Personal Experiments

How did these personal experiments start? In 2016, after devouring countless self-help books, I realized that there is no shortage of personal development silver bullets and reading more wasn’t helping me. Where I fell short was implementing the best tips to achieve my goals.

Personal Experiments are 30 day challenges to adopt new habits. Experiments are a way to apply and realize the benefits instead of just reading or writing about positive changes. 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 area of life to Experiment with

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.

Experiment #1 – 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). n

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.

Experiment #2 – Improve sleep by tracking and adjusting environment

Inspiration: I have had sleeping issues – mostly because of my back pain. Due to poor quality sleep, I knew I was wasting about 1-2 hours a night which accumulate to 30 days/ a year!

Status: Practising Daily. Able to achieve good sleep without back pains.

Review: I have been very inconsistent with my sleep quality, time, and patterns. I have tried a whole host of solutions – which I have failed to fully implement. This will be an experiment in which I will continue to improve.

Experiment #3 – Get deeper insights with a dream journal

Inspiration: I remember waking up many mornings still partially in the halo of my dreams. As they kept happening, I became interested in lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming is remembering and trying to control your dreams during your sleep.

Status: ~~Practicing Daily (Inconsistently)~~. Stopped practicing.

Review: I began my keeping a dream journal beside my bed and now have three books full – from 2013 to 2018. My memory recall for the dreams has gotten better, however, I am still trying to be more consistent. As of 2023, I have not kept a dream journal as it stop giving me insights and reminded me of some recurring fears that are better dealt with through meditation and journaling (than being reminded via dream journals).

Relevant Blog Posts: Thoughts = Action Signals

Experiment #4 – Keep a journal to articulate thoughts

Experiments Journal Jawwad SiddiquiInspiration: In 2012, I noticed that all important / busy people had a journal to get things done. I was not important, I decided to get one regardless so I can be like them.

Status: Practicing Daily

Review: This experiment has been the most influential in all other areas of my life – learning, management etc. Despite journaling for almost 5 years, I still am continuously improving how I journal learnings, goals, and self-reflections.

Relevant Blog Posts: How to Learn Fast as an Entrepreneur, 2015 Year in Review for “Forever Learning”, Ups and Downs of 2014, & 2013 – Year in Review Looking Back.

Experiment #5 – Log daily activities in your Calendar

Calendar - Live By It

Inspiration: 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.

Status: Practicing Daily

Review: 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

Experiment #6 – Turn off all cell phone notifications

Inspiration: 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.

Status: Practicing Everyday (Inconsistently). Need to find a better solution for manually checking notifications.

Review: 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. I have gotten better with time and my good friends understand as well.

Relevant Blog Posts: Why You Just Got Distracted

Experiment #7 – Practise gratitude daily via journaling

Inspiration: 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.

Status: Practicing Daily (Part of the Daily Journal)

Review: 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.

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

Relevant Blog Posts: Everyday Ideals

Experiment #8 – Eliminate reading news or scrolling social media

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

Status: Practising Daily

Review: 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?

Experiment #9 – Eliminate pop and sugar-heavy drinks

Inspiration: I worked at a fast-food place where we had unlimited free pops for employees. I recall chugging down more than 2L a day – iced tea, 7up, pepsi, coke, etc. Even after quitting that job, I purchased 2L bottles twice a week.

Status: Practicing Daily (some cheat drinks are allowed)

Review: 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 energy levels and quality sleep has been work the sacrifice.

Experiment #10 – Practise strength training to improve fitness

Inspiration: My cricket coach in high-school called me a coat-hanger and I have been a very skinny kid. Don’t worry, I don’t have any hard feelings. I wanted to look and feel good – boosting my confidence and energy levels.

Status: Practicing Everyday (Inconsistent)

Review: I have been going to the gym for 4+ years. My progress has been slow due to poor dieting and inconsistencies. Regardless, I have been able to triple my strength over the years and gained muscle mass.

Experiment #11 – Take a cold shower first thing in the morning

Inspiration: Anthony Robbins’s daily routine (in 2016) and Huberman Labs podcast (in 2023)

Status: ~~Failed. Replaced with 5 Minute Journal.~~ Restarted again in 2023.

Review: ~~It just was not for me. It was draining my will power just anticipating the torture of the cold shower.~~ I gradually got myself to accept the cold shower.

Experiment #12 – Collect references in a hero journal

Inspiration: I have a deep interest in studying people who have been successful in taking their ideas and making them a reality. I don’t only study their beliefs but physiology, mental syntax, and their shortcomings.

Status: Practicing Daily

Review: This practice has been more rewarding than reading their autobiographies or what the media highlights about them. I am not only able to study their successes, but also failures and learn from them. For example, balancing health and family in your pursuit of a certain goal.

Relevant Blog Post: How to Be a Super Hero

Experiment #13 – Notice, learn, and control your body language

Inspiration: I began noticing a clear pattern between my body language and the mood / emotion I felt. Working in high-pressure environment of an entrepreneur, I wanted to optimize my body language to support my efforts.

Status: Still Trying to Practice

Review: 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

Experiment #14 – Setting outcome oriented goals

Inspiration: There came a point where I was questioning the priorities of many of the things I was doing in my startup. Therefore, I wanted to take an approach that focused on “outcomes” rather than just tasks which are usually disguised as busy work.

Status: Practicing Daily

Review: Will Write a Post Once I have Habituated This Experiment

Relevant Blog Post: How to Do Work that Matters, Reason Why You Won’t be the Person You Expect to Be

Experiment #15 – Engage in positive self-talk and avoid pessimism

Inspiration: We tend to believe that the “voice in our head” is genuinely ours – when in reality – it is a result of external factors influencing us – people, emotions, past events, etc. Therefore, to cleanse myself of subconscious sabotage, I have started to talk to myself.

Status: Practicing Daily

Review: Click Here to Read the Results

Relevant Blog Post: How to Talk to Yourself (w/o being Crazy), Reason Why You Won’t Be the Person You Expect to Be

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