Make doing the right things easy and the wrong things hard

You are a product of your environment. So choose the environment that will best help you achieve your objective. Are the things around you moving you toward success or holding you back?

After the last post about How to perform a kitchen makeover, I received a ton of emails about a specific quote.

Make the not so good things harder and the good things easier.

Many of you asked to expand on this a little bit. Consider this my best attempt. I apologize if I let you down.

Doing the right things: It’s not you, it’s me, and the environment

Sometimes it may not be you that needs to change. Often it’s your environment that is creating an atmosphere that is making it difficult for you to create the change that is necessary for your success.

If you really struggle with creating change do a quick inventory of things that may be affecting your behavior.

Make doing the right things easy and the wrong things hard.

  • Going to the gym to work out is harder than working out at home.
  • Buying healthy groceries is easier than turning down unhealthy foods.
  • Setting up automatic savings deposits is easier than doing it yourself every two weeks.

So how can you make more of the right stuff easier and the not-so-right stuff harder?

Doing the right things: Start paying attention

In 2005, 158 moviegoers were given either a medium or a large bucket of popcorn that was either fresh or stale 14 days old.

The moviegoers that were served the large stale bucket of popcorn ate on average 34% more than those given the same stale popcorn in a medium-sized bucket.

Oh, snap!

When the fresh popcorn was handed out the results were even greater. 45% more popcorn was consumed in the large/oversized buckets than in the medium-sized ones.

So how the heck can this help you?

If you’re trying to establish a beneficial habit like exercise, sometimes a distraction can work to your advantage. Running on the treadmill versus running outside is a world of a difference.

Doesn’t it seem like the time just flies by outside? Add in some headphones or a friend to that and you’ll up the distraction factor tenfold.

Distractions can also act be your own worst enemy. Eating in front of the TV, at a movie, or in front of the computer can keep you from focusing on the plate in front of you causing you to eat mindlessly. Leading to eating too much or not noticing that you’re full.

A great way to combat this is by using smaller plates or Tupperware. As you can see from the popcorn study if it’s in front of us we’ll eat it.

If it’s time to get your grub on, just grub. Avoid doing anything else. Sit down and just eat. Chew slowly and savor every bite. Regardless if it is a healthy meal or if you’ve decided to indulge a little in a chocolate chip cookie.

Take the time to fully enjoy it.

Social pressure to the rescue

Why do we put a premium on the approval of others? It’s almost like it’s necessary to validate that what we’re doing is the right thing.

So how can you use this to your advantage?

Look to your current relationships? Who are the enablers and disablers?

Who are the people in your life that support your decisions, provide valuable feedback, constructive criticism when needed, keep you in line, and bring you up rather than pull you down?

Who are the people who discourage you, think everything is a bad idea, hold you back, or limit you creatively?

Build a support system for yourself that will help you grow in the areas of your life that are most important to you. Creating new and challenging relationships by connecting with others that are doing what you hope to do and have given validity to your dreams.

It can be very difficult to put certain relationships on the back burner. But this is your life we’re talking about here.

Doing the right things: The traffic jam hypothesis

A traffic jam in Southern California is nothing new. However, this past Tuesday around noon I was on the 5 and thought that the backup was particularly strange.

Being on the motorcycle pretty much makes you traffic proof, so as I was hustling through cars that were idle I made my way to what was causing the jam.

Turns out it was a few boxes in the road. Yup, a few boxes is what was causing the back-up. You have to be kidding me I thought.

A few minutes after driving past the boxes and clearing the jam I couldn’t help but think to myself what a dick I was. All I had or anyone had to do for that matter was get out of their car and move the boxes.

Boxes moved = everyone has that much better of a day. Everyone benefits from this small act.

What are some seemingly small acts you can do today that benefit society as a whole? Sometimes these things seem insignificant or mundane but they can really go a long way in creating a wonderful day for others.

  • Buy a coffee traveler for the peeps at work
  • Move the dang boxes
  • Donate used books to the library
  • Help your neighbor with yard work

This stuff is contagious. The things we do often have a trickle-down effect. Your one small act could create a landslide of awesomeness that carries further than you could ever imagine.

Behavior first, rewards second

If your success rate for creating change in your life is ending in failure more often than success takes a look to see if you are putting more emphasis on the possible rewards that come with the change than the behaviors that lead to the change.

When the basic needs of competence, relatedness, and creating meaningful relationships with others are met, high intrinsic motivation occurs. Enthusiasm to learn new skills, challenge yourself, and the ability to bounce back from adversity is much easier to accomplish.

Whatever it is you are looking to achieve break it down into small action steps that you can participate in daily and build momentum with. Set specific goals for each action step and practice in a low-risk environment that features social support and influence from those that have achieved what you are looking to achieve.

Fight or flight time

What can you be doing right now that gets you one step closer to fulfilling your destiny? You may not have the opportunity later.

Take charge, react quickly, and be smart.

You have two choices in life when any situation arises that makes you uncomfortable, scared, or challenges you. You can fight or flight.

The boys over at how stuff works to share this with us in their analysis of Fight or Flight (go check out the full article here.)

The neural activity and hormonal response that is going on in your body when fear causes the following. The sudden flood of epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dozens of other hormones causes changes in the body that include:

  • heart rate and blood pressure increase
  • pupils dilate to take in as much light as possible
  • veins in the skin constrict to send more blood to major muscle groups (responsible for the “chill” sometimes associated with fear, less blood in the skin to keep it warm)
  • blood-glucose level increases
  • muscles tense up, energized by adrenaline and glucose (responsible for goosebumps — when tiny muscles attached to each hair on the surface of skin tense up, the hairs are forced upright, pulling the skin with them)
  • the smooth muscle relaxes in order to allow more oxygen into the lungs
  • nonessential systems (like digestion and immune system) shut down to allow more energy for emergency functions
  • trouble focusing on small tasks (the brain is directed to focus only on the big picture in order to determine where the threat is coming from)

All of these physical responses are intended to help you survive a dangerous situation by preparing you to either run for your life or fight for your life.

I’ve written quite a bit about fear on this site and for a refresher head over to the archives and check on these posts.

Fear and loathing but not in Las Vegas (pt.1)Fear and loathing but not in Las Vegas (pt.2) – The Fear Project

Aside from the information in those posts one of the best strategies I have found to deal with fear is to develop coping strategies. Think about why you are scared, the challenges that you may face, and what might go wrong. Then develop strategies to deal with those things.

Have strategies prepared for when things do get a little crazy, as they most certainly will? You will be tested. The world wants to know if you’re serious about this. How bad do you want it?

What is your plan if you slip up on your nutrition plan?

What recovery strategies do you have set in place so that you can make sure you get back on track immediately?

Thinking about what might go wrong is NOT setting yourself up for failure. It’s been setting yourself for success. When the road gets rocky what will be your plan to push through?

  • If you just started the Paleo thing what is your plan to stay with it when you head out on the weekends with family and friends?
  • If you hit a snag in development with your new business project how can you keep the momentum going?

Do you have to always be doing this? Absolutely not, but if you’ve got something big in the works that you’re trying to achieve it might just be a good idea.

Think…hmmm….what a concept right.

Thinking is skilled work. It is not true that we are naturally endowed with the ability to think clearly and logically – without learning how, or without practicing.

What is something you are trying to achieve? What’s your strategy to cope with the struggles?