De-Risk Your Life Change with Experiments

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

In my previous post I’ve explained why I want to take experimental approach to changing my life. As I was recovering from burnout after years in a corporate job and searching for meaning, I’ve divided my life in 3 main buckets: what I want to have, what I want to do and who I want to be.

In this post I will share how to take scientific approach to life change - by defining and testing the hypotheses.

Happy woman on top of the mountain in Seoul
I tested how size of the city affects my happiness and learnt that I can be happy in a big city if the microcosm is right

In the business world, the first step of planning an experiment is to define hypotheses

You need to clearly define what will you test and how will measure success. For example, if you are testing an app for call centre workers, your hypotheses might be: ‘Call centre agents want to be rewarded for working late hours’.

You then go away and test it. You can conduct interviews or create a prototype of the app and see how users react. The goal is to discover whether your agents indeed want to be rewarded and you need to pay them extra, or if, for instance, flexibility to work any hours, is enough in itself (which indeed appeared to be the case in the experiment I ran).

I have applied same idea to my life’s 3 bucket and developed a series of hypotheses I am going to test

When it comes to changing life, however, it appeared to be a lot harder to make hypotheses easily measurable. I found that the answer might be the right feeling in my belly about it, which some call intuition, some don’t believe in at all.

The way I think about it is this. Our brain has a very limited processing capacity and consciously processes very little percentage of everything it perceives. Our ‘gut’ however, is a centre that I see as our second (and often primary) brain, that is responsible for giving you a ‘gut feel’ based on a much wider range of stimuli and often way faster than our brain.

I believe the science is yet to find an explanation for that. Same way as it took us a while to discover germs and antibiotics. While science is working on it, I am going to rely on it without a logical explanation.

What am I going to test in each life bucket over the next 12 months? Here we go!

Life bucket 1: Country & physical microcosm

The main goal for this bucket is to figure out which country is right for me based on what I find important to have in my physical microcosm. And to figure out what I find important through experimentation. Here are my hypotheses:

  1. I will feel happier in a place with slower pace. The pace for me is defined by the size of the place and its values. My assumption is that the ideal city for me is 3-4 million inhabitants. This should offer enough variety, stimulation and opportunities but still be liveable. Slower pace for me also means less stimuli – less noises, less people & less information overload. In a smaller city my nervous system & my body will feel better. How will I measure success: better quality of sleep, better ability to concentrate.

  2. I will feel happier in a place that offers good value for money. Now this one is vague – what is ‘good value’ you might ask? In my case it’s anything that is not London, where you pay 1500£ for a tiny studio flat and 2.40£ for a tube ride. I believe that having a better and bigger flat and more affordable things that I love (fitness, hobbies, great food) will make me happier. How will I measure success: I can afford a bigger flat with a guest room for my friends and family. I can work less and afford the things I love.

  3. I will feel happier in a culture that values human connection over material things. This one is harder to place, but as Hofstede suggested, each culture can be defined on a number of dimensions (have a read, it’s really interesting). In my case individualism vs collectivism is a key one. I believe I will feel happier in a collectivistic culture. How will I measure success: I spend more time enjoying time with people than consuming things.

  4. Good delicious high-quality food makes huge difference in my overall life satisfaction. This one is prosaic, but hey – we eat at least 3 times a day (I eat 6, in small portions). I am so tired of overpriced plastic fruit & veg in London’s & Dublin’s supermarkets. The other day I paid 17 euros for a watermelon. There’s gotta be a better way. How will I measure success: I can buy a watermelon that is mind-blowingly delicious for under 5 euros. Or whatever price that doesn’t make me think that it was an extravagant purchase.

Life bucket 2: Career

My bucket career is all about what I want to be doing and a possibility to explore a portfolio career. The notion of a portfolio deserves a separate post, and you can read about it here. In this bucket my hypotheses are: