The Power for Association
Environment is More Powerful Than Willpower
In order to accomplish something, we require a supportive environment. Why? Because we are hugely affected – even controlled – by our environment.
Close your eyes and picture the hustle and bustle of a busy city street. Car horns are blaring. People push past you in a hurry. You notice garbage and debris on the ground, and the street is flanked by buildings that seem to touch the sky. How does this make you feel?
Now, imagine you are in the middle of an open meadow. Sunlight warms your shoulders and tall grass waves gently in the breeze. You hear the chirping of birds and the subtle buzzing of bees. How does this make you feel?
The reality is that everything in our environment affects us: music, sights, sounds, people, the time of day, odors or fragrances, the location, an organized or disorganized room, etc. Even the direction we face when we work or the direction we sleep affects us.
Vastu is an Indian science similar to Feng Shui. Both of these sciences illustrate the effects of the environment on behavior, relationships, consciousness, success, prosperity, peace, etc. They are based on energy flow that is created from placement of items in our homes or offices, where rooms are situated, what direction items face, etc. with the goal of arranging our environment to have a positive effect on us.
The point is that the environment is shaping us. Thus, the environment is more powerful than willpower. You may be determined not to eat junk food, but you’ll likely only be successful if you remove the junk food from your house and hang out with people who eat healthy food.
If you like watching TV, are sitting in front of it, and I put the remote in your hand but tell you to not watch it, what are the chances you’ll not watch it?
The key is to eliminate anything that comes between you and your desired change in behavior.
The Marshmallow Experiment
In one well-known study, psychologist Walter Mischel placed a delicious marshmallow in front of school kids, telling them they can have one marshmallow now, but if they wait until he comes back in 15 minutes, they can have two marshmallows. The kids squirmed, twisted in their chairs, covered their eyes, and gritted their teeth. Many gave in while the tough ones lasted 15 minutes.
Those who successfully held out often displayed a number of strategies to help them. Many of the kids would divert their attention from the marshmallow, cover their eyes, or even pretend that the marshmallow was something else, something they didn’t desperately want to eat.
The more ways you can find to hide your common temptations from your attention, the more successful you will be in avoiding them. Of course, we will not be able to avoid them entirely, but as far as possible we want to create the right triggers or remove the wrong triggers.
We can have the best intentions, but if our environment is not conducive to what we need, we will struggle to be successful. Think about how many New Year’s resolutions we actually kept. No matter how much internal resolve we have, we will fail to change our life if we don’t change our environment.
This is where the willpower approach fails. The willpower approach doesn’t focus on changing the environment, but it focuses on increasing one’s personal efforts to overcome the current environment. What ends up happening? Eventually we succumb to our environment despite our greatest efforts to resist.
Consequently, the best use of our choices is consciously designing environments that facilitate our commitments. Actually, if we’re really committed to something, this is exactly what we’ll do.
Environments can either inspire us or destroy us, trigger us to reach our goals or ignore them, give us energy or discourage us. Environments exert a lot of control over our feelings and behavior, but we have the power to create positive environments. Therefore, use your willpower to create positive environments, or to be in an environment that will support you in aligning with your goals.
- How can you shape your environment to support your sexual sobriety goals?
- What are the triggers that lead to slips or fall downs?
- What are your High-Risk Situations?