When we're trying to make positive change it can often feel like we're pushing a boulder up a mountain. It might feel like we have to muster all our willpower and deny ourselves of all our usual comfort and vices we've clung so tightly to. Yet we WANT to change. We know we have the potential for more. We sense that we can feel better, be healthier, and do more.
So we make an effort and it just feels So. Damn. Hard. So eventually we resort to our habitual ways and tell ourselves "it's not so bad" and come up with excuses galore why we don't actually NEED to make that change after all.
Here's the thing...it doesn’t have to be so difficult.
I've been studying the art of habit change and behavior science for the past several years and I've learned that there's a way to create change that doesn't require as much willpower and motivation. It's called choice architecture.
Choice architecture can work against us or for us. Grocery stores unfortunately use it to manipulate our choices by putting candy in the check-out aisle. We've made good choices until we go to pay and while we're waiting, we're forced to stare at chocolate bars and we've exhausted our willpower and are more likely give in – especially if we’re hungry and despite our good intentions.
There was a time in my life where I was eating an entire dark chocolate bar a day. It was conveniently located at eye level in my kitchen (the room I spend the most amount of time in) so I was basically guaranteeing that I would strengthen that addiction. Until I stopped buying it and got it out of my house and out of sight, I couldn’t kick the habit.
Knowing that we're extremely influenced by our environment, we can consciously design our space to support the person we want to become and the habits we want to have.
- If you want to eat better get rid of the junk – plain and simple. If it's not around you can't eat it!
- If you want to go for a run every morning, put your running shoes by your bed so that visual reminder will prompt you when you wake up
- If you want to drink more water, get yourself a thermos and carry it around with you
- If you want to eat less, eat from a smaller plate (this is a proven weight loss technique)
- Lastly, if you want healthier habits, surround yourself with people who have the habits you want to have. (this is probably the most important and effective tip)
What kind of change do you want to make? How can you set up your environment to enable you to incorporate that habit or trigger the new behavior?
In any given day we have so many micro decisions to make and so much on our minds. By making our space work for us, we don’t have to work so hard to make changes – it will happen automatically. Life is hard enough : )