Studying Yourself

You can make a lot of interesting personal growth gains by studying yourself and your own responses instead of trying to follow someone else’s behavioral prescriptions. Studying yourself is especially useful in the areas of health and productivity habits.

What actually creates good results for you? Quite often you’ll find that what works best for you in real life won’t be found in any book or seminar. You can learn ideas from others to inspire your own experimentation, but you may get the best gains by assembling your own unique collection of behaviors and practices.

When doing self-experimentation, it’s important to protect your self-esteem from your behavioral results. Look at your behaviors and their effects separately, and honestly assess their impacts and results. Don’t wrap your self-esteem into the effects of your behaviors because problem behaviors can be changed. Beating yourself up for having a problematic behavior will only slow you down. Let the behavior be the problem you want to work on; don’t weave it into your self-image.

As I mentioned previously, I’ve been engaging in a detailed self-study of my diet for the past 7.5 weeks. I’m raising my awareness about what I’m actually eating and how different meals affect me. Based on what I’m learning, I’m making lots of micro-adjustments and doing small tweaks to optimize my eating habits.

The main part of this is food logging, which involves writing down everything I’m eating, so I can see the rational truth as it really is. Pen and paper is far superior to memory here. I also add up the calories to get a sense of how calorically dense each meal is.

This helps me do little experiments, such as seeing what happens if I eat 500, 700, or 1000 calories before noon. Is it better to have a lighter 300-calorie dinner or a denser 700-calorie one? What happens if I mix walnuts into my steel cut oats versus a little coconut oil versus not adding any fat? Soon I’ll test eliminating the oats and eating something else for breakfast, like roasted potatoes, onions, and peppers with zucchini hummus.

Later this month I also plan to start testing what happens if I go grain-free and legume-free at the same time. I’ve done grain-free and legume-free tests before, but I haven’t done both at the same time except while I was also eating 100% raw.

One result I pay attention to, which is partly subjective, is how my morning runs feel. Do I feel energetic or sluggish? Do I feel motivated or run, or do I feel like skipping more days? I can also check my pacing since my watch records that. I’ve learned, for instance, that if I have a relatively low-calorie day (like 1600-1700 calories), I’m likely to run slower and feel less energetic during an early morning run the next day. Skimping on calories just makes me feel less energetic.

I can also see that just the act of measuring and paying more attention to what I’m eating is making it very easy to lose weight. I’ve now dropped 10.8 pounds since I started on May 14. This seems like a very easy way to slim down. It’s really about paying attention, which leads to better choices.

I like that there are no rules with this approach. I’m just paying closer attention to some of my body’s responses, and I’m making refinements based on that.

Another side effect is that I’m enjoying good food more than ever.

I’m really loving peaches and typically eat a few each day now, as long as we have some ripe ones. I’m buying 24 of them at a time to make sure I don’t run out so quickly. Costco has been having some really amazing yellow peaches in stock lately. I’m also eating lots of blueberries, strawberries, apricots, broccoli, zucchini, yellow squash, bok choy, kale, mixed greens, celery, and spinach.

You can extend this kind of experimentation to other areas of life. This can lead to some real breakthroughs.

I love the way I generate income, which I arrived at through many years of experimentation. I enjoy the combination of doing launches a few times per year plus passive income streams in the background.

I also love having an unusual relationship. I don’t know of any other couples who relate to each other like Rachelle and I do. Our relationship is rich is laughter, cuddling, affection, playfulness, and sexiness. Even after 10+ years together, the relationship still feels spicy. To make that possible, we just had to go our own way and do what works for us.

Some people resist going off script to experiment because of judgment from other people. But improving your results is a good antidote to that. If someone complains that you’ve gone off the deep end, poke fun at them for only playing in the shallow end where all the kids are peeing. The deep end is where you’ll find better results.

If you’re really worried about other people’s approval, however, you’ll likely get more of it from the people you respect if you stop chasing approval from people you don’t respect. Why on earth would you respect someone who criticizes you for using the perfectly valid and rational tool of self-study?

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Steve Pavlina

Steve Pavlina is an American self-help author, motivational speaker and entrepreneur. He is the author of the web site and the book Personal Development for Smart People.

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