Where You Live Drives HabitsJan 05, 2023
As we ring in 2023, intentions and habits are in; resolutions are out. Resolutions can be important; it’s just that without sufficient motivation and systems to support your goal you are unlikely to achieve them. Keep in mind that a small minority successfully keep their New Year’s resolutions and most people give up before the end of January.
If there isn’t a will, there isn’t a way. But relying solely on willpower to meet your goals is flawed according to BJ Fogg, a behavioral scientist at Stanford and author of Tiny Habits: The Small Changes that Change Everything. In his research, Fogg finds that motivation is powerful, but often unpredictable. Some days you’re motivated to exercise or avoid the ice cream in the freezer; other days you’re not. Relying solely on motivation is generally not a recipe for sustained behavioral change.
Forming winning habits is one way to overcome challenges with inconsistent willpower. James Clear is another habit expert and his book, Atomic Habits: Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results, has sold over 10 million copies. He breaks down a four-step process for creating habits: (1) Make It Obvious, (2) Make It Attractive, (3) Make It Easy, and (4) Make It Satisfying. Both Fogg and Clear believe that making small, incremental changes can add up to big and, sometimes, life-changing improvements.
Based on these researchers and subject matter experts, it is evident why resolutions often don’t work: people don’t have the supporting systems (i.e., processes to create and sustain the right habits) to make the changes they desire. Investment in better life systems, such as James Clears’, dramatically improve the odds of success.
Where You Live Drives Habits
Fogg and Clear both underemphasize the importance of place in driving habits. The reality is that our environment can either create headwinds or tailwinds toward our desired outcome.
Suppose you want to be more active. Certain areas are easier to be active and tend to attract people who live a more active lifestyle. For example, in Colorado, more than 25% of the population meets the weekly recommended levels of aerobic and muscle-strengthening, no doubt aided by a climate and terrain that are conducive to year-round physical activity. An active culture nudges people toward physical activity. We are more likely to be active if those around us are active, and those around us are more active if the environment is conducive to such activity.
In contrast, it’s harder to be active when those around you are not and the environment is less conducive to physical activity. Mississippi, Tennessee, and West Virginia are among the least active states, with less than 15% of the population meeting the weekly recommended aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise levels.
Living in an active area may be the key to more easily reach your goal.
Or, let’s say you desire to be more socially connected. You are more likely to do so if you live in a neighborhood where it is common for people to gather and get to know each other. Some places have houses where a front porch is standard and spontaneous gatherings are part of the culture. Indianapolis, for example, has even created a day where porch parties are encouraged across the city. According to research from the Pew Research Center, only about a quarter of people living in cities and suburbs profess to know all or most of their neighbors but some neighborhoods do it better than others.
The design of your home matters, too. Assume you want to cut down on watching television and use that time to read. One approach to breaking a bad habit is to make it difficult. You could take a big step and relocate your TV from your primary room or bedroom. You could take a small step and unplug the TV every time you use it or move the remote control to a place where it is more difficult to retrieve. At the same time, you could create a reading nook – perhaps by rearranging furniture and using a well-lit lamp – that draws you to it (See Clear’s Step #3).
If you are looking to remodel or build a new home, your architectural blueprint should incorporate your desired lifestyle goals.
Consider the Role of Place in Meeting Your 2023 Goals
As you consider your 2023 goals, consider the role of place to help you meet them. Where you live and how you utilize your space can be instrumental.
Ask yourself a simple question: in what ways does my current place (i.e., region, state, metropolitan area, neighborhood, and physical dwelling) help or hurt my ability to reach my goals? Identify ways in which you can improve your place in potentially big and small ways.
Considering the role of place and making appropriate changes may help you become part of the small minority that achieves their goals in 2023.
Take the Right Place, Right Time Assessment
Are you in the right place for right now? This quick assessment will reveal opportunities to improve your life.
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