I am a big potato chips eater. I have always been.
I love this salty and crispy taste in my mouth and the sound it makes when it’s crushed by my teeth. I even started a crisps review in Japan a few years back to try different and original flavours every couple of days.
The problem with chips is that they are not really healthy for you. They pack a lot of carbs, a lot of fat (not the good kind) and a ton of salt which is also really not good for you.
So how did I stop eating crisps on a daily basis ?
I stopped buying them. That’s it. No crazy trick or dieting journal.
I admit that I still buy crips from time to time but it is mostly for a special occasion or to celebrate something. Anyway, I am proud to say that I rarely eat crisps anymore.
Put crisps in front of me I will eat them, put them away I am good.
It’s all about ecology.
The Average Man
Truth is, a lot of who we are and what we do is directly influenced by our environment. Change the environment, change the behaviour.
I remember this Harvard study about obesity and how it can be socially contagious. In their findings, they concluded that if one of your friends was obese you had 50% more chances to become obese yourself. Fortunately, it works the other way around as well. If your friends are healthy and fit, you have more chances to be healthy and fit yourself.
Ecology is the study of interactions among organisms and their environment. We usually use the term to refer to the scientific analysis of a natural environment. We tend to forget that we also have a social and artificial environment: our family and friends, our homes and cars, our work and leisure places. And like the air we breathe and the food we eat, what surrounds us every day has a big impact on our health, mood and actions.
There is a famous quote from Jim Rohn which I refer to as the Entourage Theory : “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
We are not just talking about your weight or health. But also about your income, your education, your culture, your language, your mood and your favourite activities. It makes you think about whom you really want to spend your time with.
Are you the smartest person among your peers ? Then you might want to find people who are smarter than you and whom you can learn from.
We must strive to surround ourselves with people who are better than us.
James Altucher even expanded on this concept with his 5x5 rule :
"You are the average of the 5 habits you do, the 5 foods you eat, the 5 ideas you have and the content you consume."
This is certainly not a new idea but there is a lot of value in looking closely at all these things, people and actions that gravitate around us. What do all these say about ourselves ?
We are the average man. So let’s look at this average.
Unfortunately, there is no formula to calculate the average man (or woman) we are as there is one to calculate the arithmetic or the geometric mean. We can only look at the results, and also we can look at the variables.
So the question is: what do you surround yourself with ? Who are your friends ? The people you spend time with ? What kind of food do you put in your fridge ? What kind of information you read or watch ? All the choices we make about what we accept in our life and what we choose to keep.
If we make an inventory of our environment and if we rate it without disdain or guilt but with honesty. It brings up even more questions: Is this what I really want to have around me ? Am I happy with my life and everything that's in it ?
And if the answer is no, we can decide to change it.
It will be incremental at first. But as the tiny insect in the pond, it can have a big impact at every level of the food chain.
Your lifestyle is mostly determined by your environment. The great thing that ecology teaches us is that you can choose your environment and you can willingly change it. And as you are having an influence on your environment, your environment will have an influence on you.
The Proximity Principle
You want to make it easy to eat the nuts and hard to eat the crisps. You put the nuts on display and you hide the crisps away or you don’t even buy them in the first place. As we are lazy human beings, when we crave crips, we won’t go to the store to buy some. Instead, we will default back to whatever is available. Therefore we want to make “what’s available” as good as we can.
Are you spending too much time watching TV ? Unplug it and hide the remote control in another room.
For this reason you want to make it as hard as you can to get to the “bad” stuff and as easy as you can to get to the “good” stuff.
Too much internet distraction ? Use the Freedom app to lock your internet for a limited period of time where your productivity matters.
Although environment is not everything, it is a big part of our days. What is available to us will usually be what we choose. It’s easy to say : “Whatever happens, I will do what I want”, but often when we are faced with a limited choice, we make the lesser choice.
Why is a certain fast food chain so popular ? Because it’s everywhere. You cannot escape a certain kind of sweets or meals if you are surrounded with junk food all day anywhere you look.
The proximity principle is a concept from social psychology that explains the tendency for individuals to form relations with those who are close by. Proximity promotes interaction between individuals and groups.
If we apply this principle not only to our social group but to all aspect of our life. We might ask ourselves: what do I want to keep close to my chest ? And also, what do I want to keep away from ?
73% of people asked, said they believe their use of electronic devices has contributed to stress in their life. Yet what do they put on their bedside table ? What is the first thing they look at when they have a break ?
People ask me often how they can improve their focus. Our will can be trained and improving focus is indeed very rewarding. But it also demands a lot of energy. No matter how much focus you have, you can only focus on one thing at a time. We like to believe our will is the ultimate solution and that having more willpower and motivation can solve all our problems. I find that relying on laziness is often much more efficient.
“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” Sun Tzu
The human mind is like a cat, it gets distracted by any little thing: a light, a feather, anything that moves. Because we have a very limited attention, we should make it easy for us to get back on track when we get distracted.
If the first thing I serve to my kids are vegetables, they are more likely to eat them if I don't put anything else on the table.
It's exactly the same for adults. If you turn off your phone in your living room and have a few books on your bedside table, you will notice you are reading your books much faster.
Don't give yourself a choice: schedule the hard stuff first and the sweet stuff after.
There are two ways to improve focus: one way is to increase the amount of overall focus you have. The other one is to use your will only when it matters, and to rely on your environment the rest of the time.
Keep a nurturing environment around you that reflects how you want to act.
A well-formed outcome is a high quality goal that meets a certain number of criteria to improve the chances of success.
Here are a few of these criteria:
It must be stated positively and be solution-oriented.
Instead of saying what we don’t want or on focusing on the problem like “I want to stop smoking”, “I want to lose weight”, “I want to get rid of debt”. We focus on what we do want: “I want to breathe clean air”, “I want to be fit”, “I want to save money and grow my income”.
It must be specific and tangible so that anyone could clearly imagine what it would be like.
The more details you have about your goals and the more real and sensitive you can make it, the better. Our mind is very susceptible to imagery and visualisation. Whatever we think about tends to put us in a certain state. So let’s think about what motivates us.
It must be within your control and not dependant on outside circumstances.
If your outcome depends on other people doing or saying certain things, it’s probably not a good outcome and you might be creating some extra frustration for yourself.
And finally maybe the most important one:
It must be ecological.
It means that the desired outcome is appropriate for all circumstances, and that all its consequences are welcome in your life and your relationships.
All our outcomes are connected with the rest of our lives. We all have values and responsibilities that needs to be taken care of, whatever our daily schedule looks like.
If your goal is to run a marathon and you decide to train every day for one hour. This will have a great impact on your schedule and on your energy level. Is this congruent with how you want to behave with your family, your work and your relationships ? This is the kind of question we want to ask ourselves before we get started.
When I decide to go to a seminar or to attend an event abroad. I know that it will mean time away from my wife, my kids and my work. Of course this is something I love to do, but I also love to spend time with my close ones and to have a healthy family life.
It makes sense to make sure that our outcomes are aligned with our other priorities because we don’t want to sacrifice one for the other.
“There is no decision that we can make that doesn’t come with some sort of balance or sacrifice.” Simon Sinek
The question is what is more important to us ? I am not saying you should not run a marathon or that you should not go for a great goal. I am saying it should be a goal that is aligned with who you are and what you want in your life. If by pursuing a goal, we sacrifice something else that is very dear to us. We might regret our choice later on it this particular goal is in conflict with some of our core values.
This is why we make an ecology check first: is this what I really want ? How does is fit in my life and in my schedule ? Is it aligned with my values ? In order to say yes to this, what do I have to say no to ? Am I ok with all the consequences of this choice ?
Be smart, be ecological.
To summarise how ecology can help you in your life:
Performance coach, world traveler, tribe builder, NLP enthusiast and mnemonist. I am passionate about self-development and life changing coaching tools.
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