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  • Carol Alford

You want Action? Change your environment


Many people find it difficult to take action to get the results they desire, even though they know they need to commit to putting in the effort to reach their goals. When willpower breaks down it can be difficult to stay motivated, choosing to take the easy option by avoiding the task.  I recently came across an interesting article looking into when willpower fails, it was entitled behavioural economics - I know not the most riveting title! However, keep reading I promise you'll find this interesting. The article delved into why we find it difficult to stay on track. It recognised staying committed over long periods can be challenging. Understanding why this happens is key to ensure we reach our ultimate goals. The answer is to embrace our natural behaviours rather than fight against them by changing our environment in which we operate.  Let me explain in more detail. We each have a "planner" and "doer" in our personal makeup. The planner is the rational aspect that thinks ahead and sets out what needs to be achieved. As the name suggests it likes to plan our course of action. Whereas, the doer acts on impulse, wanting immediate gratification, making it the irrational piece.  Lets give you an example to bring more meaning to this: My biggest weakness is crisps. If you place a bowl of my favourite crisps in front of me I will keep munching away. I simply can't stop myself, even though I know they are not healthy and they will impact my appetite. However, if someone takes the bowl away I can live with that situation, or the environment in which I now find myself. If left to my own devices my doer will take control of the situation, caving into my impulsive behaviour. But if my environment is changed, i.e. someone removes the bowl I can continue to operate with my behaviour unaffected. Lets take this a step further; If I was told today, you can have a snack tomorrow at 5pm and you can choose between a bowl of crisps or some carrot sticks with humus. My planner would take control of the situation, resulting in me choosing the healthy option of carrot sticks and humus, since I don't want immediate gratification. If I'm given the same option at 5pm on the day, my doer will choose the crisps, giving into impulse. If we want to take action and stay committed we need to strengthen our plannerand weaken our doer - so how can we achieve this? We simply need to change our environment, but do it in a way that works with our natural behaviours, rather than antagonising them.   Let me explain with another example; I need to loose weight Solution - I'm going to achieve this by working out every day - First restriction do you really expect to workout every day, this is being unrealistic. I'm going to workout first thing each morning at 6am - Again totally unrealistic if you normally get up at 8am.  I'm going to change my diet to remove all carbohydrates - I think you can see where this is going.... Here's what you should do to achieve your goal

  • Think about the behaviour you want to encourage first

  • Now process engineer in reverse - how could you design an environment to make it happen - what needs to be in place?

  • Remove any friction that will prevent you from reaching your goal

  • Make your change small - research proves small changes are more effective and more like to be sustainable.

  • Make one change at a time - you'll find it difficult to accommodate several changes, this is too radical!


Here's an example to get you started;


Goal - to work on my short game to improve my golf

  • Behaviour Change - to commit to regular exercises to improve my technique and skill

  • Process Engineer - it needs to be fun. A regular slot needs to be diarised so I get into a routine. I need to do it with someone to commit to the process.

  • Remove the friction - With the winter months approaching staying motivated when its wet and cold can be difficult.  I need to be able to track and see results short term to keep me motivated. I need a penalty if I don't commit e.g. I'll donate £50 to a charity each time I fail to turn up.

  • Make a small change - Commit to first sessions lasting 30 mins max, once a week

  • Make one change at a time - focus on just chipping within 10 feet


Give it a go and let me know how you get on. If you want any help pleaseget in touch


Hope you found this blog interesting, if you would like to learn more about mental toughness please visit our website and get in touch. Drop me an email and let me know what you think, I would love to hear from you. Visit our website and check out our other blogs, there's something in there for everyone.

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1 Turnbury Close, Burton Upon Trent,

Staffordshire, DE14 3GZ, UK

Tel: (+44) 7890 528119 

Email: carol.alford@alfordprojects.co.uk

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