One all too frequently overlooked component of success is a person’s environment.
For instance: take a look at your own life and imagine something that you are successful at- or something that you aren’t- then imagine the circumstances and the people around you that have contributed to those successes or failures.
While growing up in poverty doesn’t exactly ensure lifelong poverty, the truth remains that growing up poor increases your chances of dying poor as well.
Many people like to claim that we are all products of our own environment, and to an extent it IS true…just not in the way most of us like to think of it as.
There are 2 primary mindsets that prevent people from being able to change: the belief that they are helpless to change (products of their environment, or not able to change their situation), and then there are those that believe that they can change, but they never take steps to change their environment.
Facts are facts; the odds say that unless you change your environment you won’t change.
New roads don’t get built by driving the existing ones, new muscles don’t get built by not using the ones that you have, and money doesn’t get saved by spending more than you have.
Keep reading to see the full truth: that if you want to change, you need to change your environment.
Let us take a look at the two types of people who want to change but fail to do so, and as you read, try to look at your own life and see if you can think of any of these types of situations arising in your own life.
The first group of people believe that they are doomed before they ever begin
These people tend to be pessimistic, self-defeated, and have long ago given up. These people are the perpetual victims, the depressed loners, and the perpetually friend-zoned males.
They often lack confidence or self esteem, and they believe that even if they tried to do something positive, that they still wouldn’t be able to change or make their situations any better.
They often create elaborate webs of excuses in their minds that explain why they are caught in their current situation and why they can’t change things.
In a complex and sometimes multi-factorial process, people in this category of being “unable” to change create these huge masses of obstacles that they claim are impossible to overcome- and by claiming they are unable to change due to the obstacles around them, they are able to relinquish their own responsibility and avoid admitting that it is their own choices and actions that have created the life they live; this allows them to defer their feelings of guilt and inadequacy to other things that are beyond their own control.
We all know someone like this: the single mother who wants to get a better job but won’t go back to school because she isn’t “smart” enough, the disgruntled ex-worker who won’t get off the couch to look for a job because there just “aren’t any jobs out there”, or the person who wants to lose weight but claims that no diets out there work and their “slow metabolism” simply prevents them from losing weight.
Some of these people have genuinely tried to change before and failed, but rather than learning from these experiences and trying again they have simply allowed their past failures to serve as more “proof” that they can’t ever change at all.
Some of these people will even try to delude themselves into thinking that everything is ok, or that they are happy with things the way that they are, but deep down they know that there is more that they want out of life.
These people have little hope to ever change unless they can somehow change the way that they see the world. Remember the first step to solving a problem is admitting that you have one.
If someone won’t admit that they do have the power to change, then they will never obtain that power.
The second group of people are trying, or repeatedly try to change, but remain victims to their own environments.
This group of people differs from the first group, because not only do they want to change, but they believe in their own ability to change. These people may have also experienced numerous failures in trying to change before, but they retain- at a very minimum- hope that they can still be successful at changing.
Most people who are trying to change will fall somewhere within this group; they believe that change is possible but they either keep on failing or they just aren’t doing so well in their battle.
These people often fall into two different groups: either those that overrate their own ability, or those that make real plans, but don’t acknowledge the link between their environment and their actions.
People who overrate their own ability are those people who believe that simply their own will and determination alone are enough to overcome their environment and create change in their life.
Examples: The smoker or alcoholic that says he can quit any time he wants and tries time after time to quit “cold turkey”. The person who says over and over again that they are going to start watching what they eat, but keeps popping into Mcdonalds and keeps on gaining weight. The woman in perpetual debt from credit card shopping that says she is going to start saving money, but ends up at the Labor Day sale at the mall instead.
People who overrate their own ability tend to believe that they are mentally tough enough to beat their problems and create change simply through willpower and effort alone, and the sad part is that despite their initial success and determination, these people often end up falling back into their old ways because they fail to change their environments.
People who make real plans to change, but don’t realize or acknowledge that their environments have a lot of power over their actions and plans.
TONS of people fall into this category: they create plans, set goals, and even take some real steps of action to create change, but they leave out one crucial part of the change process: they don’t make changes to their environment.
While we aren’t slaves to our environment, often times the habits that we have built up over the course of a lifetime are triggered by the environments that we inhabit from day to day. These habits trigger and often go on unconsciously unless we take steps to change our environment.
These people often experience short-term success or even success over long periods, but they end up sliding back into their old ways eventually.
Examples: The former addict who starts hanging out with an old group of friends and falls into relapse. The reformed sex addict/cheater who starts looking at pornography again and ends up going out in a blaze of sex and drugs. The person who has lost 30 lbs, but starts allowing themselves a “couple of” cheat meals per week and ends up gaining back 40lbs over the next year.
How to beat your environment: change it, or get the hell out of it!
Sometimes the only way to beat the impulses that come from a bad environment is to get out, other times simply changing the triggers in our environment is enough to help us to continue creating positive change in our life.
Imagine that you are trying to lose weight but you are a single parent, stressed out, overworked, and always tired at the end of the day. You often intend to go to the gym and eat healthy but the stress and business of your days simply makes it impossible for you make the right choices.
You can either try to fix your environment in ways that ensure your success or you can get out of your environment.
Ways of “fixing” this environment could include: getting a workout partner that will force you to go the gym after work, hiring a personal chef to cook healthy meals for you and your family, implement a no junk food rule in the house so you won’t be tempted to eat junk food, or buy a treadmill and place it in the living room and place the T.V. in the basement (so when you get home after work there is a treadmill to jog on instead of a T.V to sit down in front of.
There are always tons of ways to improve your environment: you can either change how you think/feel, change the people around you, change the situations you put yourself in, change the options around you, or simply find ways to boost your accountability and desire for change.
Sometimes though, simply changing an environment will be ineffective (this can be for multiple reasons). Sometimes the best option is simply to get out of the environment that you are in.
Imagine being in an abusive relationship with someone who truly loves you, but is frequently mentally or physically abusive; you have tried numerous times to find a solution, but no matter what you seem to do you just can’t seem to make things better (the other person won’t put in the effort), the best course of action in this scenario is simply to leave. Your environment is simply causing you more harm than good.
Other examples could be an alcoholic refusing to hang out with her junkie friends, a person in the ghetto choosing to go a private college on a scholarship rather than try to stay at home and go to a community school, or a habitually stressed and unhappy person choosing to switch careers to a less financially lucrative but more fulfilling field.
Any obstacles or environments can be overcome, but it takes more energy, determination, willpower, and hard-work to overcome a bad environment than it does to simply change it or remove yourself from it.
Its easier to get out of poverty by leaving the ghetto than it is to try making decent money living inside it. It is easier to beat the temptations of drugs or alcohol by staying away from the bar or concert than it is going to them. And, it is far easier to stay faithful to your spouse by saying no to your sexy-coworkers offer for coffee than it is to say no at the end of a “date” when they invite you to go back home with them.
Peer pressure is VERY real, and the fact is that many people will do things that they never imagined themselves doing when they are surrounded by the right people and the right situations.
If your favorite color is blue, and EVERYONE is wearing red- they tell you how ugly blue is and every time you wear blue people give you a hard time, they laugh at you and make fun of you, there is a good chance you will eventually stop wearing blue- your environment can and DOES influence you no matter how strong your willpower or discipline is.
So be the person who acknowledges the power that your environment has over you, but don’t believe that you are helpless to change it or get out of it.
Take real steps, make plans, and engage in actions that prevent your environment from exercising its control over you and you will be much more prepared for success.
Want extra help or guidance?