You Are Your Environment

life skills mindset
4 Pillars of Our Total Environment — Carolyn Mahboubi

So, you want to change a habit?

If I was allowed only one coaching tool in my professional coaching toolbox and I mean …

I literally could only use one and no other tool or system … I know which one I would keep. And now you’ll know it too.

I would keep the tool and practice I call “The GIGA” — short for “Garbage in, garbage out”!

Having said that, the one belief I want to sell (yes, I’m selling) to you today, is F. M Alexander’s insight;


“People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and and their habits decide their futures.”


So if you’re not in the market to buy — if you are seeking more information but are not willing to take action — this article is not for you.


Why do so many of us fall off the wagon by mid February when carrying out our New Year’s resolutions?

Is there something wrong with most of us? Are we lazy, complacent and fickle?

For myself and for so long, I couldn’t understand why it was so hard to create new, positive habits and let go of undesirable and even destructive ones? I had commitment, clarity and motivation when starting the journey, yet I inevitably lost steam along the way.

There is a ton of science backed data on the subject of habit formation and if you are truly interested in learning the science, the experts in the field, B.J Fogg and James Clear cover this territory masterfully.

But my clients and readers come to me for something different.

They expect that I continuously read the books and do the work. They expect that I have and continue to experiment frequently and share my gained wisdom, not just information.

Most importantly, they expect that I have simplified the process and can now guide them to long term and sustainable success.


The GIGA tool for habit formation is based on data that shows a formidable link between environment and behavior. B.J. Fogg, Stanford scientist and author of "Tiny Habits" states,


“I’ve found there are only three things we can do that will create lasting change: Have an epiphany, change our environment, and change our habits in tiny ways.”


I regularly help my clients have epiphanies (insights and “aha” moments) and take tiny steps towards their goals. But helping them engineer their environment for success is always my starting point. And the starting point of any starting point is always awareness.



I know that one of the basic rules of effective communication is to drop the words “always” and “never” from our lexicon. But, in this particular case, I’m sticking to my guns until someone proves me wrong.

Awareness is ALWAYS the starting point of any desired change.

Therefore, my goal today is to create awareness about the four pillars that make up our environment.


Most of us believe our environment is limited to our physical surroundings. The truth is that physical space is only one part of our total environment.

There are four pillars that make up our total environment and to create sustainable change, we need to address all four.


1. Physical space


Data supports your intuition that creating external space leads to the internal space that is necessary and required for gaining insights and clarity. In “Make Your Bed”, Navy SEAL, Admiral McRaven makes the case for how this simple effort can change your life and maybe even the world.

And if you are interested in exploring the metaphysical aspect of creating change, know that every spiritual teacher first asks you to create the surroundings that support your practice.

Without that support, no change will ever stick! Try to lose weight with a pantry full of your favorite chips and call me if you turn out to be the exception to this rule.


2. People


Jim Rohn’s famous declaration that we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with has proven to be 100% correct in my clients’ lives as well as mine.

Those of us who are parents, know this to be true and are endlessly concerned with who our kids are spending time with regularly. The people that we spend consistent time with influence our values, beliefs and over time, our behaviors.


3. Consumption


The low hanging fruit here is food and drink.

But there is so much more that we put inside ourselves that determines our habits. What we consume in the form of books, music, podcasts, social media, games and even gossip, become the thoughts and beliefs we build our life upon.


4. Culture


Every organization, whether Google, your family unit, or your favorite sports team has its own unique culture.

Culture is the quiet and powerful decider of who we become. It determines the core values and norms of the unit we are a part of regardless of the number of people within it. The culture upheld by 2 people in a marriage is as powerful in its result creation as a culture that’s sustained by an entire nation like China.

When coaching high level CEOs who believe in solving problems through strategy (and there is a place for strategy and tactics), I always take them first to culture. I’ve seen again and again that “Culture is King” and as Peter Drucker puts it, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”


What is the one small action you can take today that will change your environment such that it supports the habit change you seek?

And remember, “garbage in” applies to more than junk food. Consider all 4 pillars and make a list of what “garbage” you are allowing into your space, mind, soul and life.

Once you have your list, be proud that you have created awareness which is the foundation of any lifelong, sustainable habit change.

Now you’re ready to take action.

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