Motivation is great. Literally billions of dollars are spent each year by people trying to build their motivation. Toni Robbins, Jeff Keller and others have made fabulous careers helping people maximize their motivation. In truth, part of what I do with my clients is help them focus their motivation on their own success. All of that is good and useful but your environment may be as, if not more, important as your motivation.
By environment, I’m not talking where you live. It is more about how you choose to live. The first big choice that determines your environment is the people who choose to spend your time with. Jim Rohn once said, we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Are you choosing to spend your time with positive people who are looking to progress in their lives or are you spending time with negative people who never met a situation without a fault? Yes, your family and co-workers have been chosen for you but you still have a lot of flexibility about which family members and co-workers you spend more time with. Choose the ones with a healthy outlook on life.
Another big component of your environment is how you set up your office and home. Look at your living room. Are all the chairs facing each other to encourage discussion or are they all facing the television? Is your dining room table ready to welcome everyone to diner or is that where bills and homework are piled up, making a family diner all that much more effort. How big are your plates? Really. Professors Brian Wansink and Roert van Ittersum studied how plate size affected people’s estimate of what a healthy portion was. The bigger the plate, the bigger a healthy portion was. People are likely to each 30 percent or more more when their plate is larger than when they eat off of a smaller plate. In that study, they weren’t even asking people to limit their diet. They were simply asked to eat until they felt satisfied.
So what do we do with this information? Set up your environment to align with your goals. Your environment needs to make actions that are inconsistent with your goals more difficult and actions that support your goals easier. You can set up your environment to address you weaknesses. For example, I lost 50 pounds last year. I’m motivated to lose a bit more but I have a weakness. I’m a grazer. I work out of my home, which means I’m in and out of my kitchen a dozen times a day. Each time I pass through, I grab a handful of something. It is such a reflex for me that no amount of motivation can over come it. Knowing that environment plays a key role in actions, I addressed my environment. First, grazable foods are no longer allowed on the counter tops. They can go in the fridge or cupboards but they can’t be where I see them. Also having to get into the cupboard or fridge is just one more step in making the conflicting action more difficult. Second, we now keep healthy grazable foods. I used to go through 1500 calories of raisins a day. Motivation and willpower cut that down to around 500 calories but stopped there. Now, I go for grapes. Third, I used to keep some of my work supplies in the kitchen, making my go into the kitchen a couple of extra times a day. I pulled those out of the kitchen. Fewer trips into the kitchen means few grazing handfuls.
Think about the actions you need to take on a regular basis to reach your goals and those actions you need to do less frequently. Whether it is financial, career, health, personal or relationships, there are daily things you could do better. Identify obstacles and opportunities. Then adjust your environment to support your desired actions.