Do you want to speed up your results? Set up your environment for success
I’m a big fan of keeping things simple (I even put it in my company name: eat.simple). I feel this way especially when it comes to diet, fitness, and fat loss. If you’re tired of struggling through the day, struggling with lack of motivation, or the phrase “I’ll just start again on Monday” regularly rotates in your vocabulary, there is a life changing tactic I use with all of my clients proven to accelerate results.
I realize that life changing is a pretty dramatic word, but without that one step you’ll be working harder than you have to. The easiest and most powerful way to accelerate your results is to set up your environment for success.
The role your environment plays
Think about the awkward snacks you keep in your pantry. You know, “just in case”. Or the fact that you have no idea where to put the free weights you bought during the pandemic.
Does that bring you closer to your results or further away?
When you remove the foods that tempt you and replace them with those that will aid your goal, you have the best chance of success. The same goes for the exercise. If your exercise equipment is tucked away in a back closet, how likely is it that you will use it?
The environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior.
This nugget of truth from author and habits expert James Clear is 100% spot on. People tend to believe that their healthy habits are a product of motivation, willpower, and effort when in reality it is your environment that gives you the best bang for your buck. Says Clear, “If you want to maximize your chances of success, you need to work in an environment that accelerates your results rather than hindering them.”
Examples of how the environment affects you:
- Your cell phone is right next to your desk, so you check Instagram more often than you would like
- You didn’t find time to shop so it looks like it’s takeaway again tonight
- The room you train in is cluttered with trash, making it difficult to find space for yoga
- You are using a large dinner-sized plate and filling it with more food than you need
- Ice cream is kept in the freezer and is eaten after a really stressful day
Change your environment, change who you are
The environment plays a huge role in your ability to achieve your goals. Not just from a conscious perspective (take the ice cream out of the freezer so it’s harder to enjoy), but also from an unconscious perspective.
As your environment changes, your subconscious begins to adopt behaviors and attitudes that are conducive to your success. Let’s say you’ve removed all of the cookies, bagels, muffins, and cereal from your pantry and replaced them with bowls of fresh fruits and vegetables. The food that surrounds you is starting to change the way you think about yourself.
In other words, if your closet is filled with processed, sugary foods, you will be more likely to mistake yourself for those types of foods. You might also believe that you are someone with no willpower or you are destined to always have cravings. For your information, you may want to examine your limiting beliefs here.
On the other hand, if you had fresh produce within reach (and at eye level), you would likely believe that you are someone who loves to eat real whole foods that support your body. Someone who loves to get some fresh air. Someone who can more easily stay on track and totally crush their goals.
Make healthy decisions effortlessly
Anne Thorndike, a doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital, was curious to see if the environment could affect the eating habits of people in her hospital. In the experiment, they rearranged the cafeteria refrigerators so that water and other healthier drinks were at eye level, while less healthy options like soda were placed below eye level. They also placed five baskets of bottled water throughout the cafeteria near the food stations.
After tracking sales for three months, they found that soda purchases were down 11.4% and bottled water sales were up a whopping 25.8%. And that without any further external influences or motivational factors. By simply moving the preferred choice to another location, people chose it more often than the less healthy option.
A guide to equipping yourself for success
Our daily life is made up of many of the same habits: waking up, brushing teeth, getting a fruit yogurt and a glass of OJ – or skipping breakfast and doing something good for your not-so-fat-adjusted self a sugar bomb when you’re at work. Do you want to change your programming (and your food choices)? You have to change your environment.
- Just do what you want to do. When something is easy to do, there is less resistance (and less delay). The exercise regimen you never started with will be far more effective if you set up your space accordingly. Put some dumbbells next to your desk and do a series of curls every time you get up. Or put your running shoes by the front door so that if you see them, you’re more likely to lace up and go for a walk.
- Make what you don’t want to do difficult. If your brain knows there are crispy, salty, starchy, greasy, sweet, sticky, snacks (probably junk and highly processed) foods in the house, you will be eating them. You are meant to devour these foods. So why seduce yourself with it all day, every day? Get her out of the house. Or better yet, only buy them on special occasions and, preferably, in smaller quantities.
- Eliminate additional decisions. Decision fatigue is a very real psychological phenomenon surrounding a person’s ability to make decisions. The more decisions you have to make, the more tired your brain will be and the worse your decisions will be. Decision fatigue explains why you buy the Costco Big Bag of Chips when you’ve just cleared all the processed foods off the table. And it explains your “do nothing” mentality when given the choice of walking or watching TV. Eliminate unnecessary decisions by preparing your lunch in advance or getting your daily walk out of the way first thing in the morning.
- Stack your habits. Think about your simple habits: making a cup of coffee, taking off your shoes, watching TV, etc. Your brain is very efficient at remembering these things and is one of the best ways to prepare your surroundings for success by stacking new habits on top of existing ones . You might decide to meditate for 5 minutes each morning after you pour your cup of coffee. Or you can put on workout clothes immediately after taking off your shoes at the end of the day. Or you do planks during commercial breaks.
- Surround yourself with like-minded people. Studies show that we mirror the behavior of those around us. That said, it is crucial that your people are supportive, inspirational, and most importantly, are not destructive, negative, or prone to sabotaging you. You are the average of the five people you deal with the most, so don’t underestimate the impact of your pessimistic, ambitious, or disorganized friends. As Tim Ferriss says, “If someone doesn’t make you stronger, they make you weaker.”
Ready to Track Your Results in a Fast Track?
You cannot ignore the fact that your surroundings influence your decisions, your behavior, and even your attitudes. If you want to speed up your results – whether it’s losing weight, getting in shape, or preventing procrastination, follow these steps to create an environment that supports, rather than hampers, your goals:
- Just do what you want to do
- Make what you don’t want to do difficult
- Eliminate additional decisions
- Stack your habits
- Surround yourself with like-minded people
Do you have any tips on how to set up your environment for success? Share them in the comments below.
About the author
Erin Power is the coaching and curriculum director of the Primal Health Coach Institute. She also helps her clients reestablish a loving and trusting relationship with their body – while restoring their metabolic health so they can lose fat and gain energy – through her own private health coaching practice, eat.simple.
If you are passionate about health and wellness and have a desire to help people like Erin does for her clients every day, consider becoming a self-certified health coach. Learn the 3 Easy Steps to Building a Successful Health Coaching Business in 6 Months or Less in this dedicated info session hosted by PHCI Co-Founder Mark Sisson.
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