Improving your life — whether that means quitting smoking, losing weight, or learning a new skill — requires change. And to make change happen, we usually go straight to our old friend willpower. The internal conversation usually goes something like this:
Wake up, willpower, I’ve got a bunch of jobs for you! First I need you to get me out of bed at 5:30am. Then you’ve got to get me out the door for a run. Also, don’t let me eat any sugar today. And while you’re at it, help me keep my mouth shut the next time my boss says something stupid.
Willpower is such a loaded word with so many preconceptions attached to it. Most people feel like they need willpower to succeed at anything and that just isn’t the case. What if instead of needing massive amounts of willpower, we simply changed our environment to set us up for success? If you want to change your behavior change your environment :
Setting your workout clothes right by your bed (or even going to sleep in them) so it is the first thing you see when you wake up.
Have your coffee ready to go so all you have to do is press the button in the morning (or have it on a timed start).
Have your lunch packed and ready to go in the fridge so there is no excuse to order take out at work .
Go to a new grocery store. You may be able to avoid the junk food if you don’t know where its located.
Write your goals down and stick it on the fridge! Be your own accountability partner when no one else is looking
Break the bad habits with simple changes of environment by either adding or subtracting:
Struggling with nighttime snacking on chips, ice cream etc.? Don’t keep it in the house. Don’t buy it. Don’t even walk down that isle in the grocery store (Yes, I’m being serious)
Struggling with cutting the nightly glass of wine/beer? Don’t keep it in the house. Don’t buy it. Don’t even walk down that isle in the grocery store. Out of sight, out of mind.
Not able to go to the gym? Buy a few pieces of gym equipment and do free YouTube workout videos
Having trouble getting all your servings of veggies in? Keep them stocked in the fridge. Buy pre-chopped if short on prep time. Always have a stash of frozen veggies in case you run out of fresh ones.
Staying up too late at night watching TV? Take the TV out of the bedroom. Better yet take it out of the house completely.
Staying up too late surfing the internet? Set an alarm on your phone every night one hour before bedtime to get off your phone.
Having trouble getting all your water in? Keep a refillable water bottle with you and challenge yourself to take 5 massive gulps of water every time you glance at it.
Friends always wanting to go out to eat and drink alcohol? Reassess your friendships/ relationships and whether or not they are supportive of your goals and well-being. You are who you hang around. Don’t be afraid to make new friends who have the habits you strive to conquer.
The key to all these behaviors is to make the healthy behaviors convenient and to make the problem behaviors inconvenient.
In the battle between knowledge and environment, environment wins most often. If you think it is time to switch up your environment, do it. It may be one of the best ways for you to create new progress without depending on willpower to get you there.