Author Josh Kaufman writes in his book The Personal MBA
that the structure of your environment is often the most influential determinant of your behavior.
If you want to change some behavior, don’t try to change the behavior directly.
Instead, change the structure of your environment and your behavior will change automatically: “If you don’t want to eat ice cream, don’t buy it in the first place.”
Kaufman tells the story of how he and his wife Kelsey used this principle during their three-year experiment with a vegan diet.
When they first decided to try a vegan diet, most of their friends and family responded in one of two ways: “Are you crazy?” or “That must be very difficult — I could never do that.”
Family and friends marveled at the couple’s willpower.
But as Kaufman notes, instead of relying on willpower to resist the urge to order a pizza or cook a steak, changing the “guiding structure” of their environment was much more effective.
When they went out for dinner, they chose restaurants that served vegan food instead of steakhouses. At home, they threw out the food they didn’t want, and replaced it with healthier options that still tasted good. And they changed where they shopped — instead of going to the supermarket, they went to a natural food store.
As Kaufman recalls: “When I got hungry, I ate an apple or carrots or hummus — that’s what was in the refrigerator. Ordering a pizza or buying and cooking a steak took more effort, so I didn’t do it.”