Towards the end of a coaching session, coaches might ask clients, “And how might you experiment with this topic in between sessions?”
For me, the language of experimentation is both deliberate and freeing, because if a client sets an intention to do something, both achieving and not achieving the intention provide equally rich data:
Great, you achieved it! What did that give you?
Great, you didn’t manage it! What most stopped you from doing it?
When we’re in experimental mode, all information is data so we can notice WITHOUT JUDGEMENT and stay curious and open to learning.
Ive been reflecting on this in relation to my own intention for 2023, which is to finish writing my book by the end of the year.
I spent Jan/Feb in experimental mode, with a view to discover how and when and where I best write.
It’s week 3 in Feb and I haven’t written a word!
Far from feeling like a failure, the experiment has yielded some incredibly rich and useful insights:
Firstly, I seduced myself with the siren’s call call of ‘when I…then I’ll…’ ‘When I clear the decks, then I’ll be able to write.” I got REALLY busy trying to tie up all of the loose ends of my life to achieve a clean slate; an impossible mission, naturally.
I then realised that I equated any request with a sense of urgency, as though there was a huge Countdown clock ticking away in the room with me, creating urgency where there was none.
I noticed I was prioritising paid work over creative work. After all, no one is paying me to write a book.
In short, the time I carved out to write was easily over-ridden with tasks that were either paid, perceived as urgent or simply on my To Do list.
These insights are all invaluable to me. The ‘not writing’ has yielded some useful data allowing me to refine and adapt my approach to counter these blocks. My new experiment looks like:
I have put an auto-reply on my emails stating that I split my time between coaching and writing and therefore don’t always check my in-box daily.
I have booked two days a month out in my diary for writing to protect my creative time. Two days is not such a huge commitment that I feel torn by other demands, but it’s enough that I can make progress.
I am paying myself for each writing day and putting the money towards a writing retreat later in the year. (If anyone knows of a small garret in Paris, I am interested!)
So, it's a good example of how experimentation can work. It’s allowed me to stay in an open and curious place about my creative process rather than judging myself and closing myself down with criticism.
It’s offered me clear ways for me to adapt my approach and stay in a growth mindset, genuinely interested in what a writing regimen looks like for me.
When we experiment, the aim is to notice, without judgement, in order to appraise the data and readjust the experiment. There is kindness in this approach this is intrinsically motivating and supportive.
So, if you have an intention, goal or project for 2023, might you benefit from chunking your actions down into small experiments? (Hint; yes. The answer's yes!)