“Environment is of supreme importance. It is greater than willpower.” Paramahansa Yogananda
Motivation and willpower are valuable qualities, but they are too capricious to build habits. Any habit-forming strategy that relies too heavily on either is like trying to build a house on shifting sand.
A properly designed environment is a rock-solid foundation for behavior change. That’s because once we engineer our environment, it remains constant. It provides the stability that habits require to flourish. Environmental prompts initiate most of our habits, which is why environmental design is so powerful.
Removing temptations from our environment is a one-time investment of willpower that pays enormous dividends. Our self-control is finite and draws from a single source. Small changes in our environment can make a big difference.
The less self-control we have to exercise, the better. Studies of recovering addicts had demonstrated that they are far more likely to relapse on days when they had to exert a lot of self-control unrelated to their rehabilitation.
If you are committed to a goal, your environment needs to reflect that commitment. It needs to discourage bad behavior by making it difficult or impossible to do. It should make the right behavior easy and obvious. We need to remove as many steps as possible ahead of time; to reduce the chances, we skip it. For example, you’ll work out more consistently when you lay out your gear the night before and put it next to your alarm clock.
If you constantly have to exercise willpower to improve your behavior, you’re operating in a negative environment. You need to examine it and figure out how to design it to promote the habits you want to develop naturally. We want our environment to continually nudge us in the right direction.
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