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Vets Who Code

How to Build Good Habits and Excel as a Junior Developer Part 5 : Environment Over Motivation

j3ffjessie profile image J3ffJessie ・5 min read

Why Motivation Lacks Importance

We have gone over different strategies to implement new habits for ourselves. We started with identifying our mission statement. Who Do I Want To Be, then moved into figuring out what our current habits are using a Habit Scorecard, we also learned about making Implementation Statements. Last we learned about the Diderot Effect and how habit stacking relates to building upon current habits to implement our new habits by Making It Obvious. Now we are going to learn about how our Motivation to create our new habits is not as important as the environment in which we are in trying to create these new habits.

Numerous studies have proven that we as humans don't base our decisions on certain things such as food purchases and product purchases based on what the item is, but more on where the item is located. Putting bottled water stations closer to checkout instead of soda stations will ultimately lead to more bottled water sales due to the location of the water compared to the checkout.

Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior. -James Clear (Atomic Habits).

This has also been studied psychologically. In 1936, psychologist Kurt Lewin wrote a simple equation that correlates how Behavior is a function of the Person in their Environment

B = f (P,E)

Every single organism on the planet has its methods for sensing and understanding the world. In humans, we are directed by our sensory nervous system. We use sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. The most powerful of all human sensory abilities is vision. We have roughly eleven million receptors in our body, with ten million of those are dedicated to our vision. With this information, we can ultimately believe that if we implement changes in what we see then we can impact what we do. So with that information, we can now move into building our new habits by designing our new environment.

Design your Environment For Success

Every habit is initiated by a cue and we are most likely to notice cues that stand out (Obvious). Our environments, however, often make it ever so easy to not do certain actions because there is no obvious cue to trigger the behavior. When our cues are hidden or too subtle, they are easy to ignore. By comparison, creating obvious visual cues will draw your attention toward the desired habit. So, how do we design our environment to help make cues for our new wanted habits more obvious?

If you want to make a habit a big part of your life, make the cue for that habit a big part of your environment. Want to code more, place your laptop next to your favorite chair. You have to make sure that the best choice is the most obvious choice you can make. If the cue is right in front of you it is easier to make that choice and implement the new good habit.

Environment design is powerful not only because it affects how we engage with the world, but because we rarely do it. Most of us live in a world that someone else created for us. We live in a dorm room with pre-populated furniture and setup. We live in a house where our design choice is provided by the builder and how they implemented certain features (not always the case if you built your own house). Ultimately, we can alter the spaces that we live and work in to increase our exposure to positive cues, and reduce our exposure to negative ones. Designing your environment allows you to take back control and become the architect of your life. Be the Designer of your world and not merely the consumer of it.

Context Is Cue

Starting cues can be very specific, and over time those habits become associated not with a single trigger but with the entire context surrounding the behavior. Most people are social drinkers, only drinking when surrounded by friends and music or a party environment. We mentally assign our habits to the locations in which they occur; at home, at the office, or in the gym. Every location develops a connection to certain habits and routines. You interact a certain way with objects in your home and at your office, due to the location, those objects are in. Our behavior is not defined by the objects in our environment but our relationship to them. If we begin to think of our environment not as filled with things or objects, but more as a place filled with relationships and how we interact with the spaces around us we begin to move forward.

For one person, sitting on the couch is the place where they read every night for an hour, for another person the couch is where they watch television and eat dinner after work. Every environment can have different cues and different habits for different people, that is what makes our environment so powerful. We can tailor it to our needs and make our environment work for us instead of against us.

Pick a New Environment

The power of context reveals an important strategy: habits can be easier to change in a new environment. If we escape the triggers and cues that keep us repeating our current habits and choose a new environment, we can create a new routine and build new habits attached to the new location. It is much easier to associate a new habit with a new context than to build a new habit on top of one filled with competing cues. When we step out of our normal environment, we leave our environmental biases in those locations.

If you are like me, you really can't afford to move to a new location completely just to start building new habits. So what do we do? Well, you can easily redefine or rearrange your current setup. Create separate spaces for work and entertainment things. An easy Mantra pushed in the book is

One Space, one use

I currently have my downstairs office room set up as my desktop and my wife and I's work station. The only thing that gets done there is work-related. If I want to browse the internet for fun or watch videos, I move from my office to the garage or another room in the house. I have to do this or my office will be associated with random fun work on my phone or tablet instead of me coding or working. Make sure that you remove distractions when possible. Turn phones on Do Not Disturb (DND) or turn them off completely if you can. This will help avoid social media FOMO and allow you to focus.

If you can manage to stick with this strategy, with each context associated with a particular habit and way of thinking, your habits will begin to thrive under these predictable circumstances. The focus will become automatic, relaxation will be easier when you leave your work environment finished with your work to a dedicated relaxation zone. Sleep will be much easier to obtain when you associate the only thing that happens in bed is sleep and not browsing your phone or watching television. If we want behaviors that are predictable and stable, we need an environment that is stable and predictable as well.

Up Next

Up next we will go into managing our self-control and the struggles we face while trying to implement new habits given the steps we have taken thus far. As always, I appreciate every single person who reads these articles and interacts by commenting or inquiring about more information. Thank you so much for your engagement and time.

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