How environment dictates your outcomes

Recently in the gym, I had a member come up and say to me, “It is crazy how much this place - physically being here - impacts my effort. I don’t have to workout this hard to be simply healthy but when I come here pushing myself is so easy and is what I WANT to do.” 

He was right on a couple of levels. You don’t have to workout as hard as we do to be healthy. You can ramp up your attention to your nutrition, go on a few long walks or easy runs, and do a small dose of resistance training and you’ll most likely stay healthy. You won’t be thriving and at the fitness level you may aspire to, but you won’t be leading a 600 pound life either. He was also right in the fact that being in the gym makes your effort level increase exponentially

It got me thinking about other situations where the environment plays a key role, and how we can all use that to maximize our impact and development on a daily basis. 

How COVID has made me think about my environment

At the start of the COVID quarantine, my wife and I were working in the house together for the first time. I was sitting at our kitchen counter with my computer, tablet, and any papers spread out across the countertop. Katie was sitting in the living room trying her best to balance her technology and notes between a side table, coffee table and her lap. 

To say I lived in a distracted state at the start of that season would be a drastic understatement. There was always a dish to clean up. There was always a sound from her work that would grab my attention. Plus, I couldn’t ever turn the work off when I got done, because my living space was my work space. So, we decided to expedite the creation of a home office and update our kitchen to provide one big table for us each to work at - separated by walls and doors to block sound and distraction. 

Now, when I walk into my home office, I know it is work time. When I need a break, I walk out and go to another part of my house or take a walk outside. At the end of the day, I shutdown my computer, turn off the office light, and am able to physically and mentally remove myself from my work environment. The best part is that my productivity has skyrocketed and I’m getting more done in less time than I ever have before, even when I was in a big office building. 

Exercise, work, nutrition - all of your choices in these areas are affected by your environment

I’ve told this story at multiple nutrition seminars, and it bears repeating again. 

I am fortunate to not be very tempted by packaged sweets like store-bought cookies, cakes, pies, or pastries. They just don’t excite me. If I want to have a dessert, I want a bougie donut made by a hipster cafe or a homemade cookie, cake, or pie. Otherwise I just don’t find it worthwhile. However, one Saturday night I found that isn’t a hard and fast rule. 

We had just purchased a fun kitchen gadget, a drink mixer. It is basically a small version of the Blizzard machine at Dairy Queen. Naturally, we thought we should make some homemade versions of that treat. So, we bought some Halo Top ice cream and Katie requested Golden Oreos. I’m not a huge fan generally but I grabbed them to mix into the dessert. 

As it ended up, I didn’t feel like having a shake so I just ate my Halo Top by itself. I was totally satisfied and happy. Then, right before bed that night, I got the most insane craving specifically for Golden Oreos. What the heck? I don’t even like them, and I’ve literally never craved them before. Somehow, just having them in my environment gave me one of the most intense cravings I can ever remember. Naturally, I had one - and immediately remembered why I don’t really like store-bought sweets. 

The point to that story is to give an example to how much your environment impacts your choices. Control what you’re surrounded by, and you’ll control the outcomes of your life. 

Your five biggest influences will determine your actions

They say you're the average of the five people you spend your time with - I'd argue that should include the environment you spend most of your time in, as well. Want to stop drinking? Don't go to the bars. Trying to eat healthier? Stop going to the pizza shop. Want to get in better shape? Join a gym which encourages your transformation. It doesn't have to be complicated to be effective.

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