Our environments are effectinng us wether we notice it or not. Our brain takes in the environment with the Reticular Activating System, and filters out what’s important. This is why it’s crucial to create the right environment for high productivity and a good life.
In “Thinking Fast and Slow”, Daniel Kahneman gave the metaphor of the elephand and the rider. The rider is your conciouss, weak but clever. The Elephant is your subconcious, strong, powerful, but slow and difficult to control. When you change your environment you direct the elephant and get it to go exactly where you want it to go.
It’s actually easier to change your environment than use willpower to overcome impulses and urges. This is why it’s better to change your environment first, rather than expect yourself to have the self control in the future. Don’t trust that you will have enough self control in the future, instead, prepare for how weak you will be.
Here are some practical ways to change your environment. Your environment is anything that is outside of yourself. This includes your home, workplace, phone, friends, television, reading, and everything else.
Put inspirational or meaningful quotes from people you admire around your desk, bed, fridge, and anywhere. This forces your brain to focus on that person and that thought as you go about your day.
Purchase books that are in your field and relate to your goals. If you wanto lose weight, purchase books like ‘The story of the human body’, and ‘Salt, Sugar, Fat”. If you want to make money then purchase ‘How business works’, ‘Bold’ and other types of books related to that area. If you want to be more productive and effective, purchase ‘The One Thing’ and ‘Managing Oneself’. The list goes on, and it all depends on what you want in life.
When you have those books, put them in places you will see them. By your bed, on your desk, or on your kitchen counter. Skim through them, taking golden nuggets one at a time, and your brain will start to rewire to these new thoughts. You don’t even have to read it, just buy it and have it there, and your mind will eventually drift twards it and you will find yourself reaching for it and looking for soemthing interesting. This is how changing your environment can change your life.
Clean your workspace, home environment and bedroom so you don’t have any clutter. You shouldn’t see rubbish anywhere except the bin, and any other distractions will just make your environment work against you. Keeping it clean and tidy helps your mind focus on what’s important. Only leave a notepad and pen, important books and things that help you reach your goals.
Keep actionable items out at all times. If you want to get fit, you don’t have to join a gym. That will maybe motivate you to go once or twice before giving up. The real way to get fit is to leave actionable items out at all times. Purchase a chin up bar and leave it right by the door. Purchase elastic resistance bands (my favorite is BodyLastics) and leave them hanging where you can see them at all times. Leave your running shoes by the door, and weights under your office desk.
Changing your environment is easy, because it doesn’t actually require any action from you. All you are doing is preparing the action, your brain will take care of the rest. As you wake up every day and see your resistance bands, and walk out your door every day seeing your running shoes, guess what will start happening. Your brain will do the work for you, and start motivating you to use those tools. It’s completely natural. Unlike forcing yourself to go to the gym which is incredibly taxing on your brain, now you are using your brains own functions to motivate and inspire you to change.
As a final exercise, picture these two scenarios. Rachel and Jill have the same amount of willpower, and the same goals of getting fit. Rachel decides to change her environment, while Jill decides to take a bigger step, and join a gym.
On Jill’s first day at the gym, Rachel has done nothing except purchase three fitness books, a set of bodylastics and a chin up bar. Jill has spent lot’s of willpower already, while Rachel has done some easy shopping.
On the third day, Jill went to the gym for the second time. It was incredible hard to get motivated this time, but she is proud that she went. Now her willpower has decreased to almost zero. Rachel however, got a few packages in the post and put her new items around her house. The Bodylastics hung in her hallway where she would see them all the time. She left a fitness book in her dining room, another in her room, and another in the kitchen. She also hung the chin up bar on her hallway door and just left it there.
While Jill has done lots of work, burnt tons of calories and done a lot more ‘getting fit’, Rachel has only changed her environment. Although it looks like Jill is getting more done, the truth is, Rachel will go much further in her efforts to lose weight.
After a week, Jill has gone to the gym 3 times, and Rachel has done nothing but walk around her house. Rachel hung on the chin up bar just for fun, and tried out the bodylastics, but didn’t get a sweat on jsut yet. She did however change her environment a little more by putting up a few motivational quotes on the walls of her bedroom and kitchen.
The second week, Jill went to the gym only twice. It was very hard to keep up the motivation, because she didn’t see any immidiate changes and her entire body was hurting from the week before. However in rachels case, she decided to try a few chin ups after passing the chin up bar so many times, and she had already flicked through the fitness book in her kitchen and got some ideas on how to use the bodylastics.
So far it looks like Jill is still doing better, but look at the bigger picture. In week three, Jill’s willpower is almost fully spent. She went to the gym just once, and was annoyed the whole time. She was only going now to get her monies worth, and she didn’t even stay for long. In rachels third week however, her willpower was at an all time high. She tried a full workout with the bodylastics and really enjoyed them.
By week four, the end of the month, Jill had sunk back to her old ways. She was eating badly, she didn’t go to the gym and she was annoyed and frustrated. Rachel however did two workouts with the bodylastics, managed 10 pullups. Also on her way to bed one night, she read through the whole fitness book that she had in her bedroom.
This is a very realistic pattern that people go through. Jill’s strategy was optimistic, hopeful and required lots of energy and willpower. Rachels strategy was slow, smart and required very little energy and willpower but was sustainable.
This is the power of changing your einvornment. You don’t even need to try to change yourself so much, just change your environment, and then take teeny tiny baby steps in the right direction. Your energy, motivation and willpower will stay at sustabinable levels, and you will be able to last longer in achieving yoru goals.
After a year, Jill had only gone to the gym another 10 or so times. She also spent more money than Rachel and had less willpower, less energy, and less motivation. She didn’t lose much weight, and still wasn’t happy with her body.
Rachel however kept on the slow race. She carried on changing her environment, adding fitness apps to her phone, changing the contens of her fridge and snack draw from sugary treats to healthy veggies and fruits. After a year she had worked out every single week with the BodyLastics, she had managed 30 pullups in one go, and was beaming with energy. She also bought a pair of running shoes and left them by her door, and now she was running once a week as well. She lost ton’s of weight, and was looking better and better in the mirror every week. She was happy, motivated, inspired and feeling incredible.
So what will you do. Will you use up all your energy and willpower in making a huge change in your daily behaviour. Or will you change your environment slowly but surely, so you naturally walk down the path that you want to go down.
Change your environment. It will be the best thing you ever do for your life. ni