Experiment to find what works

Have you ever found yourself doing something the exact same way you have for years?

In general, once we find a behaviour, a routine, or an approach that works, we tend to stick with it. But every now and then, something that used to work well for us can become the same exact thing that’s keeping us stuck, and it is then, when it’s crucial to experiment to find what (else) works.

For years, I tended to write in a certain way – with minimal drafts. I would typically write my uni assignments in one go (after a long period of thinking about it so my ideas tended to be rather well-formed by the time I sat down to write). Once I’d sit down, I would write and edit as I went. And it worked quite well for me. It worked for a certain, specific purpose. It was my strategy for ‘university assignment writing’, which I’d developed after years and years of doing it.

Over time, and without me realising, this writing strategy had generalised – it spread to other kinds of writing. So when I wrote my CVs, cover letters, and other bits and bobs, I approached it in the same way – I’d sit down, think, write and rewrite each sentence so it came out as one satisfactory piece I could ‘submit’ right away. Now this didn’t mean I would write well or quickly. Sometimes I would force it to come out, which’d leave me sitting at my desk (procrastinating and feeling terrible) for hours on end. But that was the strategy I knew, I was used to, and while (looking at it now with the beauty of hindsight) quite unhealthy and unhelpful, it served a purpose once upon a time.

This same old way of doing something really started to shoot me in the foot once I began to make the transition to non-university (non-APA) style of writing. When it was just my thoughts and ideas. When it was just my voice. It was a more creative and free style of writing. It was the style of writing I admired in those who inspired me with the written word. And this is when I began to get really really stuck. Because anyone who’s a writer knows, you cannot produce a good (certainly not a great) piece of writing without a few (rather many) drafts.

It was a while until I realised that I needed to experiment with my writing to find what works for this new purpose. I needed to switch to a beginner’s mind and try new things. Even if they didn’t feel comfortable right away. Even if I desperately wanted to just sit down, write, and be done with it (like I used to). I had to shift not only my mindset, but a deeply ingrained habit. I needed to lean in to the discomfort of growth.

The simple truth is – if we want to grow, we must learn new tricks.

If something isn’t quite working, or is no longer working as well as it used to – experiment to find another way. Whether it is your writing, or communication in your relationship, or finding exercise or a hobby that you love. Whether it is the way you go about your daily activities, the way you work, create, manage, parent, take care of yourself, or anything in between. Anything. If you’re feeling stuck, try to do something differently.

Try a new strategy and reflect on your experience.

Try another and seek feedback.

Try and learn and try and learn…

It may be uncomfortable in the beginning, because it takes time and effort to learn (or re-learn), and this is precisely when you need to ask yourself:

“Is it worth trying if there’s a chance it will help me get unstuck?”


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