Split Testing for Personal Growth

If you’ve done any in-depth marketing, especially Internet Marketing, you have probably heard of, if not utilized the concept of split testing. Split testing allows you to track, analyze and continuously improve marketing campaigns through ongoing, incremental changes to a specific element of the campaign.

If you were split testing a landing page for your website you would have two (or more) pages that were identical except for one element. For instance, you might change the headline and test to see which page has a higher conversion rate. Once you have an accurate assessment you remove the loser and replace it with a new page with a different change and test again.

Split testing is an extremely simple, but powerful technique for continuously improving your web site’s performance.

But this concept of split testing can be applied to virtually any dynamic process including personal growth.

By testing one incremental change in your life and tracking the results you can determine if this change is positive or negative. For example if you currently eat a vegetarian diet and want to see how eating chicken will affect you, add chicken to your diet. But, you must make that one change only, and you must make the change for long enough to have statistically accurate data. (See the entry Too Many Personal Growth Variables for more on this).

Of course statistically accurate data is a bit subjective when it comes to personal growth. But here are some guidelines:

Clarify your baseline: In order to know if these changes are positive, negative or have little or no effect on you, you must know where you are starting. So before you begin any personal growth split testing, do an initial self-assessment. You can be as formal or informal as you like. But do take some time to write your honest impressions about your present baseline state. The most important thing is to get an overall sense of your state of well-being: This can be as simple as taking a snapshot of physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual states and giving yourself an overall rank on a scale of 1-10.

If you want to be more formal about the assessment process, Coachville has an extensive list of self-assessment tools and Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness site has some useful assessment tools for tracking your psychological/emotional state.)

Track the change through known cycles: You should track your results through at least one round of known cycles. If you’re female that definitely means tracking it through at least one full menstrual cycle. And for men, we have cycles too. If you know that you tend to have a week feeling really good and then a week feeling just ok, make sure you track the change through at least one of those cycles.

Be consistent during the tracking period: If you’re going to add chicken to your diet, be clear about how much and how often, i.e. 6 ounces twice a week, and be consistent with that frequency. If you’re going to see how exercising five-days a week affects you, make sure you exercise five-days a week during the test period to get an accurate result.

Don’t intentionally make other changes to your life: To the extent that you can control change…do not make additional changes to your life during the trial period. It you are adding chicken to your diet, do not also increase your exercise. If you did, it would be difficult to know which change contributed to the results. In some cases, adding two, or more changes at once could actually cancel each other out.

Take into account external factors beyond your control: There certainly are events that are outside of our control. If some major event occurs in or around your life during the trial period, recognize that it may have an effect on your life. If necessary, extend the trial to get better data.

Once you feel you have tracked the change long enough and have statistically accurate data, you can analyze that data and make a determination if the change you were testing has a net positive result for you. A net positive result means that the positive effects in and on your life outweigh any negative effects.

To continue with the chicken example, after you’ve tracked the test through at least one round of your natural cycles, you should be pretty clear whether this change improves your vitality, diminishes it, or has very little effect on it.

Do an overall well-being assessment: Again, taking into consideration your physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual states, where are you on a scale of 1-10.

If you’ve used more formal assessment tools, now is the time to compare notes. Where has the quality of your life improved? By how much? Where has the quality of your life decreased? By how much?

Even if you don’t do a formal pre- and post-test assessment, you will know if the change has been positive, negative or neutral. The ultimate assessment tools will be your intuition and your feelings.

Once you decide to make the tested a change a permanent part of your life or to drop it, you can repeat the process with a new test.

If you use this split testing process on a consistent basis you can implement at least six to ten personal growth improvements each year. And while the effects of each improvement, alone, may be minimal, the combined effect on your life at the end of the year will be significant.

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      5 Responses to “Split Testing for Personal Growth”

      1. Zoe Routh on September 2nd, 2007 7:48 pm

        Hey Ed
        I like the split testing for personal growth! Cool idea! It’s a great way of developing faith and confidence – if you are not sure about a specific change, just try it and try it, and see the results. That way you can’t blame ‘fate’, ‘luck’, or the dog for any of it.

        And here’s another little thought too: if you KNOW a change is going to work for you, but have not implemented it yet (such as drinking more water, eating less chocolate, exercising a little more), then you can add a few of these little changes in one hit. Pretty soon, these little changes make a big difference – you lose 20kgs, you run three minutes faster etc. The key difference here is that you KNOW in your bones they are going to make a difference.

        Great post and great site!

      2. Edward Mills on September 4th, 2007 9:02 am

        Great point Zoe! The problem, for some people, is that, even though they know these changes will have a positive impact on their life, it’s still difficult to break out of that comfort zone. So that’s why I find that, even with things we know will help, implementing one positive change at a time can be more effective.

      3. Zoe Routh on September 4th, 2007 3:25 pm

        Hi Ed
        Great point! That’s the whole issue with self-help isn’t it?!! We know what to do, but just don’t do it. Fear, beliefs keep us locked in the status quo.

        The more we practice busting loose, the easier it gets to take action with confidence.

        So if it’s one at a time, then so be it! Better something than nothing.


      4. Edward Mills on September 5th, 2007 9:09 am

        Hi Zoe. Exactly. Most of us are smart enough to know what we “should” be doing. It’s getting through the old patterns and the comfort zone so that we actually do those things! That’s why I usually encourage people to make one change at a time. More than that can be a bit – or a lot – overwhelming.

      5. Kaizen: Continuous Improvement For Personal Growth on November 6th, 2008 11:05 pm

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