Floating along and just going through the day-to-day motions makes me really unhappy. If my mood is off, 90% of the time it’s because I’ve been stagnant. I bet a lot of my readers feel the same way.
To fight this, always be running an experiment. Pick something new and stick to it for about a month. Or take on a bigger project and work on it for 6-12 months. Schedule some time to reflect on what you’ve learned.
Try an experiment. You’ll develop grit and learn more about yourself.
Here’s some of my experiments:
Eat a Ketogenic Diet for a month - I ate <25g of carbs per day for the month of May. My gym was doing a nutritional challenge and I decided to jump in. The first week or so I was irritable but felt great after that. I lost 10 pounds without ever getting hunger pangs (~4lbs of that is water weight). I’ve been able to complete my weight training without a huge drop in performance. My work capacity feels higher than it’s ever been.
Keto works well for fat loss because: a) fat and protein is very satiating, and b) having a system in place is more effective than chasing a goal. I will continue eating keto after a short break.
Replace 2 meals/day with Soylent for a month - For the month of March I mostly ate Soylent for breakfast and lunch. Reducing the amount of time needed to prep meals is nice, but I won’t continue to drink it on a regular basis. Somedays soylent irritated my throat. For my personal needs the carbohydrates are too high.
Eat Vegetarian for the month of February - I coach Weightlifting in the US. That means I’m always surrounded by people who love eating meat. What would happen if I ate vegetarian for a month? Would I feel better or worse? Would my gym performance suffer? Will I have dreams about bacon? Will my grocery bill go up or down?
Report: I felt normal. My gym performance remained the same as long as I hit protein goals. I actually didn’t miss meat that much. Grocery bill was a little cheaper, though not much because I was buying a larger variety of potentially expensive items. I think plant-based diets are totally viable, and probably the best option for the environment.
Will hiring a coach help me meditate 5 days a week? - Meditating is great. It makes me 10% Happier. Except I never actually do it. I hired a coach from Coach.me to hold me accountable. So far so good, I’m going to keep at it until this is a habit that really sticks. June update: meditating is now just a part of my morning routine. I’m no longer working with a coach as I think this habit is sticking quite well. If you’re looking for an online meditation coach, I can highly recommend Tom Hussey.
Spend <$200 on food in the month of January - The folks at /r/Frugal are probably rolling their eyes at how easy this one is; with a Costco membership and sharing meals with my girlfriend this Experiment didn’t take much effort. I set this limit to stop my compulsive eating out for lunch habit — problem solved.
Buy Nothing in January - I only purchased food in January. The one exception was batteries for a smoke detector. One month is short enough to be easy but long enough to break any shopping habits.
Journal everyday - I’ve been journaling in one form or another since 2011. Journaling whatever’s on my mind clears my head and relieves a lot of unproductive worry. I almost never go back and read what I’ve thrown on the page. A journal also gives me a nice way to plan the day. I’ve used plain notebooks, 750 words, bullet journaling, whatever. Right now I’m using the Self Journal. The daily pages are nice but I wish it had more space to dump thoughts.
Post one photo to Instagram Everday - See more details here. I started this project to give my creative side a kickstart. Posting everyday forced me to do the work, get out there and take photos on a regular basis. I feel much more confident about my technical skills, but my composition still has a long way to go. Currently on semi-hiatus.
Leangains style intermittent fasting - I used a Leangains style protocol to drop from 70kg to the 62kg weightclass, while still hitting all-time PR lifts (83kg Snatch, 96kg Clean and Jerk). Fast 16 hours a day, eat more carbs on training days and more fats on rest days. Calories are higher on training days, and protein stays pretty much constant. Looking at more recent research, I’m not so sure Intermittent Fasting is as amazing as proponents say it is, but I do agree it makes adherence during a caloric defecit easier.
Run a music recommendation tumblr - I posted a song recommendation everyday for more than a year at ear-this.tumblr.com. This was my first project where I committed myself to a consistent publishing schedule.
Learn to Recognize 2200 Kanji in 6 months I had studied Japanese in high school but was convinced I would never be able to read native materials. The summer of 2007 I found James Heisig’s book and spaced repetition flashcards at Kanji Koohii. With them I learned to recognize and write 2200 Kanji. Heisig turned the scary boogeyman of Kanji into something doable, and rekindled my drive to learn Japanese.
I continued to practice with language exchange partners at University, studied sentence flashcards with Anki, and used massive amounts of Japanese language exposure. In 2009 I passed the JLPT level 1 (highest level). The test has since been made more difficult, and I don’t think I would pass today.
Are you running experiments, or just floating through life?
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