The Positivity Experiment

Every couple of years I do a yearlong self-experiment. In 2013, I did a year without alcohol, in 2016, a year without shopping. I loved these experiments because both times, I met the most amazing people who—most likely—I wouldn’t have met otherwise and had experiences I could have never expected. I learned so much about life, about myself, it was mind-blowing. So when 2018 drew to a close, I was totally antsy to start another challenge. Every three years seemed appropriate for big endeavors like this. The only problem was: I didn’t know what to focus on in 2019.

What I did know was that the term ‘Year Without’ I’ve used before suddenly felt wrong to me. It makes it sound as if I have to give up something and suffer through 365 days until I can pick up the precious habit again. Not so. First off, both not drinking and not shopping turned out to be much, much easier than anticipated. So, no suffering involved in either case. And I guess the fact that I don’t drink alcohol anymore and have turned into a minimalist who frequents clothing swaps and the local library tells you that I haven’t given up a lot. Pretty much from the beginning, these projects were about eliminating something from my life that did not feel right for me anymore anyway and about making more room for what matters to me, giving myself room to grow.

That’s a pretty high benchmark to meet for any self-experiment, and that’s why I struggled for the past months trying to come up with my 2019 challenge. But finally, three days ago, something clicked and there it was: The Positivity Experiment.

So, from here on out—until the end of the year or next January or beyond that—I shall live my life based on the assumption that whatever is going on in my life is positive, at least to a certain extent, and serves some good or purpose. This may sound easier to you than kicking the booze or giving Nordstrom’s a wide berth, but I have a hunch that it’ll be a much greater challenge.

For even if I won’t use the term ‘Year Without’ going forward, there’s a lot of stuff that’s got to go because it all falls into the negativity category: bitching, whining, judging, gossiping, and panicking, for starters. A year without complaining, if you want to call it that. That’s pretty big for me—I’m German, after all, and constant complaining is highly socially acceptable where I am from originally.

I feel that this year’s The Positivity Experiment will allow me to take my ‘brain rewiring’ I’ve been working on for a while now to a totally new level. Of course I realize that I cannot spend a year feeling only positive emotions and thinking only positive thoughts. There will still be fear and doubt and anger and whatnot, and I am not planning to suppress these because that would be counterproductive. But I am committed to finding healthy ways of acknowledging these emotions and thoughts—journaling, for instance—and making smart decisions about which of them deserve more of my attention and which I want to (and can) let go right away. This may become one of the most interesting parts of the journey.

I don’t know if you get that sense by reading this text, but I. Am. So. Freaking. Excited. About. This! I have no idea what’s going to happen with a radically positive me—but I am totally convinced it’ll be good, really good! (See, I’ve started already!)

If you’re interested, I’ll post updates on The Positivity Experiment every once in a while, as I hope there’ll be lessons in there that will be worth sharing. Or maybe you are ready to dive in and join me on the journey? Or are you already an expert at this and have tips to share? No matter where you are, I’d love to hear about your experiences!