Clarity [3 Thought Experiments]
[3 Thought Experiments]
SUPERHUMAN SCORE: 8.38
Imagine a friend comes to you with a problem. You can usually solve it quickly, right? They should leave that toxic relationship!
If you’re anything like me, you’re better at giving other people advice than giving yourself advice.
Why is that? Because we’re often “too close” to our own problems.
In other words, we have blind spots caused by emotions, cognitive biases, or a lack of information. Typically, we get stuck because we cannot see all the options in front of us.
Enter the power of thought experiments.
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Thought experiments, also known as mental models, allow you to advance your thinking from new angles.
Let me give you an actionable example.
If you feel stuck making a decision, try the following thought experiment: If a friend came to you with this problem, what advice would you give them?
Or a thought experiment from a recent Tim Ferriss Podcast Episode (with Shane Parrish): What advice would [insert someone you admire] give you in this situation?
These simple reframes will help interrupt your default thought patterns (and open your mind to new solutions).
Acting on those new solutions—like leaving a toxic relationship—will require conscious courage. But awareness of the truth is often the first step.
In the next section, I’ll share 2 other powerful thought experiments (and when they’re best applied).
Thought Experiment #1: The Documentary Crew
“Live your life like you’re the hero in the movie…Live your life like there is a documentary crew following you around, and you’re analyzing your own behavior.”
That’s the best advice Joe Rogan said he’s ever received.
Thought experiment: What would you do—right now—if a documentary crew was following you around?”
When to use it: You’d like motivation or face an ethical decision. This thought experiment often nudges me to have a bias towards action—like going to the gym—even when I’m not in the mood. No one wants to watch a movie where the main character just scrolls through their phone. It’s a helpful nudge to do some main-character things with your day.
Thought Experiment #2: The Dickens Process
Are you familiar with “A Christmas Carol” (Charles Dickens' story)?
Three ghosts visit Scrooge, showing him his past, present, and future.
The Dickens Process—popularized by Tony Robbins—forces you to examine your top LIMITING beliefs across time zones.
Why this is important, according to Robbins:
“When we feel pain in one time zone—meaning past, present, or future—we just switch to another time zone rather than change, because change brings so much uncertainty and so much instability and so much fear to people.”
- Past: What has this belief cost you? What has it cost people you've loved? What have you lost because of this belief?
- Present: What is it costing you and those you care about right now?
- Future: What will it cost you and those you care about in 1, 3, 5, and 10 years?
When to use it: You’re ready to unlatch bad habits or limiting beliefs weighing you down. Not sure where to start? I wrote a popular post on “imaginary rules” that might be holding you back.
A few suggestions:
- Keep a digital note of your favorite thought experiments. I keep mine in Evernote (accessible on desktop and mobile).
- Create a shortcut so it’s easily visible and accessible. That way, you can return to the list frequently.
- If you feel stuck, try journaling your response (unfiltered) to a thought exercise prompt. Writing will help you think more clearly.
BRINGING IT HOME
“Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose.” —Coach Eric Taylor (Friday Night Lights)
Those were 3 life-changing thought experiments.
- Advice to a Friend
- Documentary Crew
- The Dickens Process
Wishing you clarity (and joy) in the week ahead!
All systems go,
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