How to engineer your environment for success

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Everybody loves to build healthy habits or kick off bad ones. You gather information through hours of research only to fail every single time. With enough failures, you end up thinking “Maybe something’s wrong with me“. But rarely do you analyze your methods and beliefs. This is the most common one.

Will-power is overrated

I bet you tried to build a habit the following way,

You get inspired -> Make plans -> Do it for a few days -> Skip a day-> Skip a week -> Skip a month -> Feel bad about it -> You get inspired -> Repeat…

Taking a closer look at the cycle reveals two things,

  1. You’re doing the same thing all over again, aiming for different results
  2. The backbone of this cycle is Will-power

We can state two facts here. One unless you change the way you approach your habits you’re gonna keep failing. Two will-power isn’t working the way we assume it to.

Will-power’s like a muscle. The more you exert it(without rest) the more it gets injured. And you assume that successful people have infinite sources of will-power and you don’t. But in reality, we’re all the same pathetic creatures with 4 limbs, two eyes and an insatiable desire for Pizzas. It’s just that people who have healthy habits use little to no-willpower to follow through their habits.

Before you go wondering how they do it without any willpower let me give a short monologue about the brain. Brains are lazy dudes who love pizzas and dozing of all day. So it’s pretty much clear that they don’t love to work. So there’s no point in forcing your brain to follow through your habits in the long run. You’ll fail eventually.

Brains follow the path of least resistance. This is exactly why we love to watch Peaky Blinders instead of working out -or- we love to eat junk food all day instead of taking care of our body. Because watching TV or eating junk provides instant gratification and our brain loves that. This leads us to the question. What can I do to get my lazy dude up to eat healthily or to do a few pushups?

Welcome to the art of engineering your environment. Don’t go against your brain, go with it.

Taking full advantage of your environment

Think of the last time you tried to build your habits. If it was working out think about what went wrong. Maybe the gym is far from home or you didn’t have a clue of what you were working on and was overwhelmed by the buffy dudes there showing off their biceps in the mirror. If it was reading maybe your room is filled with TV and Video game consoles.

One of the crucial differences that people with consistent habits do is one they remove temptations. They don’t try to read before bed with a TV and a gaming console whispering into their ear to use them.

Two they take advantage of the environment they live in. They stuff their refrigerator with veggies instead of ice creams and cakes. It’s far easier to grab a fruit and eat it than to get rid of your temptation to eat ice-cream.

This is exactly how you don’t need your fridge stuffed with

It’s like giving a starving monkey a sexy sliced banana and asking not to eat it. People with good habits experience the cravings you have. But with that temptation out of the way, it’s far easier for them to go through with their habits.

The better you design your environment the more you’re likely to succeed. Which leads us the question

How to design your environment?

Let’s say you’re trying to drink more water every day. Instead of having an app to remind you to drink water, you can place multiple bottles around the house (especially in places where you spend most of your time) thereby you’re more likely reminded of them automatically.

If you wish to read every day at night try removing your television and your phone from your room. I place my kindle near my pillow as I wake up. I read a lot since then.

If you wish to cut down your sugar consumption through all the cookies out the window. Hoard a bunch of fruits and veggies from your department store. You could even place a basket of fruits in places where you often reside in your house thereby making it much easier to eat them.

Invest in a pair of dumbbells or pull-up bars for working out. The point is to reduce friction as much as possible so that getting through your habits becomes much easier.

It’s not that your brain hates veggies it’s just that it has better alternatives. So cut on them and see if that works.

What now?

Habits are easier to form when you’ve your environment favouring you and with your brain as an ally. Find the habits you wish to build. It needn’t be as big as working out. Start small. Maybe you find yourself using your phone first thing in the morning? Charge your phone in the next room. Habits help you get more freedom and makes your lives much better and easier.


Footnotes

  1. Note engineering your environment is one part of the equation.

2. Check out this book by James clear which will give you a deeper understanding about building habits.

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