ll move toward our higher potential.
When we’re around high-performing individuals, we may compare ourselves and shift the standard by which we view our own potential. We might feel inadequate or compare ourselves. We start to make excuses so we don’t push forward or try. We’re blocked by thinking, “I could never do that because I don’t have the talent/knowledge/physical ability…”
Researcher Carol Dweck studies human motivation and the impact of our mindset. She describes a fixed mindset as a belief that intelligence is static. With a fixed mindset, we may desire to “look smart,” so we’re afraid of allowing ourselves to experience the vulnerability of growth.
When viewing challenges, a fixed mindset tells us it’s best to avoid obstacles and give up easily. We see effort as a futile pursuit. We may ignore feedback, particularly if it’s deemed negative or critical. We may also resent and even feel threatened by the success of others, as though there’s not enough success to go around.
On the other hand, a growth mindset drives us to a different train of thought. Those with a growth mindset believe intelligence is developed, and they hold a strong desire to learn, even if it means admitting what they don’t know. Those with a growth mindset forge ahead in their life experiment despite challenges. They see obstacles as objects to persist and overcome.
A growth mindset tells us effort leads to eventual mastery, and we eagerly welcome feedback and criticism from others, knowing it will help us get even better.
Embracing mistakes and finding lessons in each moment is part of this mindset. Those growth-minded individuals also surround themselves with successful people, looking at their success as inspiring rather than threatening.
Consequently, those who embrace a growth mindset continue to reach higher and higher levels of achievement as they look to each new hill on the horizon.
If we’re ready to develop a growth mindset, it’s time to start viewing life as an experiment. Play around with perceptions—when we find ourselves holding back, explore the real reason why.
Embracing the Assignment Way of Living
We can shift to a growth mindset by starting to live our lives as an experiment. At the Wright Foundation, we refer to this practice as the “assignment way of living.”
We all have limiting beliefs—even with a growth mindset—but those with a fixed mindset are more static in their limiting beliefs. These beliefs lead us toward the trap of the self-fulfilling prophecy. When we get stuck in this cycle, we’re constantly seeking examples and situations to confirm our limiting beliefs.
We think we can’t do something; therefore, we walk into a meeting with our shoulders hunched, our head down, and our mouth shut. Because others in the meeting pick up on our body language, posture, and presence, they too believe the message we’re sending, “I can’t.” When we’re not called on, it reinforces our limiting belief, and the cycle goes around and around.
This is one reason why some friends seem invested in us staying who they know us to be, rather than living life as an experiment and discovering a new us. Instead of growing together, this leads to a cycle of codependence in our relationships.
Breaking out of those limiting beliefs and forging ahead into the assignment way of living means realizing it’s okay to ask, “what if?” and experiment by expanding our behaviors.
- “What if I walk into the meeting with my head held high?”
- “What if I tell the waitress my order is wrong?”
- “What if today, I decide to engage in deeper conversation with those around me?”
- “What if I stop worrying about what others think of me?”
As part of the assignment way of living, we may take on a new assignment or experiment each day. Our lives become more playful, where new experiences are simply an opportunity to test out new behaviors, reactions, and interactions. We commit to learning and growing in everything we do.
Practice Assignments and Take on Life Experiments
If we play a musical instrument, we don’t expect to get better without a coach or teacher. Nor should we expect to get better if we don’t practice each day with increasingly difficult music. Similarly, we can practice the assignment way of living in our daily lives. We can practice growing and stretching ourselves in new situations and new opportunities.
One assignment our students recently tackled was to go out and ask for things. What did they ask for? Absolutely anything! The objective wasn’t to “get more stuff” but rather to stretch and practice their ability and comfort with asking.
Our students came back and reported how difficult the assignment was for many of them. They discovered they had a limiting belief that the world wasn’t a giving place—it was full of scarcity rather than abundance. They were amazed at how overcoming that limiting belief enabled them to attract and get things beyond what they had ever imagined. Some course members ended up getting raises. One course member who worked for a nonprofit went to a big donor and asked for a gift for the charity. He was blown away when the donor said yes!
It’s amazing what happens when we suddenly realize the power of saying what we usually wouldn’t say. When we break out of the beliefs that hold us back and start testing the waters with little assignments and life experiments, we may be astonished at the outcomes.
Every assignment is designed to challenge at least one limiting belief. For example, asking for things may challenge a limiting belief about politeness. It may also challenge an assumption about the nature of society and our role within the world.
Start by stretching a little. Do or say something that feels a little edgy. Ask for something (even if it’s embarrassing). Work up to something bigger and then something even bigger.
Each Day is a Chance to Live Life as an Experiment
Every person was socialized as a child to limit their behavior. Maybe we believed we should be polite, we shouldn’t be emotional, we shouldn’t speak up, or we shouldn’t be “too much.” These beliefs are carried with us throughout our lives.
Rather than solidifying those beliefs as adults, we can instead stretch and expand our capacity to practice radical honesty and become more engaged, creative, and expressive. We can start to push ourselves beyond the limits of what we’ve deemed as being socially acceptable. We can begin to rock the boat.
As we pinpoint, recognize, and identify our limiting beliefs, we work through them and disprove them. Many of our beliefs have long been carried with us. There are often stories and myths behind them. Many of our families may have set rules about how we should behave. These ideas are deeply entrenched, but the first step is identifying them and playing with the limitations.
One of the big life experiments for our students is to challenge their family beliefs and rules. Even though our family beliefs may have some validity, we generally hold them as more restrictive than they need to be. Through the assignment way of living, we can continue to challenge these ideas and explore our identity.
At the deepest level, we all hold limiting beliefs about ourselves and what the world expects from us. These beliefs show up in our relationships, work, marriage, salary, and other aspects of our lives.
As we challenge these beliefs and start living life as an experiment, we’ll see powerful changes in many areas of our lives. We may realize our fixed mindset and limiting beliefs hold us back from realizing our full potential and attaining the life we dream about.
So, if you’re ready to tackle your limiting beliefs, start thinking of the world as your playground. Go out, experiment, make mistakes, test the waters, and see what happens. Look for the lesson in each experience and push yourself beyond your comfort zone.
If you’re looking for more ways to get what you want out of life, don’t miss our courses available on WrightNow. We have a library of exciting personal growth courses designed to help you get the relationship, career, and life of your dreams.
The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.