Often when we are trying to make a change in our lives, we rely on our willpower. We make up our minds to change something, and we try really hard to do it. Change does require some willpower, but sometimes we forget about the power of the environment. If we can shift the external structures in our lives, this can help make our change process easier.
No Food or Drink
Let me give you a simple example from my life. The other day, I had to have a medical procedure, and the day before, I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything after midnight. I usually keep a glass of water by my bed at night, and I also usually get up in the middle of the night to eat a snack. I was worried I might forget the rules in my half-asleep state.
Willpower is a Limited Resource
I could have relied on my willpower, but willpower is a limited resource. Who knows how I would be feeling in the middle of the night? I could have the best intentions and still forget. So, instead of relying on my willpower, I tried to think of ways I could let my environment work for me.
Change the Environment
Here’s what I did: I took the cup of water that sits on my nightstand and put it in the dishwasher. I taped a big sign to the refrigerator that said “NO FOOD OR DRINK.” And, I put my wedding ring on my right hand. These weren’t big changes, but they were small shifts in my environment that would help me remember my goal. Plus, they didn’t rely on my willpower. Once the environmental changes were in place, they operated automatically. Even if I was sleepy or not at my best, they were consistent.
Take Home Message
If you’re trying to make a change in your life, don’t just rely on your willpower. Get creative and think about ways you could change your environment to make your change effort more likely to be successful.