N of 1
“An N of 1 trial is a clinical trial in which a single patient is the entire trial, a single case study.”
How lucky are we?
In mere seconds we can find the absolute best strategy for doing, learning or becoming almost anything we can think of. Want to lose weight? Make a million dollars? Be a better husband or wife? Become vegan? Hit a world record deadlift? Embrace Buddhism? Speak 6 languages?
It’s all there and even better you have cute videos, point form lists and simple, easy to follow steps to turn yourself into exactly who and what you want to be.
So why are so many of us hopelessly stuck and failing to achieve our goals?
Why are there new articles, videos, blogs and social media posts about all of these topics created every day?
The reason, I believe, is that all of this great information is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is plain to see, the millions of resources at our finger tips provides us with an abundance of opportunity that generations before us would marvel at.
The curse, that’s a bit trickier.
When we decide to take on a new goal, what do we do? Usually we spend a bit of time on google, sort (as best we can) through the ‘experts’ and the imposters and settle on a strategy broken down by someone who has been there and done that. Next, if we haven’t given up quite yet, we attempt to apply what we’ve ‘learned’ and hope for the best.
From here it’s typically one of two results. The first is that we don’t get the outcome we hoped for and we quit. The second is that we don’t get the outcome we hoped for and head back to google with some '“in the trenches” experience to sort through the ‘experts’ again, dedicating ourselves to finding the real solution this time. (this cycle gets repeated until most people have given up and a very lucky few have stumbled onto a plan that works for them)
I assume you can tell I’m not in love with this process but… what’s better?
I’m glad you asked!
Over the last few years my goals have shifted quite a bit and I’ve found myself floating through an ocean of information without an island on which I could plant myself and take up the native philosophy. In other words the goals I’ve set for myself have left me without someone whose plan I can adopt or a blue-print that I can copy.
Because of this I’ve had to experiment. Sure, I take ideas and strategies from a bunch of different sources - books, ‘experts’, and those who have accomplished aspects of what I’m working towards - but at the end of the day I’ve had to mix, filter and test hundreds of approaches and variations.
I wouldn’t be writing this if it didn’t work!
By using the N of 1 approach I’ve been free to find exactly what works best for me. There’s no strict philosophy whose confines I have to conform to, no technique that’s off limits and absolutely nothing I do because it’s the ‘right’ thing nor something I ignore because it’s the ‘wrong’ thing.
So how can you start piecing together your own N of 1 plan?
My advice (because even in doing this you can, and probably should, develop your own recipe) is to start with one resource. This can be a book, a coach, a mentor and podcast - whatever you want, but do your research and make sure you’re picking something that both sounds and feels right to you. Once you’ve done that you should launch yourself into the process, giving your best effort (of course) but paying attention to how things feel and what is and is not working for you.
Armed with this experience you’ll slowly become more and more equipped to make changes and see/feel them in action. You’ll repeat this process of tweaking the plan and observing the results over and over and over again - not looking for the right answer so much as looking for a better answer.