Adjusting the Environment in Anticipation of Future Actions

Our environment has a huge influence on our actions.  It’s the universal cue that we’ve become desensitized to, because it’s always there, like the taste of water, or the smell of air.  We’ve forgotten the desires that our environment triggers.  Realizing this, we have to reform our environments to constantly serve our good habits, and never our bad ones.  This can be done by simply putting your guilty pleasures out of reach. 

We are wired to choose the easiest option.  So, it’s what’s easiest in our environment that we’re inclined to choose.  Outside of home, shops, restaurants, and parks are easily accessible for the sake of our entertainment.  Similarly, at home, our computers, phones, and novels clutter our desks.  But apart from home, where else can we be expected to focus and get to work?  Forming a good environment for yourself means putting away your distractions and making them more difficult to access than what you’re supposed to be doing.  By doing so, we make our environments cues in themselves for good habits, this is a sort of habit automation.   

What makes a good environment? 

The definition of a good environment is in the eye of the beholder.  What do you want to do?  To finish your paper?  Clear your desk of everything apart from your pen, paper, and reference texts.  To lose weight?  Move your yoga map somewhere more visible than your guilty pleasures: your TV, your phone, your casserole.  Put them away, in the closet, in the garbage, wherever, as long as you minimize your exposure to bad influences.  Out with the bad and in with the good.  Make yourself an environment that keeps you interested and engaged in what you know you should be doing.   

Remember: 

Gear your environment towards your worst work-attitudes, not your best.  That means making your distractions and bad habits impossible to access, and your grind, all that you can see.  We are inclined to choose what’s right in front of us. 

I used to have the worst of video game addictions.  It was all that I could ever think about, and it was making me feel guilty.  Realizing what I had to do, I locked my phone and good computer in the closet.  I haven’t touched them in months.  I’ve been able to spend time to work and love what’s important to me.  And though it was a struggle at the start, dedicating my time to my work has made me happier in sum than the pleasures and pains of persisting in old habits.  Making a change in your environment is worth it.   

Do what you have to do. 

To learn more about the impact your environment has on your actions: 

Chu, M. – Why Your Environment is the Biggest Factor in Changing Your Life
Ciotti, G – Want to Change Your Habits? Change Your Environment
Clear, J – Environment Design: How to Improve Without Thinking
Sykes, A – Change Your Environment, Change Your Habits: Why Designing Your Physical Spaces Is Critical to Creating Sustainable Habit Change

Author: Zac Lo
Editor: Cathy Xie
Researcher: Michael Bacci