I've often thought that I can work from anywhere in the world. Although this is true and I have the privilege to be location-free because I mostly work remotely with my clients, I've realized how important it is to be in the right environment to be able to thrive or at least find balance.
Personally, I gain my energy from the ocean. This stems from my childhood, which I spent playing, surfing and then recharging in the sea. Today, the ocean is part of who I am. It's where I feel great and where I can be the best version of myself.
When I lived in Sweden, I complained all the time about the gray skies and the cold concrete surrounding me, while my colleague loved the cold and the functional urban environment. In other words, we all need different environments to thrive.
Your Physical Environment Can Affect You
The University of Minnesota's Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing lists some ways that our environment can affect us: It can encourage or discourage interaction, motivate us to act and influence our moods, which, in turn, can affect our energy, productivity and performance. So don't beat yourself up for not being as productive as you think you should be if you're not in the right environment to accomplish your goals.
That said, I'm not encouraging you to use your existing environment as an excuse for not being productive. No matter where you are, try to make the best of your environment. Whether you're in a nine-to-five job or work on your own schedule, aim to maximize your workspace. Making the best of what you have is actually having a growth mindset.
Four Steps To Finding Or Creating The Right Environment
1. Assess your current environment (your workplace, residence, city and country). Start by rating each according to your level of satisfaction. Rate from one to 10, with 10 being very satisfied.
2. Ask yourself what an environment with a nine rating would look like. Now envision it and specify the improvements and adjustments you need to make to achieve that.
3. Ask yourself what's preventing you from improving your workspace. Try to understand yourself better. Is it really impossible to be in the environment that you need? Sometimes the problem is internal. Maybe you've been procrastinating about choosing a better place because you're stuck in your comfort zone. Perhaps you're not making an effort to be more creative in structuring your environment because you feel helpless. Identifying these obstacles can help you take the next step.
4. Plan and start making changes. List the changes that you feel you need to make to create the right environment for your success. Sometimes, you don't even have to move to another place. You may just need to restructure your environment so that it encourages you to focus and make better decisions.
Tips For Restructuring Your Environment For Success
• Try to create a space where you can be calm, focused and inspired. Structure your space in a way that makes you less likely to make bad decisions. That means it should be free from clutter and things that distract you.
• If you can, work somewhere near a gym or a park where you can stay active. If that's not possible, then create a space in your work area where you can do indoor exercises from time to time. Exercise keeps your brain active and healthy. Research conducted at the University of British Columbia "found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning."
• Create an area where you can rest. Put nice pictures there and frame inspiring quotes to uplift you. Make this area warm and comfortable. According to Srini Pillay, MD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, intelligent cognitive rest is the "secret to brain success." Training the "unfocus" network of the brain can boost memory, creativity and self-awareness. Exercises for cognitive rest include napping and positive constructive daydreaming.
• Surround yourself with likeminded people who encourage you to do your best. The people you surround yourself with are part of your environment. Try to be around people who inspire you and motivate you to become better. These are people who are committed to their goals, who possess positive attitudes and who constantly seek answers and solutions to problems.
• If you work remotely, choose a place where you can have a healthy social life. In Maslow's hierarchy of needs, belongingness comes before esteem needs and self-actualization. This means that your need to feel that you belong and that you are loved comes before your need to feel successful. Make time for social activities and for bonding with friends or family members. Meet up with other professionals in your area, or try working in co-working spaces. This will give you the opportunity to meet others who work remotely. Studies have shown that having a social support system not only helps you cope with stress, but it also improves mental health and self-esteem.
• Whether you choose to be in a rural or urban area, try to keep your space as natural as possible. Add plants and let in sunlight. Researchers at Indiana University and Illinois State University have found that natural environments can help reduce stress levels and ultimately improve health.
• Most importantly, create an environment where your heart feels full. Make your workspace a place where you feel comfortable pursuing your goals yet challenged enough to continue growing. This is the kind of environment that energizes you and makes you feel confident that you can fulfill your true potential.
Your work environment can affect your ability to achieve your goals. If you feel that your current environment doesn't support you, now's the time to change it. Assess it and make the necessary adjustments to improve your performance and productivity.
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