Lifestyle Experiments

Have you ever stopped and wondered why some people seem to have such a zest and passion for life? You hear their stories and get a certain vicarious rush while you sit idly in your recliner. You will have to forgive the sarcasm, but I just can’t understand why more people don’t do the little things that add value and fullness to their life.

I was recently introduced to the term “lifestyle experiments.” I have a number of friends who have tried lifestyle experiments and didn’t even realize it. For example at a recent life group meeting two families indicated that they had decided to cut their cable television and see how it impacted their family – a lifestyle experiment. In a more radical example, author Colin Wright packs his bags and goes and lives in a new country and culture (one decided on by his readers) for four months at a time. Lifestyle experiments are a great way to find new experiences and test styles of living without making a forever commitment.

As I was listening to a podcast by Natalie Sisson (The Suitcase Entrepreneur) I realized that I have been engaging in lifestyle experiments for some time.  The latest has been an experiment in ministry. Spending a lot of time on the road means eating alone in a lot of new places. I found that asking to be seated in the bar area provides several benefits (and no its not the readily available alcohol). First, I tend to get my order processed a lot quicker and second, I get to meet new people.  It was during one of these dinner outings I decided to engage in my most recent experiment.

I arrived at Chili’s about 4:30 in the afternoon and counting the barmaid there where the only two people in the place. I asked her if it was always this dead and she responded, “No, things will really pick up about 7:00 pm.” She was very attentive, but after my water glass was emptied for the second time, I had to call her over to get some more. “Oh, I am so sorry she said – there is just a lot on my mind right now.” At that point I got the Reader’s Digest version of her life story. It was the reverse of most bar situations – she was pouring out her life and woes to me.

It was at that moment I realized how many people, with very little prompting are willing to share the cares and burdens of their lives. In most cases they are longing for someone to listen. I decided that from that point in time forward I would try to engage people in casual conversation and see how many, without prompting, would open up and share personal and intimate details of their life. The results have been amazing. After over a dozen such encounters, all but two people shared extremely personal accounts. John was going through a divorce, Naomi’s daughter was having a heart valve replacement done, Cindy (the barmaid) was a single mom working two jobs to make ends meet and feeling extremely guilty she couldn’t be home with her 10 year old daughter.

Next I decided to expand the experiment to see what would happen if I said, “Can I pray with you?” I was prepared to be cussed out or called some kind of religious fanatic, but the reaction was a combination of shock and surprise. “What?” or “Come Again.” After their initial reaction to my question the universal response was, “That would be amazing – thank you.”

Now that I know what lifestyle experiments are I can’t wait to try some more. I am excited about introducing new things in my life and seeing what happens.  You don’t have to travel to Africa or the South Pacific for a great adventure – make a lifestyle change and see how it impacts your life (or the life of others).

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