Change Your Surroundings to Make Change Happen

Change is hard – for a number of reasons! Let’s first set the ground work with a few words about your brain. Our brain is incredibly efficient in helping us conserve energy and go about our days with the least amount of effort. Depending on which studies you reference, about 90-95% of our behaviors are based on programs we’ve developed in our subconscious mind. This means that 90-95% of the time we are reacting to people and situations on auto-pilot without even realizing that we’re doing it.

This makes sense – could you imagine having to consciously think about all of the behaviors that get you through your day – getting dressed, how to brush your teeth or even chew your food, how to start the car and put it in reverse – we’d be exhausted by the time we had to leave for work! So we need our brains to work this way, but there are times when it gets in our way – when we want to think outside the box, get creative, or even change a habit that no longer serves us – basically any time we want to make a change.

Back to your brain – it associates your environment with certain behaviors. For example, when you’re in your closet, it knows that this is generally where you need to get dressed (or where ever you do it). If you’re in the bathroom and you’ve just woken up, it prepares itself to get your teeth brushed. If you’re in the kitchen, it knows where everything is and depending on the time of day and the biological need, it will go to the easiest route to get what you need – all of this without you being completely consciously aware of every thought going through your brain.  Again, this is great unless you want to make a change.

So what is the strategy for addressing this? Change your environment! Let’s go over some examples for this, first using creativity and innovation as the reason for needing to change your environment. Writers and inventors are familiar with this process – if you’re having trouble getting that chapter written or coming up with that next idea – go somewhere your brain is not familiar with. Take your laptop to the nearest park, or even to another room in the house. If you need your team at work to get creative in solving a problem – take them to a different environment. Meet at the local park or museum (or any place different) and hold a brainstorming session there. Let’s look at getting rid of a bad habit as an example. Let’s say that you want to improve your eating habits and you tend to grab sweets any time you’re passing through the kitchen. Change up how you move through your house; remove the sweets from the kitchen and put them in another room if you must have them in the house; load up a cache of healthy snacks in the room that you spend most of your time in.

You get the idea – make some sort of change in your environment. Let’s look at the science behind this – when there is a change, especially in the environment, the brain pushes the thoughts about it up to the conscious level so that you can consciously adjust your behavior in the new environment (it’s a survival mechanism). Once you’ve successfully navigated the new environment or new routine, it will work on pushing it down in the subconscious so you don’t have to expend energy on it any longer. Make sense?

So here is your call to action today – look at areas in your life that you want to change and identify ways you change your environment to overcome the obstacles your brain has created for you.