An alcoholic walks into a bar. An hour later, he’s drunk. Two hours later, he stumbles home.
Um, alright, that wasn’t a very good “guy walks into a bar joke”, I’m sorry.
But it is an excellent, albeit extreme example of a point I want to make today.
If we have a bad habit, putting ourselves into an environment that promotes the bad habit is the first step in making the bad habit worse. Therefore, we need to identify not only the bad habits in our lives that we want to change, but also the environments we must avoid in order to foster this change.
The other night while driving from the big city to my home in the country, I was listening to an interview with Dan Kennedy. On the call he described how he structures his weekly errand’s route so that he doesn’t drive by a donut shop. For Dan, a diabetic, he’s struggled with a lifelong “addiction” to donuts. So he makes the effort to remove himself from the environment that would support the addiction.
Likewise, almost every bad habit we have in our lives can be limited by removing ourselves from particular environments. For example, let’s say that you have a problem with gossip. Every day at 10am you find yourself at the proverbial water cooler in your office with the same people having the same useless, negative conversations about other people.
What’s part of the solution?
Avoiding the water cooler at 10am.
You see, most bad habits can be significantly reduced by avoiding the environment, yet often we think we can have the willpower to put ourselves in that environment and somehow resist the urge to give in to the bad behaviour.
Do you really think you can go to the all-you-can-eat pizza buffet at lunch while on your diet and just order a salad? That takes a strong-willed person, and really, that willpower is best left to fight against something else more important in your life. Instead of wasting the willpower on this environment, just keep yourself out of the offending environment altogether.
This also applies to the people and items you bring into your environment. For example, one of my friends, nutrition expert Brad Pilon, simply recommends a “no eating in the car” rule for his readers, and this simple little suggestion helps eliminate unwanted and unnecessary calories. After all, the majority of foods you can eat in your car are on the “do not eat” list from your diet.
When you control the environment, you remove the opportunity to fall back into a bad habit. Lead yourself not into temptation and you shall do no evil.
Of course, there will be times when you’re thrown into an environment that is no good for you, and you’ll need to develop coping strategies for those times as well. But that’s another lesson for another day. Today, I simply want you to focus on two things.
First, identify the bad habits and where they most often occur. What people, places, and things contribute to your participation in activities that you want to remove from your life?
Second, identify solutions to these obstacles. For example, in the case of the water cooler gossip, avoid engaging these people in non-work related conversations. Avoid the water cooler at 10am.
I speak from experience. When I was young and foolish I would often meet my best friend in a bar on Saturday evenings. Needless to say this was not conducive to a Sunday full of relaxation and preparation for the week ahead.
In order to maintain our regular meetings and 30-year friendship, we both identified the offending environment and removed ourselves from it. Today we meet on Sunday afternoons (a day on which neither of us drink alcohol) in locations that don’t lead us into temptation and our friendship is stronger than ever.
You don’t have to lose relationships in order to better your life. You often just need to lose the offending environments that put you in harm’s way.
Put yourself in a positive environment with positive people who provide you social support and you’ll build better habits without draining your limited willpower.[One way to control your environment is to control your future. You can do this by creating your financial independence so that you set the rules on where you spend your time and who you spend your time with. Watch this special video presentation where I reveal how anyone can achieve financial independence from the comfort of their own home.]