Updated: Jun 13, 2021
Today, a bee buzzed defiantly in the upstairs of my house and it wasn't the friendly bumble bee I would actually embrace. This was the other kind of bee that would surely sting me and think nothing of it. Hoping for my good deed of the day, I opened a window, took a nearby shirt, and swatted it towards freedom. The bee buzzed harder, obviously irritated that he was trapped indoors with the added obstacle of a squealing, swinging human. It flew in aimless directions that were anywhere but towards the window. After multiple attempts, I realized this was not going to work. The tired bee had landed on the window pane, probably out of ideas too. With the window still open, I loosely closed the curtains around it to create a sort of guidance dome, and walked away. After a short while, the bee was gone.
This sort of thing is what we know, time and time again, when it comes to helping others, including ourselves. Telling others what to do isn't going to provoke change or spark motivation. In fact, there is some research to suggest it produces the exact opposite effect. Tell someone what to do and they dig their heels harder in resistance. In the realm of self help, someone may know they want to change but they struggle for new habits to stick. With the bee, I am reminded that in order for a certain behavior to be successful, the environment needs to nurture that behavior.
In humans, "environment" actually covers more than the surroundings. This indeed includes the things, people, and food that we are surrounded by but it also includes beliefs. Beliefs are the core of how we interact with our world and especially ourselves. Our beliefs are created by us and begin around childhood, depending on what we are exposed to. They can be very obvious to us, such as religion and politics. The ones that make it a little more interesting are the ones that are deep down inside; beliefs we may not even be aware that we have.
To make a behavior change:
Be aware of the behavior
Challenge your beliefs about that behavior
Set up environment for success
Here is an example. If eating more nutrient dense foods is a desired behavior, first ask yourself why do you eat? For myself, I like to eat because it gives me energy to be active and I know when I eat poorly, my physical activity and my mood suffer. Next, set up the environment. When I choose groceries for home, I do not purchase sweets. Why? Because I can never stop at having just one. There is no putting away the chocolate bar after eating one square. The whole chocolate bar is almost always devoured. So, I just don't bring home the chocolate bar.
Like the bee this morning, when we try to force others or ourselves to change, it is hardly ever successful. The bee most definitely wanted to change (i.e. get out of this prison of a house) so that base was already covered. All I could do was create a successful environment and walk away, leaving the bee to figure it out. It takes work, reflection, pruning, and more work to create greatness in our lives. With nature, we learn that countless simple symptoms work together for amazing things to happen...with the right environment.