Slicing Cucumbers and Testing Assumptions about Life

Slicing Cucumbers and Testing Assumptions about Life

Written by Emilie

Topics: Lifestyle Design

I was making a salad the other day. I washed the greens like I usually do, sliced an avocado, threw in a few raspberries and started chopping cucumber. I wasn’t really paying attention. I make a lot of salads and by now the process is pretty mechanical.

But as I began slicing the cucumber that day, I thought, what would happen if I made my slices a little thinner than usual? Would it change the overall taste of the salad? Hm.

In the past, I probably would have brushed the question aside and resumed my usual chopping routine. If something’s not broken, why fix it? as they say. But now my instinct is different. Now, instead of pressing on with the tried and true cucumber chop, my immediate reaction is, lets try it and see.


There are things we do every day, things to which we don’t give a second thought; the route we take to the store, the way we interact with our families, the thoughts that float into our heads. When we aren’t mindful or critical of our patterns, daily life can become one big routine.

Now, don’t get me wrong, routines are important. They protect us from information overload. If we had to ponder every minuscule decision each time it arose, we’d get exhausted. There’s no need to continually reinvent the wheel.

Sometimes when you find the best way of doing something, it’s worth sticking to. In fact, our brain’s ability to routinize small task is what makes it possible to achieve the big goals in life.

The Invisible Rules that Guide Us

The problem is that we sometimes prematurely assume that one way is the best way of doing something. We proceed blindly, without bothering to test the assumption.

We see the people around us going to school, specializing in one field, applying for jobs, settling down, buying houses. We see people who become complacent and remain at jobs they despise or stay in unsatisfying relationships. We assume that work and life are two distinct realms and that boredom at work is normal. There invisible rules are everywhere and we seldom question them.

Most people adopt these values blindly and build routines around them. They never ‘try something new and see‘…

Life as a Series of Experiments

Whether it’s monetizing your passions, taking a trip overseas, or slicing a cucumber differently, begin questioning the things you assume to be ‘just the way things are done’. Each time you wonder ‘what would happen if I did X instead?‘, consider trying it.

You may find that veering from routine makes only a slight difference (as I discovered with the cucumber experiment) or that you were happier with your previous choice. But at least you’ll know for sure. At least you won’t spend your life wondering, what if


  1. Lach says:

    I really like the mindset of life as a series of experiments. The emphasis shifts from trying to make something happen to questioning—let’s do this and see what happens. Let’s see if we can learn something new. It’s about curiosity, inquisitiveness, and a kind of detachment from outcome. And the bonus is that once you’ve detached from trying to get certain outcomes and prevent certain other outcomes, you’re free from so much you used to fear. You can’t fail at curiosity.

    • Emilie says:

      You’re right, you really can’t fail with this mindset. Even if something worked better the way you did it before, that’s just a discovery or outcome- something you learned through experimentation. It has nothing to do with failure because your ego was never involved.

      Adopting an inquisitive mindset has made a huge difference for me. It’s affected not only the big decisions, but my everyday activities and thought patterns too (as with the cucumber experiment). It’s been one of my favourite developments since getting into this whole life design world/blogosphere actually.

      I also love talking about this stuff with other people who ‘get it’. :)

      Thanks Lach. Oh and by the way, I watched Into the Wild the other night. Really enjoyed it! Thanks for the recommendation.

  2. Colleen says:

    did the salad taste better? curious…

  3. Thin slices of… Great!

    I call it questioning status quo is one of my old posts in my blog. Questioning certain routine and doing things differently or in an uncommon way has given me broader view on Life and a wider scope.

    Now I live in Africa, with a Global Mindset. Thanks to my friends in this DigiSphere: @mcorsano @LinkedMedia @emilie too. You guys help bring uncommon things out of me.

    Keep the flow emilie. Miss your articles!

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Jesse,

      Yes, questioning the status quo is always a worthwhile exercise. I like to mix up my routine too, both the big and small things. It’s like you said, gives you a broader view of what’s out there and what options are available.

      Thanks for the comment man! Hope all’s well over there.

  4. ainslie says:

    You had me at cucumbers, I love a good food metaphor! ;)

    Looking at life as a series of adventures or experiments is something I’ve been, well, experimenting with lately, and it’s a total perspective changer, I’m kind of hooked. I love the idea mentioned above that you can never fail at curiosity, it’s so true and a really freeing idea, to just try something with that mindset and know that whatever happens is ok because it’s an experiment! Honestly, one of the best remedies for anxiety that I’ve ever found. Actually, maybe the only one! Ha.

    • Emilie says:

      heh thanks Ainslie. In a sense this post itself was an experiment. I wanted to see if I could base a post around a really small idea like chopping cucumbers.

      You’re right, viewing life as a series of experiments really is a perspective changer and yup, totally addictive.

      Thanks for sharing. :)

  5. Wondering what if does nothing. We either regret no doing it or happy we tried it out. Great ( salad) post…Emilie.

    • Emilie says:

      Yup, agreed. People tend to regret inaction- those situations where they didn’t bother trying something due to fear and/or a closed mind- far more than action.

      Thanks Jonathan!

  6. Nick Laborde says:

    As much as I like to slander people who do things just because “that’s the way they’ve always done it”. I have to admit that I’m just as guilty. Even if it is as simple as the thickness of the cucumbers, as in your example.

    Just like driving a car, all it takes is one different turn and all of a sudden a whole new adventure appears. It may not be epic, but all kinds of different opportunities begin to reveal themselves.

    Thanks for the reminder that no matter how small the change my be, it can lead to big things.

    • Emilie says:

      I think you’re right, the new adventure might not be epic, but it’s more about the mindset- just remembering to break your routines on a regular basis. And some decisions WILL end up being epic. Lets not forget the famous quote from the late 90s teen drama ‘Felicity’: “Sometimes it’s the smallest decisions that can pretty much change your life forever.” (It was quoted in The Art of Non-Conformity too.)

      So true.

      heh.. thanks for the comment Nick.

  7. Anh says:

    Don’t forget to learn from other people’s experiments too!

    Try slicing in thin noodle like strips for a new twist!

    Yes testing is important but there isnt enough time to test every combination possible. Seek out those that have done it before. Rather then asking if you can make something better ask what the implication this improvement has on a macro level.

    Optimise for happiness!

    But yeah, experiments FTW

    • Emilie says:

      Good point about using other people’s experiments! (Have you read 4HB yet?)

      Also yeah, time is definitely important. This applies at the smallest level too. Like, in that moment I had to think, do I have time to cut thin cucumber slices? It’ll take about twice as long…

      I decided that I did have the time that day. But now when I’m making a salad, I always ask myself that same question. I know what the outcome is. It’s not necessarily better, but it’s different. Is that difference worth the time this day?

      Indeed. Optimize for happiness!

  8. Sam says:

    Very good post. When I remember, or when I’m feeling a bit dreary about my ‘routine’ I try to see life as an experiment. As you say, even thinking different thoughts or watching your thoughts and not being on automatic pilot is a break from the usual.

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