One of the best secrets of motivation is that by changing your environment you can influence your own levels of enthusiasm, drive and desire towards the goals you have set. By making alterations in your physical environment and your setting, you create powerful subconscious motivators that make working towards your goals far easier. The reverse effect of this principle is, however, that by having an environment that is incongruent with your goals, you are sabotaging your success through its influence.
Why does your environment have an influence on your motivation? The answer has two factors, your conscious and subconscious mind. Through these two methods of influence, your environment has a huge impact on your motivation to reach the goals you have set and decided for yourself.
The way your conscious mind is influenced by your environment is simple. Having an environment conductive to reaching your goals will make them easier to attain. This is pretty basic and it is an element of environmental modification most people recognize. If you have decided to get in shape and start living a healthy, active life, the best way to start this would be to remove all junk food from your house. In this case, removing junk food has influenced you consciously. Without the junk food it will be harder to eat unhealthy foods. Similarly, making your workspace neat and organized is conductive to your productivity, looking professional and reducing wasted time looking for things.
The subconscious way your mind is influenced by your environment is a tad more complex and harder to recognize. By altering your environment, even in ways that don’t make it any more efficient for goal-setting, your subconscious mind begins to focus you towards behaviors and attitudes that are conductive to success. If you were to replace all your old ripped jeans and t-shirts with a few nice pants, shirts and a suit, your apparel may not have a direct influence on your productivity, but when you start wearing a suit you begin to think of yourself more like a productive businessperson than you do when wearing your coffee-stained jeans.
Subconscious influence, in many ways, is far more powerful than conscious influence. While changing your environments conscious influence may make you more efficient or less likely to pig out on snacks, changing the subconscious influence can begin to subtly shift your entire identity. In other words, by changing the subconscious influence of your environment it begins to change you. It begins to make you the kind of person that would be able to reach the goals you have set.
So how can you change your environment. I wouldn’t be telling you this if there weren’t simple and effective ways to alter your environment and alter your success. Although buying a yacht may make you subconsciously feel like a rich person, the bank’s interest rate will not. Simple, easy adjustments to your environment can be done through several different ways. The three major ways I have found to shift your environment and shift your goals is through reminders, surroundings and people.
What are goals really about. The answer in one word is focus. Goals are about focusing your mind onto the objectives you want. By focusing your mind, your conscious and even subconscious mind start investing more resources in directions that would lead to your goals attainment. Instead of having vague and imprecise wishes, goals create a specific target. Like a magnifying glass in the sun, a clear target can harness the immense resources you possess and apply them to a single point.
The problem with goals is when we begin to lose focus. When we forget about our goals, either through distraction or interruption, we start sailing off course. Like a moving magnifying glass, you won’t be able to focus your energies to a single objective. Lose focus with your goals and you render them completely useless. So, this inevitably begs the question, how do you maintain focus?
A simple and effective way to maintain focus is to allow your goals to constantly distract you. Except instead of having minor and unimportant events distracting you and taking you away from your desired focus, you will have your goal distract you back to your focus. Interrupting your daily events to focus the mind back on your goal is essential to keep that focus keen.
You can interrupt yourself back onto your goals by using reminders. There are many ways to do this and I have experimented with lots of them. Each of them is effective, but they are not permanently so. The key to any distraction is to have it catch your attention. If your reminders become as commonplace as the noise in the background of your life they will be worthless. Rotating your reminding strategies frequently is therefore essential to maintaining them.
Here are some ways you can insert goal reminders into your environment:
Post-Its: This is my new favorite way of using reminders. Simply look around your room, office or home and find locations that you frequently have to look at. Good examples are right above doorknobs, near buttons for your computer, fridge handles or near your alarm clock. Simply write your goal in a one or two word phrase on a Post It and stick it there. I’m currently using this technique with my one month traffic goal of 4500 page requests per day, so all around my workspace I have Post Its with “4500 per day” everywhere. Although I think they will be unnoticeable after a week or two, I will keep switching the positions to keep them fresh.
Computer: Altering the desktop or screensaver of your computer is a great way to insert reminders. I like to put a white box over a normal desktop background with a reminder for my goal. Similarly you can edit the text of your screensaver to display something about your goal. Once again you will become blind to these things in a few days, so you may decide some of them are too much work to maintain, but even making slight adjustments to catch your attention can help.
Goal Rewrites/Verbalizations: This is really the power of affirmation. By repeating your goal out loud or rewriting it each day at a specific time you are essentially reminding yourself of its importance. Although this one can take a little more work and care then typical interruption methods, goal rewrites or verbalizations can serve the same function.
We are going to play a little game. I want you to think of your number one goal for the moment. When you have it clearly in your head, we’ll move on.
Look up at the surroundings around you. Look at your furniture, computer monitor, room coloring and even the clothes you are wearing. Now answer this simple question. Is this the surroundings of the person who has already achieved my goal. If the answer is anything but a definite and resounding “Yes!” then those surroundings need to be changed to reflect that.
Altering your surroundings doesn’t need to be incredibly expensive or time consuming, even though the benefits are immense. If you pictured that the person who has already achieved your goal has a big book shelf full of books and you don’t own a single paperback, buying thousands of dollars worth of books you haven’t read may not be the best strategy. Instead get a bookcase and leave some empty space for where you plan to place all the books you have read.
Your surroundings can influence both consciously and subconsciously, so look at both those elements when you begin altering your environment. Often times by optimizing your environment to make achieving your goal easier, you will find ways to subconsciously improve your performance as well. By removing junk food and placing health food in your house you also start a shift to believing you are a healthy person. So the first step in changing your surroundings is to design them to make achieving your goals easier.
The clothes you wear also fit into the category of influences by surroundings. What clothes you wear often affects how you see your own self-image. By wearing clothes that match those of the person you want to become, you are sending a subconscious influence to be more like that person. Just like your surroundings, clothing can be a powerful subconscious influence.
If you get two people in a room and get them both to tap the floor, within a short time they will both be tapping with the same beat. This principle of human beings, and all life, in fact, is that we tend to synchronize to those around us. More than just foot movements, the tendency for humans to shift behaviorally towards the people that surround them is well known. Sometimes this fact of humanity is referred to as social proof in other cases it is referred to as peer pressure. Other people have the most powerful influence on our behavior, both consciously and subconsciously.
Unlike moving furniture, changing the people in your environment can be a little more difficult. The most obvious way is to simply shift your focus and who you are spending time with. Since people will have an influence on your actions and inevitably the direction of your entire life, by changing who you spend time with you can prevent the negative influence of your relationships and build those that have a positive impact.
Many people believe that you should be loyal to your past friends and stick with them even when they are not supporting your growth. I support a different view. By staying loyal to friends who are stopping your growth and cutting you off from your dreams you will begin to resent or break down that relationship. Ending a relationship that can do nothing but foster resentment is better for both of you.
Most of the time it is not necessary to completely sever ties with another person in order to reach your goal. This may be true if the relationship was incredibly involved or you are making a drastic life change, but generally you can shift the people in your lives in more subtle ways. Making new friends who share the values, behaviors and attitude that will move you towards your goal and then spending more time with these people can offset the negative influence of others.
The key to using people to move you towards a goal is to remember that above all else you must be loyal to yourself. Loyalty to friends, family or even spouses that are dragging you away from the direction you want to take in your life not only damages your own success and happiness but it builds resentment that will slowly kill the relationship with time. By consciously deciding what people you want to influence your life, you are taking control of its ultimate direction.
Environmental influences can greatly determine how successful you are in reaching your goals. Leave no reminders of your goals and it is very easy to lose focus in the face of minor distractions. Surroundings that don’t paint the picture of who you need to be to reach your goal will make shifting to that person far more difficult. Even the people in our lives have an enormous impact on our ability to reach our goals. Changing your environment doesn’t so much as facilitate your goals as it changes you.