“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” — Anonymous
One of the hardest things to do is change yourself. Finding internal motivation to grow as a person is not easy.
Getting up a 6am to run 5 miles when its cold and rainy? Hard.
Sitting down to write an article when you’ve already had a long day? Hard.
So the question becomes: how can we become better without relying on motivation?
The answer is: create an environment that sets us up for success.
Making a successful environment doesn’t have to be complex. In fact, it can start with something as simple as making your bed each morning.
The idea is simple. Making your bed in the morning establishes discipline in your day with the very first thing you do. Done everyday for a month, this routine becomes a habit. Now each morning starts with the habit of making your bed. Each morning starts with the habit of discipline. This will influence other areas of your life, leading to more discipline. Why? Because each time you see your bed, it will be a reminder. It is a symbol for your commitment to be better.
And even on your worst day when you are completely unproductive and fail terribly at something, you will still come home to a made bed. That’s more powerful than you think.
And simple tasks like making your bed can be found everywhere. In fact, so much of our lives consist of the seemingly mundane, but vitally important.
Keeping your room clean.
Spending 10 minutes greeting your roommates after class.
Turning your phone off one hour before sleep.
If you get the routine things right, that is literally the majority of your life put in order.
Cultivate a focused learning environment
The next part of your environment that needs a major overhaul are things you do everyday that waste time. As an example, let’s say you get into the same stupid argument with that one friend everyday. When you do the math, you’ll find that it actually creates a pretty big stress in your life. Let’s say you argue for only 10 minutes a day. Over the course of a year that’s one whole work week spent arguing. And that’s just with this one person. Is that really the best use of your time? No. So figure it out. Fix the problem. Spend an hour one day to make peace so that you never have those arguments again. Life is littered with these time wasters.
Scrolling through Twitter mindlessly for 30 minutes before you get out of bed.
Binge watching a random show on Netflix you really don’t like.
Find those little things that you spend time doing everyday. Then do the math. How much time are you spending a year focused on unproductive or even negative actions? It turns out to be a lot. This is eye opening and frankly a bit scary. It turns out these things aren’t so trivial after all. Fix them. It will have a profound effect on your life.
iXperience Cape Town students on Lion's Head
Beyond getting your physical environment right, you need to get your social environment right as well. Surround yourself with people who will challenge you to improve. For example, if you want to become a better writer, start hanging out with the best writers on your campus and become friends with your favorite bloggers. Seriously, find these people on Instagram and DM them.
But you can’t just add better people, you also need to subtract bad people. Toxic friends or coworkers will drag you down. So you need to get these people out of your life. This can be hard, like really hard. We don’t like to admit when someone we’ve been friends with for years is bad for our future. But you can start by dropping one loser friend. It’s harsh, but it’s honest.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” — Jim Rohn
One frame of mind that helps with this is to think of yourself like a major corporation. Companies have boards of directors with diverse experiences and backgrounds that they consult during major decisions. Boards offer advice and guidance. You can apply this to your own life by creating a “personal board of directors.” Tell five or six people what you are doing and that you will go to them for advice on major life decisions. The goal is for these people to give you honest feedback even when it’s hard to hear. They will call you out when you act in a way that isn’t aligned to your goals. This accountability can be hard to deal with initially. But the alternative is far worse: being surrounded by people who don’t care about their own future let alone yours.
Once your environment is aligned to what you want to achieve, you will be amazed at how much easier it is to accomplish your goals. When the things or people around you support instead of oppose your actions, it becomes far easier to do more and to do better.