Everything is an Experiment

Action is crucial. You can dream about your future all you want, about the awesome person you’re going to become…you know, the one who does all the things you wish you would do…but how are you going to become that person if you don’t start…well, doing the things? What, really, are you waiting for?

Maybe you are waiting for Someday. Someday, yes, you will have more money, more time, more experience, more friends…and then you will write that book or volunteer for that organization or call up that person you’ve been meaning to get in touch with.

Question: When is this Someday you speak of? Is it actually any closer to you now than it was a month ago? A year ago? Two years ago?

If it is closer, that’s probably because you did something that helped you make some progress. If it’s not, then, well, it’s probably time to take action.

The catch? Taking action can be hard. Especially for recovering perfectionists, like myself. Witness the inner workings of my mind, when I am considering taking action: Maybe I will start an Etsy shop and sell greeting cards. But wait…what if nobody buys greeting cards? What if I don’t actually like selling greeting cards? EEK. Better research extensively and spend hours examining the pros and cons of every possible thing that I could sell. But maybe I don’t even like selling things. I’ll have to buy a lot of stamps, that might be annoying…also I don’t know how to do this! It seems hard!

Thoughts like this can go on and on until the thing I was considering doing eventually gets thrown into the Someday pile. If you started at the beginning of this post and are reading it in order, you already know this is not a very effective way to get things done. Once it’s in the Someday pile, it’s easy to dismiss, and sometimes it ends up sitting in there for years. Also, if you are reading this post in order, nicely done, that is probably a good choice in terms of reading comprehension.

So taking action. What to do, when you feel like you don’t know what to do? Recently, I’ve found a way of pretty effectively steering my brain away from all of its anxious thoughts about whether or not I’m taking the “right” action:

I remind myself that everything is an experiment.

Sure, things might not go the way I planned or expected, and maybe I will decide that selling greeting cards on Etsy is not the way to go. But hey, if it’s just an experiment, I can change my mind and do something else next month! Also, you do experiments so you can learn from them. I might learn that I like selling greeting cards, or I might learn that I really hate selling greeting cards—either way, I’ll have more information on the subject than I do right now—and how else would I have gotten that information?

Basically, this is about being willing to take risks. But to me, a person who is very risk-averse, “taking risks” sounds dangerous and irresponsible, and, well, risky. For whatever reason, framing it as an experiment makes it sound much more constructive. And that works for me.

I think the deal is this: actions and/or risks can be scary because they have lasting effects. Your decision today will absolutely shape the opportunities and decisions you have available to you in the future.

BUT. Having lasting effects is not the same as holding you hostage. You can always re-evaluate your current situation and change course if you decide it’s not working for you. Sure, those other options you were considering before may no longer be options…but that doesn’t mean there aren’t new opportunities in the present moment. And we can’t ever predict what those will be; maybe they’ll be better than the old ones anyway!

Let me know your thoughts on risks and experiments and actions—I’m curious whether the “everything is an experiment” mentality is helpful to anyone else, or if you have other ways of thinking that work for you!


p.s. I am in fact starting that Etsy shop, hopefully quite soon! If you want to be the first to know when it launches, and hear exclusive details and updates on my journey, sign up for my mailing list here! Maybe I’ll even send you a coupon code 😉 You can also check out some of my art on Instagram.

p.p.s. If you liked this post, listen to this podcast episode. I’ve been using “everything is an experiment” as a sort of mantra for quite some time, but listening to this inspired me to include more of the taking action side of things in this post as well.

Why choosing love is about more than eyelashes

Recently I’ve been seeing all these mascara ads with #chooselove, as if love is all about showing off your eyelashes by coating them in thick black goop. I have nothing against mascara (let’s be real though it is just thick black goop) but #chooselove? Really, Revlon?

The reason this got me all fired up is that several months ago I decided to make “Choose Love” sort of my personal motto, and it bugs me that these makeup ads are using what I think is potentially a really powerful statement to promote glamour and superficiality.

The idea to make “Choose Love” my personal motto came to me after the ever-inspirational Oprah introduced me to this idea from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross:

“There are only two emotions: love and fear. All positive emotions come from love, all negative emotions from fear. From love flows happiness, contentment, peace, and joy. From fear comes anger, hate, anxiety and guilt. It’s true that there are only two primary emotions, love and fear. But it’s more accurate to say that there is only love or fear, for we cannot feel these two emotions together, at exactly the same time. They’re opposites. If we’re in fear, we are not in a place of love. When we’re in a place of love, we cannot be in a place of fear.”

I know this isn’t a new idea and it’s already been explored by a lot of wise and thoughtful people. It’s also been used for purposes that I believe to be far nobler than selling eyelash goop. But I had never thought about my emotions in this way, so when Oprah so graciously shared this wisdom, it seriously felt like an epiphany. I thought about how so many times each day, I make decisions that shape the course my own life and the lives of others. I started to wonder: how many of those choices are motivated by fear and how many are motivated by love?

Take starting a blog, for instance. I’ve been thinking about starting one for years because I’ve always thought I’d really enjoy it. So why did I only just publish the first post last week? Because of the following sorts of concerns: If nobody reads it, what’s the point? What if people actually do read it and I run out of things to say? What if I upset people?

I realized, though, that all of the thoughts that were stopping me were based in fear. If I were to choose love, what choice would I make? To start the blog, for no real reason other than the fact that I truly believe I would love doing it.

I’ve also noticed the love vs. fear phenomenon in the ways I react to everyday situations. Say I got super lost on the way to a doctor’s appointment and was probably going to be late. One option would be to go into full-on panic mode, worrying about all the things that are probably definitely going to go wrong and what if I miss the whole appointment and have to come back next week or maybe she has no more appointments this spring so I’ll have to wait until August or what if I drive around for so long that I run out of gas without noticing and get stranded in the middle of nowhere and my cell phone dies and I get eaten by a saber tooth tiger?!?!?!

That would obviously be a fear-based reaction. But I don’t have to react like that. I have a choice. What if I reminded myself in that moment to choose love? I would think, “Well now Maria we might miss that appointment but we’re doing our darned best to find the place, and that’s all we can do right now!” I could choose even more love by taking a deep breath and reminding myself how beautiful the sunshine is today. I could even decide that if I do miss the appointment, I’ll use that time to go for a walk outside or play my mandolin or call somebody I’ve been missing.

Of course, I don’t always remember to choose love in time. I’ve had plenty of experiences like the above where I inadvertently choose fear, and I’m working on that. Training a brain to behave differently than it’s used to can take quite a while apparently. Who knew?

Being afraid doesn’t usually feel like a choice. In a scary situation, a scared response can feel logical, involuntary, and even necessary. But I think that’s just fear trying to convince us to follow it. If we listen carefully, we can hear love making its own argument too. And then we can choose which voice to follow. And because my goal is to squeeze as much star fruit juice out of life as I possibly can, I choose love. And not just on my eyelashes.

With love,