Unfortunately, we have all been programmed from a very young age to have a “pass/fail” mentality when it comes to accomplishing our goals. This pass/fail mentality almost certainly stems from our educational system being so focused on passing or failing tests versus achieving personal growth.

As children, we learned that when we “passed” some form of evaluation we were “good” or “smart,” and that when we “failed” an evaluation, we were “bad” or “dumb.” Passing or failing quickly became one of the main methods by which we, as young people, defined our self-worth. So, in other words, passing the test became less about the personal growth acquired through mastering the educational material and more about defining ourselves as “good enough.”

Your subconscious mind doesn’t see a difference between “failing” at some specific endeavor and being a “failure”
The word “fail” is problematic because, to our subconscious minds, there is little to no difference between “failing” to accomplish some task and “being a failure” as a person. Let’s just face it, it’s virtually impossible to change the negative feelings we have about the words “fail” and “failure” into something positive.

Again, the reason that we find it so difficult to turn a failure into something positive is that our subconscious minds – or hidden brains – learned long ago that passing meant good, right, smart, and being enough whereas failing meant bad, wrong, dumb, and not being enough. This deep programming of the hidden brain is not easily overridden by a conscious desire to turn a negative into a positive.

Now from the perspective of objective reality, failure can be a great teacher. Failing at something can make us stronger and provide new opportunities that would not have come to us if we had not failed. In spite of these objective truths about failure, however, most people do not reap the benefits of failure because their subconscious minds won’t let go of what they were taught about failing.

So, we are faced with a choice: we can continue deluding ourselves, believing that we can turn a negative into a positive when we know we will never feel that way – or we can accept the fact that we need to adopt a new mentality regarding how we approach the tasks and goals we try to accomplish in our lives.

Time to drop the pass/fail mentality and replace it with a new one
So, what is this new mentality that should replace our current pass/fail mindset? Instead of focusing on whether we pass or fail an endeavor, the new mentality is about discovering ways that work and don’t work to accomplish what we want. Yes, it is time to forget about pass/fail and replace it with discovering what works.

So what is the best approach to discovering ways that do and don’t work? The best and only method of discovering what works – free of the extreme positive and negative feelings associated with the pass/fail approach – is to conduct personal experiments.

This is how the process works: anytime you try to accomplish a task, instead of saying to yourself, “I am going to pass or fail at this,” or, “I am going to be successful or a failure at this,” say to yourself, “I am conducting a personal experiment to discover ways that work and don’t work that accomplish what I want.” That’s right, it’s not about passing or failing, nor is it about you being good enough or not.

This new way of thinking – of discovering ways to accomplish what you want – will free you to be as objective as any scientist, researcher, or inventor. When conducting an experiment, it’s all about finding a way or the ways that do and don’t work in order to achieve the results you are seeking. Often, discovering the way that doesn’t work can be very valuable in getting you closer to your goal because you’re able to avoid seeking to accomplish your task in that way in the future. By conducting personal experiments, you’ll discover the ways that don’t work and eliminate them, and then you’ll eventually find the ways that do work and repeat them.

Famous inventor Thomas Edison, in his quest to invent the light bulb, said, “I have not failed once. I have learned 10,000 ways that don’t work.” So, if you want to achieve the goals that you have for yourself, you must begin to root out the mentality of pass/fail and replace it with that of Edison: “I conduct personal experiments to discover ways that work and don’t work to accomplish what I want.”

Win, even when you lose
Changing your mentality from pass/fail to conducting personal experiments to discover ways that work will not completely shield you from the sting of finding a way that doesn’t work. No scientist, no matter how objective, is totally free from feeling down when an experiment reveals that he or she has found a way that does not give the hoped-for results.

So, although you may feel down when you discover a way that doesn’t work, you can invert this feeling by acknowledging the fact that by eliminating one more way that doesn’t work, you are closer to finding a way that does. So, by adopting the “conducting personal experiment to discover ways that work” mentality, you win – even when you lose. The truth of the matter is that you cannot lose as long as you continue conducting your experiments to find what works.

Keep very detailed notes about what works and what doesn’t work
As you conduct your personal experiments, it will be critical that you keep very detailed notes describing the ways that you’ve tried and how they did or didn’t work. No good scientist does experiments without documenting every step. The last thing you want is to conduct a personal experiment that works and not be able to recall the details of what you did.

So, as you continue to try to lose weight and get the health you want, it is important that you document the things you’ve tried. For example, you may conduct an experiment on how sleeping 7 to 8 hours a night affects your weight loss versus sleeping 5 to 6 hours a night. Or you may conduct an experiment that compares the effects of eating only 60 grams of carbs a day, 7 days a week, to eating only 60 grams of carbs during the week and allowing yourself to have 120 grams of carbs on each day of the weekend. Or you may even decide to test how doing meditation or yoga three times a week affects your weight loss as opposed to doing no form of stress relief.

If you don’t see what you do as an experiment that you’re testing and keep track of the results, you will largely operate in the dark and will likely lose your way, not discovering the ways that work.

Keep a daily journal of what and how you eat, sleep, drink, exercise, stress, relax, etc., and their effects on your weight loss. Use the Personal Experiment Log Sheet on the last page to track your experiments.

Doing personal experiments can bring unforeseen opportunities, even from ways that don’t work
By the time of his death, Thomas Edison had more than 2,000 patents worldwide. Regarding these patents, he said, “I make more mistakes than anyone else I know, and sooner or later, I patented most of them.”

Another big benefit of conducting personal experiments, even if they don’t achieve the results you desire, is that they can expose opportunities that you otherwise would not have discovered. Countless stories can be cited of inventors and innovators who made world-changing discoveries accidentally – when they didn’t get the results they were originally trying to achieve. Had it not been for their attempts that did not work, their discoveries would not have been possible or even thought of.

The fear of failure that originates from the pass/fail mentality may have been what has blocked new and unforeseen opportunities from coming your way. If you’re in need of a breakthrough opportunity, you should certainly start conducting personal experiments to get what you want, and maybe you’ll even discover opportunities that you didn’t expect along the way.

There is never just one way to achieve what you want
One of the main purposes of conducting personal experiments is the fact that they are “personal.” Everybody is different. We all have different pasts, beliefs, minds, bodies, and genetic make-ups. A way that works for some will not necessarily work for all. One of the biggest mistakes we can make when trying to accomplish our goals is believing that there is just one right way.

As you start to conduct your own personal experiments, stay open to trying out new ways in order to test if they work for you or not. Now, this is not to say that you can’t have preferences, but never get too attached to one way over another. If you become too attached to one way and that way does not work – or stops working – you will become stuck.

The other point to consider here is that before you conclude that a way does not work, be totally honest with yourself and make sure that you’ve tried your best to give the way a chance to work. There is no such thing as a good, lazy scientist. If a scientist doesn’t work hard on experiments to test whether a certain way works or not, he or she cannot arrive at any meaningful conclusions. You don’t need anyone to tell you when you’ve done your best. Just keep it “real” with yourself!

Mindset is everything. Under the pass/fail mentality, you inevitably ride the wild rollercoaster of extreme positive and negative emotions attached to passing or failing. These dramatic impacts on your mood will inhibit you from being able to objectively discover the ways that work for you and those that don’t.

It is only through discovering the ways that don’t work and eliminating them, while discovering the ways that work and repeating them, that you can achieve your goals. So, from now on, when people ask what you are up to with this project or that project, say to them “I am conducting a personal experiment to discover ways that work or don’t work to accomplish what I want.” You cannot lose if you stick to this mentality!