When it comes to building a successful life and achieving outstanding results, most people will think that all they need are willpower, motivation, energy, knowledge, and hard work. But this is just one part of the equation. What you also need is a supportive environment.
In his famous book, Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond explained a surprising truth – different continents have different shapes, and the shapes have profoundly impacted human behaviors.
If you look at the world’s continent, you will discover that the shape of the Americas runs from north to south. The land mass of America tends to be tall and thin. The same goes for Africa.
However, if you look at Europe and Asia, you will find that the shape of the continents stretches from east to west. And according to Jared Diamond, this difference played a significant role in the spread of agriculture over the centuries.
It was easier for farmers to expand and plant along the east-west route than the north-south ones because along the same latitude shares similar climates, sunlight, and rainfall.
These factors made the farmers in Europe and Asia to be able to grow their crops faster.
But when you at the continents that stretched from north-south like America, the difference in weather and climate are big.
And thus, these created challenges and difficulties in planting and harvesting crops.
As a result, agriculture activities spread faster across Asia and Europe than in the Americas.
At first glance, the difference may seem menial. But when you look at it over the centuries, you will notice that these small differences made a huge impact between the agriculture across the continents.
Environment Plays a Vital Role in Shaping You and Your Life
While it is true that you can shape the environment, but most of the time, it is difficult to change the environment.
The environment will change you more than you do to change the environment.
Imagine you want to read a book. Grab the book and try to read it in the busy wet market, think you can do it?
So you think you can change the environment? Think twice.
The famous American architect and theorist said it wisely:
“Everyone is born a genius, but the process of living de-geniuses them.”
It is your environment and surrounding that shape you into who you are.
If you don’t smoke but you always mix with a group of smokers, eventually, you will become a smoker too.
If you’re in business but you join with those who talk about business and success, eventually, your thinking will be affected and you will want to start your own business too, like everybody else.
Do you get it?
Yes, you can shape your environment, but it’s difficult and hard to do. It requires a lot of willpower and motivation to do.
Hence, most people will succumb to their surroundings and let the environment shapes them rather than them shaping their environment.
Playing a Game that You Can Win
I used to work from the comfort of my home. But I discovered that working at home was not as productive as when I’m working in a proper office environment.
Thus, I rented a co-working space and work in the office.
When I’m properly dressed, I feel more serious about working and building my business. When I’m at home, I usually wear just casual and it makes me feel more relax and less serious about my work.
I have to admit, at home, I spend more of my time watching YouTube than when I’m in the office.
When I’m in the office, there are others walking in and out. People are talking about business and busy working. How can I allow myself to watch YouTube, right?
So, play a game that you can win. Make your game winnable.
If you want to build a business, associate yourself with other business people. Put yourself in the environment that can support and help you get the results you want.
Albert Einstein once said:
“Everybody is a genius. But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
Judge yourself in the right environment. Stop comparing unnecessarily with others. Everyone is different.
And more importantly, when you put yourself in the right environment, you will start to perform. Things will work out perfectly like what you planned.
Use Your Environment to Your Advantage
If you want to workout in the gym, choose a gym that is convenient for you and along your way to your office. This way, you don’t have to drive all the way to the gym, you can just drop by on your way back home from office, and workout.
If you want to eat more fruits, like an apple a day, buy the apples and put them on top of the kitchen table. Whenever you see them, you will greatly increase your chances of eating them. Whatever that is out of your sight will be out of your mind. Use the visual as the trigger to remind yourself to eat the apples.
If you want to stop smoking, first, join people who hate smoking. And then spend more time in places where you can’t smoke. Plus, you can also make it difficult to smoke. Throw away your lighter and make it inconvenient to smoke.
Use your environment to build the habit that you want to develop. Use your surrounding to drive you into taking action that will make you successful.
If you find that working from home is not productive, then choose a workplace that is more suitable. Choose a place that will drive you into working.
In one of her interviews, Maya Angelou said:
“I usually get up at about 5:30, and I’m ready to have coffee by 6, usually with my husband. He goes off to his work around 6:30, and I go off to mine.
I keep a hotel room in which I do my work—a tiny, mean room with just a bed, and sometimes, if I can find it, a face basin. I keep a dictionary, a Bible, a deck of cards and a bottle of sherry in the room.
I try to get there around 7, and I work until 2 in the afternoon. If the work is going badly, I stay until 12:30. If it’s going well, I’ll stay as long as it’s going well. It’s lonely, and it’s marvelous. I edit while I’m working.
When I come home at 2, I read over what I’ve written that day, and then try to put it out of my mind. I shower, prepare dinner, so that when my husband comes home, I’m not totally absorbed in my work. We have a semblance of a normal life. We have a drink together and have dinner.
Maybe after dinner I’ll read to him what I’ve written that day. He doesn’t comment. I don’t invite comments from anyone but my editor, but hearing it aloud is good. Sometimes I hear the dissonance; then I try to straighten it out in the morning.”
This is exactly how you make use of your environment. Maya Angelou rented a hotel room and forced herself to write in the small room.
She knew that she needed a place where she can focus without distractions. And she chose not to do her work in the house. She rented a room instead.
What about you?
What can you do to make your environment helpful to you?
How can you make use of your surrounding so that it becomes easier to achieve your goals?