There is a habit I really want to break. It is eating cereal late at night.
I will be good all day long and, because will power decreases the more you use it, my will power is gone by the end of the night.
I come downstairs. I’m a little hungry…
3 bowls of cereal later, I am totally full!
And also full of disappointment in myself!
I stood in the doorway of the pantry and wondered why I have this problem with cereal. Any guesses why this is a challenge? 😊
Of course it is a challenge! Look at my pantry! My beautiful wife does an amazing job of stocking our pantry with boxes and bags of cereal of every kind!
If you are weak at night after a long day of will power and you walk into that pantry, what do you think you are going to grab? Of course it will be cereal! It’s right in front of my face and there are so many amazing options!
Now, I admit there are lots of solutions here. But, I want the easiest solution to my late-night cereal problem!
And without a doubt, the easiest way to change a habit is to change the environment.
Let me repeat that so that I make sure you get the point of this whole article. 😊 The easiest way to change a habit is to change the environment!
If I wanted to stop eating cereal, the easiest thing to do would be to go into the pantry and throw away every box and bag of cereal and ask my wife to never buy any more ever again.
If there was no cereal in my pantry, I would never eat it again.
In the practical world, I am a parent of 7 kids. So throwing away all cereal and never buying it again is not a viable solution.
I did something that is so simple, and so silly you’d think it could never work.
I shut the pantry door.
That was it. Just shut the door.
Now I come down, I walk into the kitchen. I am drawn to the pantry…and I run into a closed door.
That is enough. Just that simple change in the environment is enough to jar my mind out of it’s habit loop and get me thinking about what I really want and not just what I need at the moment.
I had to stop and ask myself, “Do you really open this door?” I knew as soon as I opened it I’d be three bowls deep in cereal. So, I walked away.
Eliminating your own bad habits can follow a similar pattern.
Start by making a slight change to the environment. And most powerfully, this can impact any habit!
Want to stop late-night eating? Throw away the foods you eat or place a small barrier in the way of your path to the kitchen.
Want to stop late night scrolling? Put your charger in a different room. Before getting into bed, plug your phone in and walk away.
Want to stop eating extra sugar? Put your candy in a drawer or cupboard that is harder to get to.
Tired of hitting snooze 5 times every morning? Put your phone or alarm across the room so you get up to shut it off.
Make the habit a little harder and you will see an almost immediate reduction in the occurrence of that habit.
There was also a habit I wanted to add.
I used the environment for that too!
As I focus on my core character value of gaining more knowledge, I wanted to read to learn every day.
On my phone I have the Kindle app that has a couple “learning” books that I am trying to read. (This is a great app. They even have free books that are great!)
The problem is, I get on my phone and spend more time on Facebook, Instagram, News, ESPN, or a fun and mindless game. How can I increase the likelihood that I open my phone and go to my Kindle app and not any of these other apps that suck my life and time away?
Change the environment of my phone!
Here is a screenshot of the main screen on my phone. I made one simple change.
I put the Kindle app on my main screen, with a bunch of other lame apps.
Then I moved all my tempting apps to later screens, even put them on the second screen of a folder. I have to click three times to get to them!
Suddenly, when I had a spare moment and opened my phone, BOOM. There was Kindle right in my face. And amazingly, I would click on it!
Next thing I know, my goal to read 10 minutes a day was done without a lot of hassle!
Simply make an easy change to your environment.
Another good way to read more is to put books in places that are easy to get to.
Again, this is a simple way to add in many habits.
Want to take a vitamin every day? Take the vitamins out of the cupboard and put them next to the fridge. Easy to see, easy to get, easy to take.
Want to floss more? Put flossers in your car. Easy to grab and use when you are sitting at a light.
Want to walk more? Put your treadmill right in front of your TV.
Want to eat more fruits? Buy more and put them in a prominent place on your counter or fridge.
One last example of how this really works.
I haven’t eaten applesauce in many, many months. Not something that is a regular part of my diet.
Suddenly, this past week, I’m eating a lot of applesauce.
Why the change?
Take a look at my fridge and see if you can see why!
Yep, environment! After making homemade applesauce (with apples off my own tree!) I’m suddenly eating some every day!
If you wanted to eat more of something, but it and put it in your fridge. Less of something? Stop buying it.
This projects out to almost 100% of your behavior. You wear what is in your closet, you watch TV because it is easier than other tasks and your TV is right there, you eat what is in your pantry, you walk more if you have walking shoes easily available, you drink more water if you fill a water bottle and walk around with it…and the list goes on.
Whatever you want to add, make it easy. Whatever you want to cut, make it harder.