There are two variables that lead to different outcomes and results in life, positive and negative ones. The first one is your character, together with your personality traits, behavioral patterns, level of awareness, quality of decision-making, and so on.
The second one is your environment. To a big extent, you are a product of your environment. Different types of environments bring different parts of your character to life. So an important part of personal development is also dealing with your environment.
Where you currently are = Your starting point + Your character + Your environment
I’ve seen it over and over again. A weak character in a strong environment, with lots of support and positive role models, starts to flourish. On the other hand, the strongest and brightest character in a bad environment gets corrupted and shady.
I experienced both options. I was a really bad student in high school. A real rebel. But I attended an elite high school dedicated exclusively to nerds. So even if I was a bad pupil, I was still a good one compared to the national average. Small deviancies were already really bad behavior in such a positive environment.
The outcome would have been completely different if I hadn’t been in such a healthy environment. Maybe I even would have ended up in prison, because I was a really pissed-off teenager.
On the other hand, I worked for companies with really bad culture, years after I built a strong character and high competence levels. No matter how good and efficient manager I am, it took me an enormous amount of energy to not get involved in gossiping, malicious politics and other deconstructive behaviors.
When everybody is doing it, you’re naturally drawn to do it too. At the end of the day, we are also monkeys trying to fit into our social circles.
The environment around you is leading you to a certain kind of outcomes, because it influences your decisions and which part of your character gets emphasized. So it makes sense to deal a lot with the environment you operate in as part of continuous improvement and personal growth. Especially because you also have the power to change it to a certain extent. Much like you are a product of your environment, so is the environment a product of you.
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Your environment can bring out the best or the worst in you.
When I talk about the environment you operate in, I especially have the following elements in mind (you can find a more extensive list here):
- Your key relationships – spouse, family, friends, boss, coworkers, mentor
- PESTLE factors – political, economic, social, technological, legal, environmental factors
- General market trends – financial markets, job markets etc.
- Your company culture and your office space
- Your family culture and your home
- Other elements (religion, infrastructure, infostructure)
These are all the things that extensively influence your spirit, your behavior, your potential, what you can achieve in life, how happy you are and the general quality of life.
You become who you spend the most time with. You always internalize some of the culture around you. You move together with markets. You are only a wheel in a greater system that’s called your environment.
The bad news is that you don’t have an influence on many of those factors. You didn’t choose the country you were born in. It’s not that easy to move to a foreign county, not psychologically and sometimes not even legally. You didn’t choose your family and your family heritage or how wealthy your family is. You didn’t choose your genes and talents. You often end up in certain jobs or markets based on the randomness factor or based on pure (un)luck.
For example, you may not have the talent for becoming a coder, so you will probably have a hard time finding a job in the IT sector, even if it’s growing fast and there are plenty of jobs. Maybe you had to go study something you never wanted because your parents pushed you.
The good news is that at some point in life, you do have an influence on many of the environmental factors. The more you understand yourself and your talents, the more aware you are of your personal power and the more you know what kind of an environment is the best positive fit for you, the more you can shape your own destiny. The more capable you are at influencing your environment, the more free will you have, if any.
Many times, we contribute too many success reasons to personality traits and too few to positive environmental factors, even if the latter can be pure luck.
How to build yourself a motivational environment
If your environment really influences your behavior to a great extent, you logically want to have strong support from your environment in a way that will help you achieve your goals. You need an environment that supports your life vision, mission, specific goals, desired lifestyle and high quality of life.
Even more, you want to build yourself an environment that brings out the best in you and leads you to the best possible outcomes. To achieve that, we have to get familiar with a few concepts related to environmental elements.
There are elements of the environment you can easily influence and others that are much harder to change or it’s even impossible to do so. Here is a very general scale from the easiest to the hardest elements of your environment to be influenced:
- Your possessions
- Your home decorations
- Your office decorations, if there is no company policy that’s preventing you from doing it
- Your mentor
- Your friends
- Your spouse – depending if you are married or not, and how long you’ve been in a relationship
- The company you work for, your coworkers and your boss
- Your primary family culture
- Market trends
- PESTLE factors – if you don’t decide to change the country
This is no rocket science. You can easily sell the things you possess or buy new ones (that you can afford), you can decorate your home more or less as you want. On the other hand, your vote for changing the political or economic system doesn’t have a really big influence. If you don’t start a revolution, there is not much you can do. In the same way, it’s easier to switch to a new car than to change your friends or family members.
The point is that there is a scale of how hard it is to change specific elements of your environment. That leads to a simple conclusion. Start with the easy ones and then build up slowly. It’s the number one rule of changing your environment.
After understanding the scale, it’s time to analyze all the options you have. In reality, you only have two options when it comes to reorganizing your environment, and they are based on the level of control you have over a specific environmental element. The two options are:
- Change: Organize your environment differently. Reorganizing your environment will lead you to more positive behavior. We can say that changing your environment will change you.
- Adjust: Some environmental elements you can’t change. You can only change yourself and your environment will change because you’ll see it differently.
Behind the two options is the level of control you have. There are elements you have control of and there are elements way out of your control. For the elements that fall into your control zone, you have the ability to proactively organize them so that they work in your favor.
For the elements that are out of your control, you can only adjust and look at them from a different angle. The elements you don’t have control over, you can only reframe in your mind so that they somehow work in your favor.
When it comes to your environment and life in general, there is an important quote that goes something like this: “Lord, grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
The harsh reality is that some things you can’t change in life, you can only change how you see them and how you react to them. You can only change your mindset about them. You can decide to see or interpret things differently. And in some cases, that’s your greatest power.
Know when to redesign your environment and when to redesign your way of thinking.
It’s time to start designing
Now you know the basic principles. You are a product of your environment to a certain extent and you can only achieve your dream life and your goals in the right environment.
You need an environment that supports you, that brings out the best in you and accelerates your way to success. Much of your environment was determined when you were born, but when you become an adult you can change many of its elements. So let’s start redesigning.
Before we start redesigning, please also keep in mind that as we discussed, there are many elements of your environment that you can change easily, but some you can’t change at all, you can only change the way you look at them. It makes sense to start with environmental elements that are the easiest to change and then tackle tougher ones.
Examples of the easiest ways to positively change your environment:
- Change your desktop wallpaper to a motivational one (on your phone and computer)
- Stick post-it notes to your mirror, car etc. as a cue to perform a specific habit
- Set alarms and notifications to follow your habits
- Decorate your home or office with motivational photos
- Declutter your home
- Install an app to better manage your health or wealth
- Sell things that annoy you
- Put fresh fruit on the kitchen counter instead of chips
- Buy yourself a faster computer
Every single small thing in your environment serves as a trigger for certain behaviors and moods, and that’s how habits are formed and executed. So pay very close attention to every small thing that’s part of your environment and to what kind of behavior it contributes. If it’s not a positive one, change it.
Now let’s go to slightly more challenging ways to change your environment:
- You can get rid of your TV, for example, to read more
- You can find one positive person who will support you at your goals or find yourself a mentor
- You can delete a social network or a time-wasting app
- You can find a new more ambitious friend or stop spending time with somebody who’s an energy vampire
- You can switch from owning a car to a bike (it’s good for your health and wallet)
If small things influence your behavior in small ways, big things do it in big ways. Big environmental things are especially your key relationships and market trends. You especially want to carefully choose these two environmental forces and make sure they have a positive influence on you.
To achieve that, you have to sometimes make more radical and thorough changes in your environment. Examples of more demanding changes for building yourself a more motivational environment are:
- Joining a new social circle (business club, hobby meet-up etc.)
- Introducing a new location to your life (gym, co-working space etc.)
- Finding a new spouse who’s a better fit for you
- Switching to a job where your talents can really shine
- Changing a career and finding more perspective markets
- Moving to a different country
The final question is what to do with the environmental forces you can’t change but can only look at differently. In such cases, the best thing to do is to focus yourself on better managing your thoughts, feelings and behavior.
You can do that by using many different mental tools like cognitive reframing, focusing on the positive etc. By changing yourself, you then also change your environment.
Examples of changing yourself in order to change your environment:
- You stop fighting with a family member and consequently they also have to stop fighting with you
- You stop resisting market trends and accept them by adjusting your actions accordingly
- You focus on the positives in an economical system you don’t like (capitalism, socialism etc.) and build a superior strategy to work well in the system, even if you dislike it
The more successful you want to be, the more support you need from your environment. The more successful you want to be, the more people you need who support you and believe in you (success is teamwork), you need better support from market trends and you need a general motivational environment that drives you through the times when your spirits are dampened.
Sometimes if you can’t beat them, you have to join them.
Things to look for in your environment
At the bottom line, you want to have an environment that will:
- Make you feel good; that includes everything from bringing out the best in you to knowing that you fit in and can shine brightly with all your talents and efforts. It’s not hard to sense which environment you feel good in and where you don’t.
- Encourage you to make small right and smart choices every day, which will accumulate into success over time. Examples are riding a bike instead of going by car, eating an apple instead of chips, saving money etc.
- You want to have elements in your environment that will drive you towards making good big decisions in life. For example, starting your own business if it makes sense, moving to a new better location or country etc.
- And in the end, you want to make sure that environmental forces are accelerating your success. For example, if you are working for a company that’s growing fast, there are usually many more opportunities to get a promotion.
Many times, good environments are characterized by the so-called 5T – talent, technology, tolerance, transparency, transcendence.
An encouraging positive environment usually has many talented people who work together, it’s very well developed in terms of technology and other PESTLE elements, there is a high level of tolerance towards differences and failure, everything is very transparent and people work based on intrinsic motivation with a strong sense of purpose. We can also add solid market growth and an absence of bozos and zombies.
Express your power by changing your environment
It’s time for homework. It’s time for you to become aware of the power you have by changing your environment to just a slightly more positive note. Do one small thing that will make your environment more supportive of your goals. Be a little bit rebellious, show who’s the boss – in a positive way. And do it now.
- Hang a motivational poster
- Stick a post-it note on your bathroom mirror
- Clean your home
- Write to a person you respect and ask if they would mentor you
- Delete an app
First do one small thing so you can start feeling the power you have and how you can sometimes easily change your environment to a more positive one. Then follow the next steps:
- Analyze which parts of your environment are positively influencing you and which aren’t
- Brainstorm how you can reinforce all the positive influences of your environment
- Rank all negative environmental influences from the easiest one to change to the hardest one
- Start redesigning your environment and redesigning your life settings in a way that you will have all the support needed to achieve your goals and dreams.
Your environment already had a big enough influence on you. Now it’s time for you to start shaping your environment. May the force be with you.