The Scientific Method (part 2)

To review from the last post, the scientific method is essentially a 4 part process that can be applied almost anywhere, or to anything: 1) ask a question, 2) create a hypothesis, 3) do an experiment to test the hypothesis, and 4) analyze the results and drawn conclusions. In this post, we will use this approach to explore how to make become happier. 

The method first starts with a question— Am I happy? If the answer to this is yes, and you do not feel like you have improvements to make, you can skip the rest of this article. If you feel there is some room for improvement, continue asking questions: What is causing my unhappiness? Why am I not content? Asking these questions should lead to a hypothesis about the problem you are facing. 

An alternative way of approaching this is to examine the life of someone whom you admire, and ask what is different about the way that person lives, compared to myself. If taking this approach, be careful— our temptation is to focus on abstract things, like “She’s got more money than I do,” rather than concrete things, like “She exercises every day.” Try and focus on the latter. 

Once you’ve formulated your hypothesis, its time to do an experiment to test it. This is key. Absent winning the lottery, its hard to test the hypothesis that a bunch of money will make you happy (the data says by and large no). But, if your hypothesis is exercising every day will make me happy, try it. If you hypothesis is that spending more time with my family will make me happy, give it a go. Do it for a while, a couple of weeks at least. Then, reflect and analyze what you have tried in order to draw a conclusion. Did exercising every day in fact make you happier? Did working longer hours make you feel better? Did spending more time with your family improve things? There is now way to know for sure except to try it. 

I understand this whole process may seem kind of silly, or a bit forced and contrived. I know you may be thinking to yourself, “I can figure it out without trying it.” Or, “I don’t want to try it.” Or, “I know what would happen anyway.” I would argue that until you actually try making a change, its difficult to know if it is, in fact, beneficial, or to know just how beneficial it is. So, here’s an idea. Commit to try the process for one month. Pick two areas where you will experiment, and use the method. See how it works. Instead of trusting me about whether or not this whole idea works, try it for yourself. Come up with your own conclusions about if this process is helpful.