Personal Experiments

How did these personal experiments start? In 2014, after jumping head-first into the world of personal development, I realized that there is no shortage of magic formulas, hacks, and clickbaits for overnight success. To maximize the personal impact, I needed to read good content, apply, and test it with myself. Thus, personal experiments were born.

Personal Experiments are 30 day challenges to adopt new habits. The goal of these experiments is to improve an area of life, apply the forever learning principle (reflect, learn and improve), and grow through life.

Identifying the areas of life to improve with Experiments

Experiments are done to improve a specific area of life (health etc.). However, improving one area of life also has an affect on another area of life.

The area of life to experiment with or what exactly to improve is identified through reflection (via journaling). The prompt of “What is the most impactful change I can bring to grow?” helps with that.

The blog post, 8 Different Areas of Life to Improve, goes over how you can identify areas of life to improve. My 2016’s reflection in which I ranked myself in each of these categories may also give you guidance on how to do that yourself.

Cold Exposure for Health & Performance

Dopamine is the primary brain chemical responsible for making us feel motivated to do things. High levels of dopamine have been linked to increased motivational functions – physical (move, exercise, etc) or cognitive (learn, work on a computer etc). Whereas, low-levels of dopamine are found in people who report lack of motivation or are depressed. Taking a cold shower or cold-water plunges are proven to increase dopamine levels by 250%

Problem and Goal: Showers are taken every morning. How can one optimize this daily ritual to also get a boost of dopamine for a productive day ahead and train for resilience and grit?

Experiment Setup: Take a could shower or cold plunge 3-5 times a week to increase dopamine levels, build resilience and grit, and measure its effect on the daily productivity.

Experiment Results and Learnings

  • From 2016 to 2018, I attempted cold showers about a dozen times. Each time it stress it caused in the anticipation of it was much higher than the boost in dopamine after it. Thus, I decided to not do it and focus on other ways of increasing dopamine in the morning like exercise.
  • Recently, from 2023, I revisited this experiment and slowly progressed into being comfortable with cold showers. Starting with low temperatures until I reach a temperature recommended in the research study. Furthermore, as the body built resilience to cold temperature and mental challenge decreased, it became easier to do them. Now, I practice them 3-5 times a week for 3 minutes. I have noticed boost in focus, mood, and energy levels in the morning.

Inspiration and Additional Reading: The Science & Use of Cold Exposure for Health & Performance – Huberman Lab

Optimize Sleep Quality for Health & Performance

Sleep is the single most important factor for mental and physical health. Lack of sleep or poor sleep is linked to all kinds of health implications. Thus, it became a no-brainer to optimize sleep and use it as a leading indicator for health and performance.

Problem and Goal: Due to a variety of known and unknown factors, I have had not the best sleep. These factors were resulting in lower quality of sleep and interruptions throughout the night. My estimation was about ~2 hours a night which accumulates to about 30 days (720 hours) of poor sleep per year!

Experiment Setup: Unlike other experiments, this experiment involves a lot of variables. First, the sleep environment was optimized with as much darkness as possible, ensure minimal noise, and reduce distractions by keeping devices away. Then, other factors of exercise, stress, diet, and purpose also impact sleep.

Experiment Results and Learnings

Since 2016, this has been a constant experiment to continuously improve sleep quality. It is a leading indicator of overall health. Thus, I measure it with an Apple Watch for qualitative factors and with a journal for qualitative factors (how good was my sleep?).

Avoiding to make excuses (and learnings)

Most of the life’s valuable things are hard. Building a career, having good health, finding a good partner, and raising a family. Upon self-reflection, I realized that I was often complaining or making excuses about hard things.

Here are the three lessons I learned from conditioning myself to not complain about hard things.

  • Excuses make you avoid learning the real problem – “I am not going to start a business because the economy is not doing well” is likely an excuse for not having confidence in your business venture. Whenever you make an excuse, ask yourself, is this truly the reason or an easy way out for me?
  • Excuses make you focus on what could go wrong – Humans are wired to avoid failure but in todays world, there is more rewards for taking (calculated) risks than the world of yesterday (in which taking a risk could mean getting eaten by another predator).

Take extreme ownership (and no excuses) approach to your building your life.

Status: Practising Everyday

Review: In the beginning it was difficult as much of small talk with others is complaining – “I am tired. It’s been a bad day. I hate commuting or my job etc.”. Overtime, I got better and began to surround myself with people who complain less.

Relevant Blog Posts: It is All Your Fault, How to Make Difficult Decisions, & Accepting Uncertain Life Path & Purpose.

Understand subconscious with a dream journal

Dreams tap into our subconcious and reveal our mindset. Keeping track of dreams with a dream journal can help provide insight into our waking lives.

Problem and Goal: Build mindset muscle (like any other physical strength muscle) by working through the fears and insights revealed from dream journals.

Experiment Setup: Train oneself to remember dreams and record them. Analyze after for insight and recurring themes.

Experiment Results and Learnings

From 2014 to 2017, I kept a dream journal which identified recurring themes and negative emotions. I paused in 2017, to implement the insights from dreams so far.

Began again in 2023, to see changes in patterns or thinking.

Relevant Blog Posts: Thoughts = Action Signals

Keep a journal to reflect and grow

Experiments Journal Jawwad Siddiqui

I noticed that most successful people I admired kept a journal. From Einstein, Bruce Lee, to Leonardo Da Vinci and many more.

Problem and Goal: Keep a journal to reflect and grow in every area of life as I grow through life.

Experiment Setup: Carry a pen and a journal with me in my bag pack.

Experiment Results & Learning:

Note: This experiment has turned into a passion project and you can learn more at Journaling Habit – Learn and Improve Your Journaling Habit!

Began in 2012 and have kept the habit of keeping a journal. I share my practice, improving the skill of journaling and much more at

Relevant Blog Posts: See blog posts at Journaling Habit – Learn and Improve Your Journaling Habit

Track time to be able to optimize its use

Calendar - Live By It

After I started practicing GTD methodology for “stress-free productivity”, I realized that I still was not able to execute on it somehow. I had a to-do list for “today”, “tomorrow” or “someday” etc. However, I noticed that things that were in my calendar (meetings, appointments, calls etc) always got done.

Experiment Status and Learning

It does get a bit cumbersome and counter-productive to enter everything into your calendar. Early on I have made the mistake of stacking all activities side-by-side, however, I am getting better at making schedules that optimize my productivity, energy levels, and will power.

Relevant Blog Posts: Grade Yourself

Reduce noise by turning off all notifications

On my quest to improve my focus, the GTD methodology helped me realized that my cell-phone was one of the key factors in my distraction. By default, our brain is expecting a reply for every text message we send or notification we get.

Experiment Status and Learning

Initially it was very hard to do due to the “fear of missing out“. I found myself checking social medial even when the notifications were off. I was surprised to learn how much of an “empty gap” it filled in my personal life.

Now, I only have phone call notifications on for certain important people. For the rest, I follow-up or reply to messages during non-work hours.

Relevant Blog Posts: Why You Just Got Distracted

Practise gratitude to boost mental health

In hustle bustle of daily rituals, we forget to do small things that can make a big difference – smile, share, help, listen or just notice.

Experiment Status and Learning

Doing this can easily turn around a bad day and make you realize that everything will be okay. Resorting to gratitude when things get stressful has yet to fail me. I am working on making gratitude more impactful in daily life so it builds my muscle of viewing the positive when negative things inevitably happen.

Relevant Posts: How to Turn Around a Bad Day, How to Stop Constant Worry

Relevant Blog Posts: Everyday Ideals

Eliminate consuming news and social media

The GTD methodology made me realize that I wasting my mental bandwidth on soaking in information that was not healthy nor needed.

Experiment Status and Learning

Yes, I am not in touch with many real-world events happening all around – US elections, middle east etc. Over the years I have learned that they did not matter enough for me to worry about. I will focus on things that I can change and give it my un-divided attention.

Relevant Blog Post: Is this Your Formula for Success?

Eliminate caffeine and sugar intake

I worked at a quick-serve restaurant where the employees had free pop and coffee. I used to drink more than 2L a day of pop. Even after quitting that job, I was addicted to the sugar.

Experiment Status and Learning

This was one of the hardest habits to defeat. I slowly downgraded to iced tea and then juices. It took me almost 2 years to fully eliminate sugary drinks. The benefits are more sustained energy levels throughout the day and improved quality sleep.

Practise strength training to improve health

My gym teacher in high-school used to call me a “coat-hanger” and I have been skinny. More importantly, I have viewed health as an enabler of all other life pursuits.

Experiment Status and Learning

I have been going to the gym and strength training since 2012. My progress has been slow and steady.

Study how successful people think

I have a deep interest in studying people who have been successful in taking their ideas and making them a reality. Specifically, understanding their motivations, beliefs, and mindset.

Experiment Status and Learning

This practice has been rewarding as it allows you to copy their mental models. For example, how does Michael Jordan view setbacks and failure? How did Obama view his work? What made the ultra successful people different than the average?

Relevant Blog Post: How to Be a Super Hero

Become more aware of breath and body language

Breath and body language reinforce the mental state and vice-versa. For example, when you are anxious, breathes shorten and body shrinks. What if you could be more conscious of your breath and body language to be in a better mental state?

Experiment Status and Learning

Body language has to align with mental beliefs – you can’t really fake one or the other. I am getting better at recognizing when both – verbal and body language – are on a slippery slope so I can make the changes I want.

Relevant Blog Post: How to Turn Around a Bad Day

41 comments On Personal Experiments

Leave a reply:

Your email address will not be published.

Site Footer