You may think that you control most of your choices, but the truth is that a large portion of your actions every day are simply a response to the environment design around you. The forms you are mailed, the food on your kitchen counter, the items on your desk at work — they all impact your behavior in one way or another.
Your environment is the “default option to which you are assigned.” The environment you surround yourself with determines the default actions that you take on a day–to–day basis.
Here’s an easy way to apply environment design to your own life: think about your environment in relation to the number of steps it takes to perform a habit.
Reduce mindless eating. I don’t know about you, but if I see a cookie sitting on the kitchen counter, then I’m going to eat it. I don’t even need to be hungry. It’s just there, so I respond. I’m simply reacting to my environment. Make life easier on yourself by removing unhealthy food from your view. Put healthier options like fruit and nuts on the kitchen counter.
Start flossing. I floss everyday, but it wasn’t always that way. Previously, I never remembered to take the floss out of the drawer and use it. Then, I bought a small bowl, dropped a handful of pre–made flossers in it, and set it next to my toothbrush. That simple change in my environment was all I needed to start flossing consistently. What small visual cues can you make for yourself?
Most of the time we assume that to take a certain action, we need to have an incentive. You hear people say this all the time: “I need to get motivated.” or “I need to have a good reason for doing X.”
Environment design paints a different picture. It proves that our choices and preferences can be crafted by the environment around us. Suddenly, it becomes apparent that we don’t need to be motivated or incentivized to take action — we simply need to be surrounded by the right cues.
How is your environment design impacting your choices? And what will you do to improve it?
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