Applying an empirical mindset to your daily life

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As an agile coach, my role is steeped in empiricism. It’s a principle on which Agile and the Scrum framework rest, allowing us to adapt in complex projects with unpredictable aspects.

Empiricism, at its core, involves making decisions based on observed and tested phenomena. It’s about learning from experience, adjusting our actions based on what we see working or not working, and continually seeking to improve. Interestingly, the principles behind this methodology can bring profound value to anyone’s personal life – when appropriately applied.

This article will explore how to incorporate an empirical mindset into everyday life, helping you to navigate the unpredictable and the complex. Empiricism leans on three pillars: transparency, inspection, and adaptation. Though these pillars sound a bit scientific and clinical, for the sake of this article, I will rename them as follows: clarity, understanding and progress. Let’s explore each of these elements. We’ll also see how they can apply to everyday life.

Photo by Julia Koblitz on Unsplash

Transparency for ‘clarity’

In Scrum, transparency means everyone shares an understanding of the situation. It’s about open communication, trust, and sharing. In your daily life, clarity means being honest with yourself and others. You openly acknowledge your strengths, weaknesses, emotions, desires, and fears. This self-awareness aids in decision-making and improves relationships. Let’s say you have a goal to get healthier. If you’re clear about it, you can track your progress openly. You can get support from others. And, importantly, you can hold yourself accountable.

Inspection for ‘understanding’

The next pillar, inspection, involves regular checks. In Scrum, we inspect progress and processes to detect unwanted variances. In daily life, understanding translates to self-reflection and mindfulness. You regularly assess your behaviors, decisions, and habits. This allows you to understand if they’re bringing you closer to your goals. Suppose you want to be more productive. You could periodically inspect how you spend your time each day. You could identify patterns of wasted time. Then, you can understand the changes you need to make.

Adaptation for ‘progress’

The final pillar, adaptation, is about making changes. In Scrum, if an inspection shows the project is off track, we make changes. In life, this means having the courage and resilience to change things. If your inspections show certain habits or choices are detrimental, it’s time to adapt. For example, if you find that your late-night screen time affects your sleep and productivity, change that habit.

Applying empiricism in your life

These pillars provide a framework for empirical living. However, everyone’s life is different. The complexities you face are unique. The purpose of an empirical mindset is to provide tools for understanding complexities. It doesn’t offer a prescriptive answer. From my own personal experiences, I can share three ways I successfully apply an emprical mindset.

✅ Tip 1: Life’s personal ‘Sprints’

One way to incorporate an empirical mindset by implementing personal ‘sprints’. In Scrum, we use ‘sprints’. Sprints are short, focused periods of work. They allow teams to set specific goals and work towards them. We then review our progress at the end. Personal sprints apply the same concept to our everyday lives. They can help us structure our time and efforts effectively. They can assist us in setting and achieving personal goals. The review at the end of a sprint is a powerful tool. It offers insights into what we did well and what we could improve. So, why should we use personal sprints? Personal sprints allow us to break down larger goals into manageable parts. This makes goals feel less overwhelming and more achievable. They provide a framework for regular self-reflection. They encourage us to continuously adapt and improve. This aligns perfectly with the principles of the empirical mindset.

Now, let’s discuss how to implement personal sprints. First, you need to define the duration of your sprint. A week is a good starting point. However, feel free to adjust the duration based on your needs. The key is to keep it short enough to maintain focus, yet long enough to see progress. Once you’ve defined your sprint duration, set your goals. Be specific about what you want to achieve during the sprint. Ensure the goals are realistic and achievable within the time frame. Once the sprint ends, take the time to review your progress. Ask yourself: What went well? What could improve? Use the answers to these questions to adapt your approach for the next sprint.

✅ Tip 2: Embracing a growth mindset

Embracing a growth mindset is another way to apply an empirical mindset. A growth mindset, as proposed by psychologist Carol Dweck, stands in contrast to a fixed mindset. Individuals with a fixed mindset believe that qualities like intelligence and talent are fixed traits. They believe they’re unable to change these traits significantly. But those with a growth mindset view these qualities as malleable. They believe abilities can develop with dedication and hard work. This mindset is pivotal for an empirical approach to life. Why? Because it aligns with the principles of empiricism. With a growth mindset, you view challenges as opportunities for learning and development. This parallels the empirical process. In empiricism, we encounter problems or uncertainties. Then, we form hypotheses, test them, and learn from the outcomes.

A growth mindset promotes resilience. It’s an important trait in the face of adversity or failure. Individuals with a growth mindset are more likely to persevere when they face obstacles. They see these obstacles as part of the learning process, not as insurmountable hurdles. Fostering a growth mindset involves consciously changing how we view abilities and intelligence. It requires us to replace our fixed mindset with a belief that we can grow. This change doesn’t happen overnight. It requires constant practice and commitment.

Tip 3: The power of pauses

Lastly, make a habit of frequent ‘pauses’ in your daily life. Pausing is powerful. It provides an opportunity for reflection amidst our busy lives. We often overlook this simple act. Yet, it’s key to implementing an empirical mindset in our daily routines. So, why are these pauses necessary? Life is fast-paced. We get caught up in tasks, errands, and obligations. This can cause us to lose sight of the bigger picture. We often continue in our routines without questioning if they’re serving us well. Incorporating frequent pauses in our lives has many benefits. They give us time to reflect. They allow us to assess our habits, decisions, and routines. We can identify what’s working and what’s not. This gives us valuable insights. These insights can guide us in making meaningful changes. By doing this, we embody the empirical pillars of inspection and adaptation.

How can we incorporate pauses in our busy schedules? It’s simpler than it might seem. Start by setting aside short periods of quiet, uninterrupted time. Even a few minutes can be enough. Use this time to check in with yourself. Reflect on your actions, feelings, and thoughts. You might want to keep a journal to note down these reflections. Once you’re in the habit of pausing and reflecting, start using your insights. Identify patterns in your behavior. Spot any habits or decisions that are not serving you well. Recognize your victories, no matter how small they seem. This process of observation and reflection will provide you with the information you need. It will guide you towards beneficial changes.


Living empirically is about taking a proactive approach to life. It’s about choosing to drive your life rather than being a passenger. It encourages transparency with oneself, regular inspection of our life, and the bravery to adapt. While the empirical approach is very useful from a Scrum Master’s perspective, its principles offer valuable life lessons. They’re for everyone wanting to enhance their daily life and personal growth!