Overrated vs Underrated: Getting Motivated vs Changing Your Environment

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Getting motivated every day is not as easy as it sounds. Sometimes it can be very tricky and elusive. Today, you may wake up motivated to be productive throughout the day and achieve your goals, whether it be to exercise more and eat right, wake up early, study more, be more social and so on. However, tomorrow, you could be the complete opposite — lying on your couch and scrolling through your phone — with no motivation to do anything at all. But don’t worry! VALLEY is here to help you achieve your goals even when you lack the motivation.

We often criticize our lack of motivation for the lack of productivity in our lives. But, consider this — are we overrating “being motivated” and overlooking other factors that drive our lives?

Our physical environment is a crucial contributing factor that influences our behavior and motivation to act, but it is mostly overlooked. Our physical environment includes things, people, color and other aspects that surround us daily. Our environment is one of the most powerful invisible forces that shape our lives to help us be productive. 

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While motivation plays a role in helping us achieve our goals, it’s our environment that truly shapes our behavior and life. Being surrounded by better choices results in making better decisions that eventually help change parts of your life for the better.

So, the point is that you don’t have control over how motivated you will be to work tomorrow, but you do have control over your immediate environment. Therefore, in order to be productive and achieve your goals, let go of what you can’t control and focus on the things that you can control.

The things that surround us are often the first ones that distract us. Changing your immediate surroundings can help you make better decisions to stay productive. If you create an environment around you that propels you to naturally work towards your goal, then you can be productive for a more sustainable period of time without the need to have a concrete motivational feeling.

WebMD has a great article to help understand this. It states that generally, those who live in higher altitudes — like people living in the mountains — eat healthier foods, are fitter and experience better overall health. This could be for a number of environmental factors. One, the landscape of mountainous regions makes it more difficult to import and consume processed food. As a result, residents choose to consume organic, home-grown food, leading them to eat a healthy, mostly whole-food diet. For many, eating healthy is their only choice, so they don’t need much motivation or willpower to do so.

The surrounding that they live in drives them to eat healthily. Surprisingly, a lot of these people don’t even exercise (in terms of the gym). But still, they look fit because they tend to walk to most places they need to get to. As many of these people grow their own food, they often spend a good deal of time outdoors gardening and involved in some form of manual labor. All of these factors that result from their natural surrounding helps them stay fit and eat healthy food without them needing external motivation to do so.

Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior.

James Clear

These are just a few examples of how our environment shapes our behavior and ultimately our lives. Preferably, we shouldn’t have to travel to and live in these places to live a better life. We can apply these environmental design strategies to our everyday lives.

In order to improve your odds of success, it’s time to shift your reliance on sheer feelings of motivation and willpower towards understanding the need to redesign your physical environment in such a way that makes it as productive as possible.

You can do this by following these two simple steps:

Step 1: Increase the number of steps required to make a bad decision.

For example, if you are easily tempted to scroll through social media instead of doing work, just keep your phone out of sight in another room until you’ve completed your work. After doing this, you will not feel the urge to scroll through your phone. But when you take a break to do so, you will have to walk and be able to stretch a bit.

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If this doesn’t work, try logging off of your social media accounts before you start working. This way if you do fall into the temptation to check your phone, you’ll have to log on to use social media accounts again. This way you increase the difficulty and number of steps to make a bad decision, which also buys you more time to make a better one.

If you feel lazy or sleepy while doing your work, try not to work in your bedroom. Doing work while laying in bed could lead to you feeling a bit too comfortable and falling asleep. So, always work in a room that does not have a place to lie down. By increasing the difficulty to access your bed, you reduce the chance of yourself lying on it while working.

Step 2: Design your surroundings to prevent mindless actions.

Once you’ve created an environment that increases the difficulty of making bad decisions, it’s time to create one that makes it easier to make better decisions.

For example, maybe you want to eat healthier. If you keep a bowl of apples in the middle of your kitchen, you’ll be more inclined to pick one up as a snack. You could also use smaller plates to eat your food. One study discovered that reducing the size of a plate by just two inches could lead to the average person serving themselves nearly 30% less food on the same plate. It is hard to be motivated all the time, but by changing your physical environment like this, you will be able to make better decisions effortlessly.

If you want to exercise but lack motivation to go to the gym, there are a few tips you can try. Getting motivated on a daily basis to go to the gym can be tough. One thing you can do is pack your gym clothes the night before and leave them in front of your bedroom door. So when you wake up the next morning, the first thing that you will see on your way out of your room is your gym bag. You’ll be more inclined to pick up the gym bag and workout in the morning or later in the evening. So, just by adjusting your environment you automatically make the decision to go to the gym.

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Some people just want to read more often without getting distracted! Picking up a book and reading it might require a lot of motivation with all these tempting electronics lying around. In order to be more inclined to read, you can move any electronics outside your bedroom and keep a selection of interesting books on your bedside table in plain sight. Without your phone charging by your bedside, you’ll be more inclined to read that book till you sleep.

Motivation is not always the practical option. It can be tough to be motivated all the time to achieve your goals. Since the earliest times, humans have needed to be sensitive to their surroundings to survive, which means that we have an innate awareness of our environment. By changing our environment, we can drastically affect our decisions for our own good.


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