Designing a social experiment that makes people uncomfortable.
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. — Marcel Proust, ‘In Search of Lost time’ (1909)
Most humans are creatures of habit. Right from when we are babies, we love to be put into a routine. Studies prove that we are our most productive when we follow a predictable pattern in our daily life. Sudden change in our environment and unpredictability attributes to our innate fear of the unknown and hence the discomfort with breaking out of a routine.
Yet, there are other theories that say ‘Change is good’. It makes us see beyond the tunnel vision that we feel so safe within. More so, with a little discomfort, it allows us to explore alternate possibilities and experiences, which we may or may not like, and makes us realize our untapped potential. There are people who live and thrive in this grey area of uncertainty. It is a very small percentage of the population. And those are the ones who we call trailblazers and change-makers.
But what about the other 98% of us? Don’t we all somewhere want to be thought-starters, trailblazers, visionaries, leaders? Don’t we all sometimes wish we could break-free from the mundane? Don’t we all want to be healthy and happy?
A while ago, I conducted a few social experiments to challenge people’s routine behavior. I designed a game called Crazy Compass and a web-feature prototype on Google Maps that purposely makes people feel lost and uncomfortable.
I tested it on a handful of pedestrians in the busy streets of London and the feedback was that people essentially like to be 2 versions of themselves–one that’s productive and one that’s exploratory. These two versions may or may not coincide, but, the secret sauce to sanity and happiness is to be able to surface these 2 versions from time to time.
Scientists actually attribute routine behavior to a diminished conscious attention and mindfulness with which we perform our day to day activities. Meditation and mindfulness is not about sitting in the lotus pose with your eyes shut. It’s about paying attention to the small things you do everyday. And then often, doing them differently.