The objective approach: let’s get science-y about life.

Blitz Nerd FitnessBack in another life I used to be a lab nerd. My profession focused on doing the exact same procedure over and over again, hundreds if not thousands of times, in order to find an answer to a question. I remember my first lesson in the objective approach happened 2 years into my job:

I walked into my boss’ office and slammed my note book and lab coat on the floor in absolute frustration – yes I just threw a hissy fit, give me a break it was 8 years ago – I began mumbling incomprehensibly about a failed 10 experiments that took up the latter part of two weeks to do.  The results were all over the place and didn’t give anything worth while. My boss with a blank face told me:

“Do it again.”

Since I was employed by her, I picked my gear up off the floor and sulked back to my lab station. The next week was about as torturous as being strapped into a theatre chair and watching a Steven Seagal marathon with the action scenes in extra slow motion.

Do the experiment, get the result, crumple the piece of paper with the result, perfect swish into the garbage can, modify experiment, repeat again….nothing worked.

At the end of the week I walked into my boss’ office looking disheveled, overworked, and about a hairs diameter away from committing seppuku. We scraped the project after that and my spirits were about as low as the budget I just blew through. My boss looked at me and said one thing:

“You need to stop internalizing this.”

I laughed maniacally (you know that laugh I do in classes… that one but more self-deprecating, now you know where I got it from) but I knew she was right. This was probably one of the most important lessons I learned in my career in research. Stop putting unnecessary emotional value in experiences and outcomes.  I’m not saying that we should be cold and dis-passionate; if you know me I live my life with an unbridled zest for life. It’s that we should stop acting with the intent of an outcome in mind. We should avoid internalizing everything that we do and defining ourselves and future experiences with it. Passion is fully expressed when we’re focused on everything in life and not simply one thing. Here are three main principles to the objective approach that I use every day:

  1. Intuition isn’t fact: Yes your gut is one of the most reliable things to trust but it shouldn’t be the only decision maker. Remember your intuition was built on experience; it’s like a muscle that needs exercise. The only way to build a stronger intuition is to do more things in life. Make some mistakes and learn from them!
  2. The outcome doesn’t define you: whether we’re talking about a result from an exam or experiment, weight, measurements, a negative or a positive experience, it’s just that, a part of life. If we define ourselves purely through artificial measurements and outcomes we’re only looking at one facet of our lives. We’re complex beings with characters and personalities that are constantly evolving.
  3. Repeat, repeat, repeat: positive outcomes are built through discipline and effort. To build a proper habit whether that’s: exercise, thinking more positively, or trying new things, you must repeat the action again and again while making some minor adjustments from what was learned last time.

So be a life scientist, practice objectivity!

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About Chris Tse

I’m a scientist turned owner of Blitz Conditioning, a Fitness Columnist at CBC Radio on Thursdays at 8:20 am, and owner of Tse Social Strategy. Follow me on Twitter or Read my full bio.

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