Environment is stronger than will power

Environment is stronger than will power — Parmahansa Yogananda

This statement, I believe, is at the root of all habit-changing efforts. (The statement “Out of sight, out of mind” also holds the same meaning in this context.)

Personally, every time I have tried to change a habit or behavior, this principle has held true. No matter how much will power you have, if the environment is conducive to undesirable behavior, prolonged exposure to the environment will cause you to falter in your efforts.

Will power is a finite resource. Moreover, you don’t want decision fatigue throughout the day and just put all your energy or thoughts into one thing.

Whether you are trying to avoid anger, avoid distractions, avoid bad eating habits or add something good. This principle is key.

Let us take an example of giving up a bad habit like watching TV.

The best way to avoid the habit is? Not have a TV. But I know that may not be the most practical advice for people who don’t have the sole authority for this decision.

In such cases, when you can’t change the environment, change the environment.

Get it? xD

I mean put yourself in a different environment.

For example,

  • Hide the remote or give it to someone else.

  • If you work from home, work in a cafe/library.

  • Take a walk

Or anything else that you can think of.

Pick one activity that would allow you to put yourself in a different environment and do that consistently every time you have a cue.

Some would say that this still requires will power and I would say absolutely! How can we hope to change anything in the world without the exertion of will?

But compare it to these:

  • If you like watching TV and I give the remote in your hand but tell you to not watch it — what are the chances of success?

  • If you like eating cookies and I keep the cookie in your hand but tell you to not eat it — what are the chances of success?

Pretty low. Especially when you are just starting out in your journey to change the habit. During the early days, the habit still has a stronghold on you which prevents you from quitting it. (Otherwise, you would’ve had already).

It can not only be used to avoid bad habits but to create new ones too. For example, if you want to practice daily affirmations but forget to do so, you can put a sticky note with your affirmation on your bathroom mirror that you see when you brush your teeth. (Assuming you do that first thing in the morning and last thing at night)

If you want to drink more water, keep the water bottle filled the night before and then keep it beside your bed to drink it as soon as you wake up.

The key is to eliminate anything that comes between you and your desired change in behavior.

That’s all. Short, simple and sweet. Not easy always, though!

I encourage you to think on these lines whenever you want to add/remove a habit from your life and I hope it can smoothen out the journey for you.

I hope you enjoyed reading the article and found it valuable. If you have any feedback, please reach out to me on LinkedIn or Twitter!

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Written on June 11, 2020