The Scientific Method

Back at the start of my nutrition degree — which was actually a bachelor of science with a specialisation in nutrition — the professors drilled into us from the very first day the importance of the scientific method.

They didn’t care that most of us were just there for the meal plans.

They were going to turn every last millennial one of us into scientists, dammit, and we’d better learn to get our hypotheses straight, test them diligently, and reason out the meaning of the results.

I often think about how little this mental rigour is applied to the rest of our lives.

It’s strange, don’t you think? That in a time where data is our most valuable currency, so few of us turn the microscope on ourselves?

We all come out of education literate in language and the mechanics of numbers, maybe able to find a river on a map and to debate on vaguely controversial topics.

We don’t learn about ourselves, though.

Even though we will spend far more time being us than we will ever spend doing algebra or verb conjugation, we never become literate in our own emotions, or in the mechanics of our own minds.

Many of us launch into adulthood unable to find a sense of identity within our own bodies, or to reason out an argument about what we care most about.

I wonder if people in the future will look back at our lack of emotional and psychological education with the same horror that today we look at, say, a tonic of arsenic as an afternoon pick-me-up.

Without a more structural way to figure this stuff out, it’s up to us to decide how well we want to know ourselves.

For me, the answer is entirely. I am can’t help turning over every stone, and would much rather see something gross wriggling away than leave it undisturbed and have to wonder about it forever after.

That might not be true for you, and that’s OK. It’s totally your call.

But if you do want to get below the surface and figure out what you really think, what you really want, and what you might do all that, then I’d like to invite you to start tracking the trends and anomalies of your interior life, just by writing them down.

In science we call this ‘making observations’. Very technical.

Just start observing your life, or maybe just a corner of your life. Maybe just your interactions with one person. Do this repeatedly over a long period of time to collect a meaningful sample of data.

Then look for patterns: what do your records show? What shows up again and again in your observations? Is there anything that surprises you, now that you see it in writing? What stands out as unusual?

This record-keeping — aka journalling — is a small first step towards identifying the stuff that might be just outside your normal awareness day-to-day. The more you do, the more data you’ll have to make decisions with, and the better your decisions are likely to be.

The scientific method is how breakthroughs happen. Steal 20 minutes for yourself this weekend and see where your observations take you.