This is the third installment of a month-long series on a never-talked-about aspect of personal success – the impact your ENVIRONMENT exerts on your achievement. For the most part, your environmental impact will be negative, I’m sorry to say….
You can read the first post in which I give you the overview of the role of the environment right here.
And you can read the second post, in which I “dive deep” into the first of the three aspects of your environment that prevent you from your sustained success. Catch that right here, and it’s about how the PEOPLE around you DO hold you back. It’s not just your imagination, but they are also not INTENTIONALLY trying to hurt you, either.
This week I want to talk about another overlooked aspect to personal transformation, and that is the physical space you find yourself in.
This means your house, your yard if you have one, your office, your vehicle – in short, any room or space in which you spend time could subtly send you the unconscious message that “you cannot KEEP the gains you have made.”
People have very strong emotional connections with physical space. There is a whole field of psychology that studies how color impacts your mood.
Industrial-organizational psychologists also study how placement of office furniture impacts productivity. You might know this personally if you work in an office space that was recently redesigned to optimize communication and collaboration.
The point is that we have known for a very long time that the physical environment exerts a tremendous impact on humans. But we do not consciously perceive that impact most of the time.
It is subtle, and even subconscious. But it’s POWERFUL.
People have strong emotional connections with their environment. You might intuit this as you recall what it feels like to return to the house in which you grew up. Feelings crop up almost instantly.
You learned to associate the interactions, events, relationships, and emotions with the house or apartment of your childhood (unless you moved around quite a bit as a child – then you might not have strong emotional links with a particular dwelling).
This association between your physical space and your emotions (and therefore your BEHAVIOR) is so strong that you might experience an intense “pull” to revert to old ways of interacting with family members.
This is one reason that family dynamics can be tough to change. The house has a “power” through its association with your childhood.
Psychologists call this “stimulus control.” Basically, seeing particular “stimuli” in our world triggers us to feel or do certain things.
For example, if you see a picture of a Christmas tree in July, it will cause you to start thinking about the holiday season, and maybe even yearn for cooler weather. Your emotional response might be nostalgic, or to connect with a fondness for the “feel” of the Christmas season.
Or, perhaps you see a birthday cake. You will recall the fun and joy around a birthday celebration, as well as the tastiness of cake. If you are on a diet, this can become a problem, because it can trigger a craving or intense desire to EAT cake.
Even if you stay away from cake, your self-discipline has kicked in and you may find it harder to stay on course for your already-planned healthy dinner. Your mind may wander to how deprived you felt when you saw that birthday cake.
Do you “give in?” Or do you stick to your plan?
This is why all health coaches advise clients to remove unhealthy foods from their pantries. Simply SEEING those packages of cookies and chips can produce a cascade of emotions that lead to “giving in.” The visual cue of the packages exerts “stimulus control” over you.
This same scenario happens with everything we pursue.
Let’s take a home-based business, for example. People who start businesses from home do so for lots of great reasons. One of those reasons is that they have the convenience of working from home.
Indeed, speaking from experience, this is a great lifestyle. But it comes with a LOT of challenges as well.
The biggest challenge is the fact that most of us do not associate our homes with conducting business or doing work.
In fact, we associate our homes with being APART from the stresses and demands of the outside world.
Our homes are our sanctuaries.
I always advise my clients to have a dedicated space to work their businesses. Ideally they would use this space for ONLY business related tasks, but of course that is not possible for many people.
The goal, though, is to have something in the environment that supports your efforts. Maybe putting on music that you only listen to when working, or having a specific notebook/workbook that is for your business, or an organized box with your work materials that you pull out and arrange on your dining room table during your business hours – SOMETHING that will be a CUE to your brain that this is “work time” and “work space.”
For people working on their fitness level, joining a gym is powerful. When you walk into it, EVERYONE and EVERYTHING there is geared towards one objective – to get people fit.
So when you walk in, your brain registers the environment, the sights, the sounds, the smells (LOL!) with fitness and exercise. It’s far easier to get through your exercise than if you had to push yourself to do it at home.
But if you want to work out at home, then make sure you have dedicated space to do it. If you exercise in your living room, then make sure that BEFORE your workout time, you start pulling the things out you will need. Do this an hour before – seeing your resistance bands on the floor with your yoga mat will cue your brain that it’s time to work out. Therefore you are FAR more likely to actually DO it!
It’s also about the quality of your space…..
Some of you will not want to hear this. But the truth is that a cluttered space will cause your mind to be cluttered.
Please don’t misunderstand me – your space does not have to be PERFECT. But it does need to have a semblance of order and structure.
I have piles on my desk, but they are somewhat organized. I know how much “disorganization” I can tolerate before it starts to impact my brain power.
Be honest with yourself – if looking at your pantry makes you break out in hives because you can’t figure out what you actually have to make dinner and you therefore resort to fast food, then make a PRIORITY of organizing your pantry…..and KEEPING it organized.
Clutter prevents us from seeing what we have. Therefore, our brains cannot focus.
When you don’t focus, your mind starts to wander – when your desk is so cluttered that you cannot work at it, your mind is more easily distracted. When the pantry is a mess, your eyes glaze over the food items, and your mind starts to say, “It’s too hard to figure out what to eat, so I’m going to do the easiest option….”
If your money is scattered and you don’t know how much you have in your accounts, or what is going out or coming in because you don’t have a structured system to work in, what does that encourage you to do?
If you are like most people, you AVOID looking at your money, because the lack of structure makes you FEEL OUT OF CONTROL.
Your physical environment MATTERS!
Your space will either support your big goals, or make you avoid pursuing them because it feels too HARD to overcome the associations you have of comfort, downtime, security, etc with your home.
And a cluttered space makes you actively avoid the tasks that will make your life better.
So what is the answer? CHANGE YOUR ENVIRONMENT!
The specifics of this will vary, but it could be a matter of moving furniture around, painting the walls a different color, putting more inspiring art work on the walls, or even buying some new items that are associated with your biggest dreams.
And…..clean up the clutter. Find systems for things that you WILL stick to, and make a priority of sticking to them.
This process may not be easy, and may not happen fast, but it will be a VERY powerful signal that you are SERIOUS about sustained improvement in key areas of your life!
Your environment MATTERS, so change it to SUPPORT YOU!
Find me over on Facebook and let me know your thoughts. Or comment below.
I do Facebook Lives fairly frequently, so you can ask me questions directly. Also find me on Twitter and Periscope – I LOVE to interact with people so I can make sure you have trustworthy, reliable, and practical information that will help you succeed!
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