Leveraging on your environment is one of the most important strategies you can utilize in achieving your goals.
Why Environment Plays A Role in Achieving Your Goals
Some people have no problem setting goals, but they do not use any strategy in achieving their goals. They think goal achievement is all about relying on (a) brute force and (b) their sheer desire for the goal. While both factors are very important, they can only get you so far, especially for larger goals. There are two reasons:
Firstly, motivation is a fleeting quality. Your motivation fluctuates within a certain medium, depending on your level of consciousness, who you are with, what you are doing, the experiences you are faced with. While you may experience moments or periods of peak motivation, this peak motivation does not last for an extended period of time. More reliable methods are needed to achieve our goals.
Secondly, your environment largely determines how your energy is utilized. For example, suppose you have water, a mug and a basin. What happens when you pour the water into the mug? Water, having no definite shape, takes the shape of the mug. How about when you pour it into a basin? The water will take the shape of the basin. And what if you pour the water onto the ground? It will become a large puddle, with no particular shape.
In this analogy, your energy is like water; Your environment is like the container holding the water. If your environment is well structured, your energy will be channeled into appropriate avenues. If you have a environment that has no structure, your energy will probably be randomly scattered all over the place. With the right environment/platform, your energy becomes effectively utilized such that you achieve your goals much faster.
If your environment is not conducive toward achieving your goals, you will be wasting a lot of energy trying to go against it every day. If you are trying to lose weight, an unconducive environment will be one where you are constantly surrounded by fatty food, fast food restaurants, people who like to eat, people who don’t exercise and gourmet magazines/TV programs. You might be able to get through 1 day unscathed based on discipline alone, but beyond that it is an excessive waste of your energy to have to overcome the same stimuli every day. Rather than doing that, it is more effective to change the environment/stimuli altogether and replace it with environment that aids you in your goal, such as joining weight loss communities, exercise programs, stocking up your fridge with healthy food, etc.
The same applies whether you are trying to cultivate good habits, earn more money, increase your performance, get promoted, gain more sales, improve time management, wake up early, quit coke, improve your posture and any other goals.
For those who have read my previous article on 21 days to cultivate good habits, you may have experienced a spike in motivation when you first read the post. Maybe your intended habit was to wake up early at 5am. So for the first few days, you relied on the motivational high to wake up early. first day, woke up at 5am. Felt absolutely awesome. second day, woke up at 5am. Felt terrific. third day, fourth day, fifth day… you started to slip away from your goal. Then gradually, you got to the point where the initial motivation dissipated. Your sleeping schedule became exactly the same as when you first started. Dejected, you decided to sign off on that goal altogether, thinking you were not meant to be an early riser.
If you only planned to accomplish the 21 day program through sheer motivation, it wouldn’t be a surprise if you were unable to nail down the habit in those 21 days. Relying on the initial burst of motivation can only get you so far. You need to use that spike in the beginning to create the environment to ensure your success.
How I Use Environment For My Goals
For example, when I wanted to try out a vegetarian diet 2 years ago, I spent a few days setting up an environment that is conducive for my goals. I went to buy a blender, so I could easily make my own fruit smoothies. I went to the supermarket and stocked up on vegetarian food so I would have a constant food supply at home. I did up a goal sheet for my vegetarian goal, writing out my motivations for trying out the vegetarian diet and plastering the sheet with pictures of nice, appetizing vegetarian food. I set my desktop wallpaper with a picture of a whole variety of juicy, fresh fruits. I told the people around me that I was going to try out vegetarianism for the next 1 month, so they would be walking reminders of my goal. I joined vegetarian online communities to acquaint with like-minded folks. I placed bookmarks of vegetarian sites in my browser.
All these were done so I would be able to stick to a vegetarian diet for the entire month. And because I created the right, conducive environment to achieve my goals, I was able to hit my goal, surprisingly easy.
Here are other examples where I created/leveraged on my environment to achieve my goals:
- In my ongoing plan to improve my fitness level, I joined weekly kickboxing classes, frisbee sessions and badminton sessions with friends. By joining these groups which have recurring, weekly activities, I’m reminded and compelled to join the sessions by virtue of my membership.
- I joined Vipassana 10-Day Course because I wanted to nail in my habit to meditate. Being immersed in such an intensive environment, with the proper facilities and people to guide me along, enabled me to easily integrate the habit into my life when I came back.
- Being self-employed, it’s easy to slip into a mode of stagnancy if I’m not watchful. As countermeasures, I join my partners in their office to work there once a week, I regularly meet up with people in the industry as a source of inspiration and ideas, I lock in my coaching commitments for rolling 2 months so I will need to commit myself to these coachees in that period, I make announcements of my plans at my blog/at events so there is an increased level of accountability, among others.
Create the Best Environment
Even with an environment enables you to achieve your goals, there is always room to improve it such that it’s letting you achieve your goals in the fastest possible manner. For example, if you want to reach the 20th storey in a building, the facilities in the building will affect how fast and how much work you need to put in to get to the 20th storey. If your building only has stairs, you need to climb through 20 whole storeys, perspiring and panting, before you can reach your destination. If your building has escalators, you can reach the 20th storey with minimal movement on your part. If your building has an elevator, you can sail your way up to the top in a matter of minutes.
Likewise, if your goal is to have a toned up body, the degree to which your environment is conducive to your goal will determine how successful you are. If you are just going to sign up for a weekly abdominal class at the gym, the results you can see is going to be lesser compared to if you sign up for the class, sign up for another aerobics class, get a membership at a gym with good body-training facilities and get a personal trainer all at the same time.
There are many different components in your environment you can play around with, such as the following:
- Your physical environment. This includes your workplace, your office, your home, your room, places you go to or even the country you live in.
- Your computer – specifically, what you have on your desktop, your favorites/bookmarks and your post-it notes, since computer has become a staple in our lives
- Communities you are a part of, both online and offline
- People you hang around with
- Anything that’s part of your routine, such as classes you join (recreation or for self-improvement purposes)
By changing any of the variables, you will see experience different results even when exerting the same energy. Change all of the variables, and you will experience dramatic results.
Creating your best environment includes any one or a combination of the 3 steps below. The better your environment is, the better it can help you in your goals.
(1) Using existing environment.
Say you decide to lose weight this month. You have a blender you normally use to make milk smoothies. Rather than using the blender to make your usual smoothies, you use it to make healthier, fruit and vegetable smoothies instead. You may also have a swimming pool at your house which you never use. Now, you can leverage it by swimming regularly there.
(2) Modifying your environment.
Using the same weight loss goal example, modifying your environment includes: Encouraging your friends to join you in losing weight. Stocking up your fridge with healthy food. Putting up posters of thin, athletic people around your room. Setting your desktop wallpaper with an aspirational model. Writing out your goal and placing it in front of you. Throwing out your larger size clothes and filling out your wardrobe with right-sized or smaller sized clothes in preparation for your new weight.
(3) Moving yourself to a new environment.
Sometimes, this method is the most effective if it’s too troublesome to modify your environment. Join a weight loss club. Join exercise programs. Get a gym membership. Move to a new neighborhood where there are only healthy eateries and no fast food.
Think about one of the top goals you have currently and ask yourself these three questions:
- What are the ways your current environment can support you in your goal?
- How can you change your environment in such a way that it best helps you achieve your goal? (Read: Does Your Room Inspire You?)
- What other environments can you leverage on to generate the best momentum toward your goals?
By strategically using your environment for your goals, your goal pursuit process will become much more seamless. Have fun creating the best environment for your goals 😀