Changing your environment is the easiest and most powerful way to change your behavior.
But you’re an objective, self-determined, independent, unique snowflake, you say? No, you’re not.
- Those around you affect more of your behavior than you think. Poor fitness, car purchases, lateness, having children, charitable contributions, divorce and stupidity are all contagious.
- Your environment manipulates your decision-making more than you care to know as well. You act warmer when it’s warmer and colder when it’s colder. Context rules how you eat; you consume more when plates are bigger and food is closer. When you see kindness, you are kind. What you wear affects how you act.
- Sorry to squash the idea of soulmates but who you date is only 2% about what you want and 98% who is nearby. The boost from caffeine and the fun of a roller coaster makes you think a date is more attractive that they really are. The happiness of relationships is often more about the fun places you go and things you do together than the characteristics of the people in it.
The reason you’re often so good a predicting other people’s behavior and so bad at predicting your own is because when forecasting other people’s actions you always take context into consideration. With yourself, you assume you’re objective.
We are often lazy creatures of habit, strongly influenced by the world around us. We don’t even use our leisure time to do what we really enjoy, we do what’s easiest. And without a prod we don’t do the ethical thing, we do what’s convenient.
But the predictability of our reliance on context points to a remarkably effective method for improving one’s life:
Manipulate your environment so as to make what you should do easy and what you shouldn’t do hard.
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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.
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