Exploring the Human Environment

Whilst travelling in India, I had the realisation that I was going to uproot my entire life and move to Wollongong. Why? Well, I was already a relatively disciplined and focused person, however, I felt like my environment, physical and social, were not aligned with what I wanted to achieve in my life. My mental health was suffering because of it and I knew I needed to make a change. So I changed everything. I decided that it would benefit me socially, financially and in my professional development efforts if I moved to Wollongong; so I did. This was one of the biggest leap-of-faith moments in my life, and it has worked out better than expected. My environment has now aligned with my preferred life, career and social trajectory. My train is on the tracks and it doesn’t plan on stopping. My life had dramatically changed for the better because I had changed my environment.
An environment conducive to productivity is crucial to the prosperity of ourselves, others, our nation and all nations. Your environment is a constant flow of subconscious information which influences your thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. We are intrinsically connected to our environment, and it is for this reason that you must align your environment with your values and goals. Your environment includes things such as your room, your house, where you choose to study, who you socialise with, and the media you choose to be influenced by.
The structure of your environment influences you with or without your knowledge, so will you choose to utilise the power that order creates to your advantage? How productive do you want to be? What kind of life do you desire? Is your environment ordered, or is it chaotic? Are the people you are exposed to also pursuing the life you desire? I’m here to answer all those questions and encourage you to arrange your environment in such a way that is conducive to the life that you want for yourself.

Your physical environment
You are a student at University, and to be somewhat academically successful, you must study. If you do not have a desk (or flat surface of moderate height) you are less likely to study. Why? Well, where else will you study, the floor? For a moment, ponder why this is. The floor is not a likely productive environment for studying, for reasons such as pain whilst sitting for extended periods of time (unless of course your body is familiar with such a position), furthermore, it is difficult to keep your head up if you are in fact laying on the ground with your laptop. Your physical position isn’t optimised for extended academic productivity. However, I am sure there are exceptions to this rule. Now picture yourself sitting at a desk…your computer is there, and your reading timetable, calendar and class schedule are fixed to the wall in front of you. Your books are stacked to the left and your stationery to the right, and at a glance, you recognise this collection of seemingly unconnected objects as an area where your study takes place. Contrast this with your floor…do you see your floor in the same way? If you do, perhaps you don’t own a desk? Structure your environment in a way that is conducive to the tasks you want to carry out, and what you wish to achieve.

Your mental environment
Does your mind ever feel cluttered when surrounded by mess? Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule, specific to both person and situation. However, as a general rule, cluttered space equals a cluttered mind. According to a study conducted by the Princeton neuroscience institute, you are more prone to distraction when surrounded by multiple visual stimuli. A cluttered environment is not conducive to the activities that you wish to engage in unless that activity is cleaning (ha-ha). If your environment is established in a manner that is conducive to your objectives, you are more likely to turn those tasks, such as studying at your desk, into a routine. By implementing routine, you are becoming more efficient as the mental load of decision making is not at play; you have increased your efficiency and in turn your effectiveness. And voila! You are on the path to becoming useful in the world.

First things first
The first thing that you do every day is important. So important in fact, that how you start your day sets the tone for it. If you wake up and make your bed, you will gain an immediate sense of accomplishment. In turn, this will reward your body with dopamine (the same chemical that is released when you drink coffee or have sex), and this effect is likely to snowball throughout the day (thanks, dopamine!).
You can get into good habits like this by leaving your moisturiser in plain sight so that you are more likely to use it daily. Maybe leave your diary next to your bed so that you are more inclined to write in it when you spot it. Charge your phone far from your reach, so that you are less likely to reach for it and become distracted, or position your lamp strategically so that you can easily switch it on/off when required. These are simple examples of ordering your room in such a way that is conducive to the tasks you wish to carry out. It is critical to structure your room so that the things you wish to achieve are linked to the order of your environment. Your environment is critical, don’t forget that. Listen to what your mother always said and “clean your damn room!”

The Social Environment
Jim Rohn, an entrepreneur, once said that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. This is wise, however, I prefer this version: “You are the average of the five people you are exposed to most frequently”. I like this version because you can be exposed to people through media, such as Youtube, podcasts, blogs or TV. Now imagine growing up in a household where discipline, routine and goals aren’t the status quo. You subconsciously adopt these values, thoughts, and behaviours of those around you; your mother, father, sister, brother, aunty and uncle.
Your family members do not have routine, discipline nor do they set goals. They don’t possess the mindset that they can achieve anything. You have unknowingly adopted their mindset, habits, and characteristics. Is this environment conducive to achieving great things? This may seem harsh but consider this.
Perhaps you want to be a writer, psychologist, bodybuilder, or even a successful businessperson. How can you expect to maintain routine, discipline and achieve goals if everybody around you has no routine, discipline and has no goals? Maybe they don’t encourage you, and maybe they even put you down (see: crab mentality). They cannot perceive a life different to their current circumstance. There are exceptions, but in my experience, this is the rule. Furthermore, I have personally experienced something analogous to this, and I have also personally experienced the powerful effects of an environmental shift. My environment became more aligned with my interests, hobbies, and values, and the improvement I experienced was exponential. Never in my life have I ever experienced such a surge of energy, discipline, focus, and hunger for success. The people that are included in your social environment matter more than you realise.

Media…who, and what are you choosing to influence you?
How much time do you spend watching Netflix or TV? What do you learn from this? Is this new-found knowledge edging you closer to your goals and dreams? When you are exposing yourself to media, you are programming yourself to think a certain way. For example: if you watch Fox News every day, you are more likely to be racist and bigoted (thanks, Bill O’Reilly!). Because you are constantly exposed to that narrative, an emotion is triggered and leading you to unknowingly adopt these views and feelings towards a subject. This is the same reason propaganda works.
Now imagine that you have the goal of wanting to be a successful person in some arena. You start listening to podcasts involving successful people within their specific disciplines to understand their mindset, their decision-making schema, in addition to their habits and routines. Every day, you are exposing yourself to the thoughts, feelings, and insights of people who have achieved so much in their life. Over time, you will begin to adopt their views, thoughts, feelings, habits, and routines- you are programming yourself for productivity. What media you choose to influence you matters, and it matters because you are programming your brain to think and act a certain way.
Your environment is all-encompassing, and it has a far-reaching impact. It influences your habits, routine, thoughts and emotions. This may be daunting; however, you are blessed with the power to change your environment. Modulate your environment in such a way that is likely to produce the results you desire. You are in control.

Kastner, S & McMains, S 2011, ‘Interactions of Top-Down and Bottom-Up Mechanisms in Human Visual Cortex’, JNeurosci, vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 587-697.

Mindset matters.

The thoughts, beliefs, and feelings that you possess toward a task, objective or goal subconsciously influence the outcome of that event.

If you begin a task with the mindset that you will not succeed or that you are not good enough, these thoughts will influence the degree of effort you apply, and the level of pain and suffering you are willing to endure. Furthermore, your mindset also affects how you perceive events and then dictates how you react (or don’t react) to them; this has a compounding effect on your mindset and in turn your character.

There are two types of mindsets, a fixed mindset, and a growth mindset. I learned about these in the book Mindset: Changing the way you think to fulfill your potential, authored by Dr. Carol Dweck.

fixed mindset is when someone believes that their intellect, traits, and skills are fixed. They believe they cannot be improved, and they endevour to always appear intelligent and to avoid appearing dumb. This mindset results in people only undertaking tasks where they are confident they will succeed and avoiding things where they may fail.

growth mindset is when someone believes that their traits, character, skills, and intellect are not fixed and that they can improve every aspect of themselves through effort and persistence (discipline).

If you approach a task with a fixed mindset, when you experience setbacks and failures (which you will) you will become demotivated and you will begin to believe that you cannot succeed. Your mind becomes populated with thoughts of not being good enough, negativity and despair. You perceive challenges, setbacks, and failures as confirmations of your fixed level of skill, intelligence, and character. This mindset produces exponentially mediocre results.

However, by approaching a task with a growth mindset, when you inevitably experience challenges, setbacks, and failures, you know that to succeed you must persist in the face of adversity…you must ‘lean in’. Adversity drives you forward as you understand that the path to mastery is a persistent effort…so you dig in and push harder. This is the mindset of top-formers in any discipline. Nothing was ever achieved by giving up.

You gotta decide, are you a Wolf or are you a sheep?