Be Greater Than Your Environment
Don’t let your environment dictate what you do, who you are, or who you will become. At any given time, we can all get sucked into the vortex of a fast-paced world, without embedding anything or developing as individuals. We can be so conditioned by our environment that we are not even aware of it until someone nudges us with a wake-up call.
Albert Einstein tells us: “The environment is everything that isn’t me.” With this approach in mind, why are we so conditioned by our environment? What I have learned over the years is this: You can invest all the time, energy, and care in the world into an individual. However, if they are not in the right environment - meaning one that is supportive, nurturing, and aligned with them and their values - you can say goodbye to all of your efforts.
Environment plays a huge part in how we show up and what we become. Let’s say you are working in an environment where there has been constant change. You are the type of person who values order, consistency, and stability. As a result, you will automatically behave in a way that is conforming to the environment because you are driven by fear. The same goes for dynamic individuals stuck in a static environment.
In the end, either way, how you show up may not be the way that you want to be seen.
Environmental influences may promote or impair.
We know from our primitive brains that all human beings have a strong need for safety and security. We also know that we tend to seek some sort of physical comfort in any environment. In addition to that, we search for an environment that is psychologically comfortable, an environment that feels familiar, one that offers the right amount of stimulus.
Therefore, environment can facilitate or discourage interactions amongst individuals, affecting how they show up. Any given environment has the power to influence certain behaviors and, consequently, outcomes. Your aim is to have an environment that is at a steady pace, an environment that can influence people's behaviors in a positive way.
A stressful environment can create stress and have a massive impact on your health. This is because your brain and your endocrine and immune systems are constantly interacting. What you are thinking at any given moment is changing your biochemistry.
A healthy environment is one that drives motivation from love, not fear.
[Related: Be Curious: From Anger Toward Love]
Commit to change.
The following quote from Alexander De Heijer really got me thinking: “When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” How do you change a big environment?
First of all, we need to be able to describe our environment. How would I best describe my environment at home and at work? Nurturing and supportive, or stressful and overwhelming? After a few moments of thinking about these questions, I could clearly see a tremendous gap that could use some attention.
I thought that changing our environment – one that is greater than who we are – couldn't be possible. Nevertheless, how much time and energy are we willing to commit to this? Right then and there, I realized that transforming our environment is possible – the secret lies in how we decide to shift it.
It’s all up to us, 100%.
The key here is to think greater than your environment. If you want to change, you must have an idealized self in your thoughts -- one that you can model, one that you can emulate, one that is different from and better than the you that exists today in your current environment.
When you are in a supportive environment -- one where you are accomplishing your goals and where you feel purpose for all that you do -- you will be driven by limitless determination. Nothing will be able to get in your way – you become unstoppable.
Show up in every single moment.
What you are surrounded by all day influences you more than you think. If you make sure that your environment supports your dreams, achieving them becomes radically easier.
So guard your time fiercely; be generous with it, but also be intentional in your environment one day at a time. Be more conscious about how you show up. You need to slow down to speed up, so take some time out to reflect. Otherwise, you will be triggered and conditioned by your environment, and therefore show up frazzled because you have lost your way.
If you want to foster an environment that nurtures and supports you, one that brings out the best in you, then you are going to need to make some choices about your surroundings. The only way to do this is by giving you the time to reflect on the areas that you want to redesign so as to fit in the environment.
The first thing that you need to focus on is your thoughts. What are you thinking about your environment? What are you feeling about your current environment and how are you showing up? What are those underlying drivers that make you do the things that you do?
Givers need to set limits because takers rarely do.
Setting boundaries is a way of respecting and caring for oneself. It doesn’t mean you are being selfish. Quite the opposite – you are being self-full. Learning how to set and maintain healthy personal boundaries can go a long way toward easing the stress of even the most challenging circumstances and relationships.
For instance, a critical step in establishing healthy boundaries and becoming satisfied with your environment is realizing that “No” is a complete sentence. Are you trying to please others so as not to rock the boat, and are thus compromising your values? Are you losing those moments with your family that you can never get back with time, the things that are of greater importance to you and your life?
A people-pleaser will always go above and beyond to make everyone around them happy, even if it means going against what is healthy for them. Essentially, you have to say “No” without feeling guilty, in order to obtain the best long-term outcomes for everyone involved. If you are anything like me, get someone to support you in learning how to say “No."
Self-care leads to greatness.
Setting time aside for self-care is key to becoming greater than your environment. Only then will you be able to identify what your drivers are and discover if you are being motivated by fear and limiting beliefs instead of love and support.
Ultimately, you are the only one who can decide if your environment is worth the stress. Do you want to step back and focus on you? To be the influence of change within your environment and surrounding individuals? Are you going to start setting some serious boundaries for yourself and cut some individuals out of your environment that may be adding to the stress?
It is possible to change your environment – you just have to be greater than it.
Catherine Plano works one-on-one with women to help them reconnect with themselves. In 2012, she launched the I AM WOMAN Project, which is now a global weekly podcast where women from all over the world share their stories.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
Executive Mindset Coach, Transformational Leadership Facilitator, Leadership and Culture Consultant
Catherine is known in her community as an innovative leader and creative entrepreneur who specialises in helping people achieve their goals and dreams. She is passionate about assisting others to reach their highest ambitions and live a life that is fulfilling and rich. She is a strong advocate and a leader by nature. Catherine thinks BIG, encourages possibilities, and honors individual wisdom and strengths, and is valued for helping leaders build stronger and more effective... Continue Reading
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