If you follow my writing, you would know that I have been harping on the idea of getting what you want, studying and highlighting the ideas that if applied, could move you from point A to point B.
As a sub theme, over the past three months, I’ve been thinking and writing around ‘how to break through plateaus’? If you have worked on the basics and are steadily pushing towards your goals or to this life you are creating for yourself, how does one move to the next level? How do we grow?
We place a lot of stock on personal effort and grit in getting things done and growing. We highlight the need to make a firm decision and take massive action. The emphasis is usually on what we can do to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. We are the swashbuckling hero fighting against all odds to make things happen.
One strategy that is many times underrated is that of being intentional about your environment.
It is actually impossible to change yourself without also changing your environment. – Benjamin Hardy (Willpower doesn’t work)
I’m presently reading Ben Hardy’s book ‘Willpower doesn’t work’ and he makes the argument that the self and the environment are two parts of the same coin. Which makes sense. The self is not just our thoughts, emotions and behavior, it is incredibly intertwined with and responds to the environment and people around us. We shift our behavior according to context and expectations. The way you behave in a board room meeting on Tuesday morning is quite different from how you would behave at drinks on Friday evening. The way you move and feel in a seedy part of town is different from how you behave in the upscale part of town. We are malleable and ever shifting, even though we operate from a generally set sense of self and identity.
We have all had experiences where we are placed in scenarios that push us. Something happens, and we are suddenly thrust with more responsibility or we face higher pressure and expectation. And because we are adaptation machines, we rise to the occasion. What if we took it a bit more seriously and started to leverage our environment to really help push us to the next level? What if we put ourselves in positions to succeed by placing ourselves in environments that demand us to rise up and operate at new levels?
That’s the core idea being moving to new places. I have employed this strategy in my life numerous times. Interacting with new people, committing to new projects, moving to new cities and being around certain people pushed me out of my comfort zone. They put me in the path of opportunities I would not have had otherwise. They worked on me subconsciously and increased my expectations for myself. They demanded more of me and compelled me to do more, to try harder, to play higher. They catalyzed my growth.
As I think of my next level, I wonder, what will take me there? What kind of situations should I put myself in? How can I place myself out of my depth? How can I overwhelm myself and grow? What kind of people should I hang out with? What circles should I play in. How can I break into those situations? It speaks to networking and making connections, because people are the conduit to almost everything.
There is the external environment – your neighborhood, your city, your work, all the places where you interact with other people and live out your day to day lives. There is also your immediate environment. Does where you reside act for you or against you? What changes can you make? Is your personal space empowering or demotivating? Perhaps you could be more organized or even cleaner. Maybe you can design your space to allow you to be the best version of yourself. There is a reason Jordan Peterson gives the advice that if you want to change your life,start by cleaning your room.
You have to critically observe and ponder. Do your environment, habits and triggers support your goals? Do they help propel you forward, or do they keep you stagnant, running in the same loops? How do you tweak things to make them better?
Beyond the immediate environment is the inner world. What is your mind environment like? There are different aspects to this environment, like how you spend your time, and your daily routine or lack thereof as well as the influences you absorb on a daily basis.
The world is full of such distraction. We have multiple social platforms at our finger tips as well as an unrelenting assault of content, digital blackholes to get lost in at any given moment. This barrage, of news, of opinions, of the inane incessant chatter of the masses which usually begin right from the moment we wake up, serve to cloud us most of the time. Unless we deliberately curate what we expose ourselves to, and how we interact with them.
In the earlier days of my commitment to growth, I used tactic of complete immersion. I got obsessive about personal development and business, so I would fill every free and loose time with something constructive. I read books or articles on Medium while in transit between meetings. I’d watch Gary, Tai or Tom YouTube videos to destress or distract myself between tasks. I would listen to podcasts as I worked. Every nook and cranny of time was filled with information or content that would inspire or educate me. That is a measure of control of environment, of immersing your mind in an idea or an ideal until it has populated your conscious and unconscious mind, making the lessons seep in. A few months of this, and it becomes all you can think about. It changes the way you think and interact with the world.
These days more of my content includes breakdowns of shows, and movies. I don’t know why. I find them interesting and entertaining. Trawling the internet for theories and philosophies behind some of my favorite movies and pieces of pop culture help consume content with a more critical and appreciative eye. And they give me a deeper insight into the creative process, and how storytelling and communication can operate and be structured thematically on multiple layers.
The point I am making, is that you can design your way to a better life, and a big part of that, in addition to all the things you do for self, making decisions and taking action, is making your environment one you can thrive in.
This means getting around scenarios that will push you to be better. It means taking care of your immediate environment, having a space that is not cluttered, that is clean, well-organized and uplifting. Hanging around and building relationships with people that challenge you. Being in spaces that reinforce your true values and make it easier for you to become the person you want to be.
And if that is difficult, if you are stuck in an environment you would rather not be in, a place that you can’t easily leave for whatever reason. Then you can dive within. Take control of your mental environment. Fill your mind with positivity and drown out the noise. Soon your outer world will morph to match your inner one.