You are a product of your environment. You read Cosmo in the bathroom, for instance, not because it’s particularly interesting, but because it’s human nature to interact with your environment.
This explains why you always seem to drink at the bar, gamble at the casino, and spend money at the mall even when you resolve not to. In the long run, it doesn’t matter how much self-control you have, for —
“You can drive out Nature with a pitchfork, but she keeps on coming back.”
But there’s good news: You’re just as vulnerable to good influences, good people, and positive environments as the reverse. Just as standing in the sun will give you a tan whether you want one or not, just being in a positive environment, surrounded by positive people, is enough to transform your life.
Indeed, if people understood this basic fact of human nature, they’d have much more control over their lives. They would realize that by choosing their environment, they choose their behaviour; and that while they may not have much direct control over their behaviour, they do have considerable indirect control over it.
Let’s take a look at some examples of how you can use this knowledge to your advantage.
If you’re a writer who is always getting distracted in your work, consider removing the environmental possibility of distraction. By getting into a space with nothing but the tools necessary to write, you will find staying on task much easier.
Putting up movitational posters on the wall gives your mind the constant reminders it needs to stay inspired and focused on your goals.
Instead of a magazine, you might keep something educational in the bathroom. Perhaps a map of the world, a vocabulary list, or pi to a hundred digets. It doesn’t matter what you choose — the important thing is that you’ll look at it every day and in time memorize it without any extra effort on your part.
If you are learning a language, throwing yourself in an environment where it’s the only thing spoken is the only method that works every time.
The people you choose to hang out with influence you more than a lot of people realize. In fact, making friends with people who make you feel lazy might be the single most productive thing you do in your entire life.
Simply by going to the gym, you will probably hit the weights if only because you’re already there and that’s what everyone else is doing.
Simply by getting rid of the clutter in your work-space, you can improve your concentration dramatically.
For religious people, regularly attending a church or like organization is essential. The sacrament of confession keeps you accountable for your actions and associating with people on the same path keeps you strong.
Joining a study group is a great way to peer-pressure yourself into doing work. I find that just seeing other people work is is motivating.
And if all else fails, enlist in the army and you might suddenly find yourself in possession of that “self-control” you’ve been searching in vain for your entire life.
The examples are endless. The main thing to take from this is that by manipulating your environment to make what you want to do easy and what you don’t want to do difficult, you can accomplish anything you want. On the other hand, the wrong environment will wear down even the strongest person’s resolve as assuredly as waves breaking on a beach wear down even the hardest rock. In the end, life is as easy or hard as you make it.