"Environment is the invisible hand that shapes behavior. Creative manipulation is an underrated tool in affecting rate of skill acquisition."
Coach Stu McMillan
One of the things I've kept in the back of my head was the comment that you may think you have always known something when you hear it, because it seems like common sense, but yet it's actually a new concept for yourself when you stop to think about it.
This was a light bulb moment when I saw the above quote by my friend, Stu McMillan, head sprint/power coach at Altis. Part of me has felt like I've always known it and have stumbled upon some success with using this method, but I believe it was with out fully realizing it.
Essentially, manipulate your environment to create an outcome that you desire. I'm looking at it more from a lifestyle design and therapy lens then sprinting or athletic technique, but principles stay the same.
I was trying to incorporate more aerobic work this winter. I came into the spring far behind my goals last year. This winter I got a trainer to ride at night after I put my kids to bed. I used it. When I left it up with bike attached I used it more. It became even easier to just head to the basement and jump on. Very little set up now. I was shaping a new behavior. A time, a place and a reminder to shape the acquisition that I wanted, aerobic fitness.
Often times, runners and bikers become quad dominate and lose hip strength. This can lead to the development of knee or hip pain. One of the goals is to introduce the athlete to new exercises that they incorporate several times a day. My favorite type of exercise is one where failure is helpful, the brain is challenged, the outcome (hip strength) will happen if effort is applied and doing the movement keeps the strong (overpowering) muscles out of the equation without the athlete having to "think about it." Just try. The outcome will happen. The exercise is the environment for the new behavior. I often have them do some rolling exercise that proceeds the training. I do believe this has some value in tension modulation and some core muscle stimulation, but I also want that physical reminder. I see the roller or ball. I remember to do it.
For people that stand at a desk or work at a counter. Having a 6" stool/block to rest a foot on will change how much fatigue will be in their low back. A simple environmental instrument to change how you move.
There have been books written about the subject that cover in more depth this topic, but I always read/perceived that it was just taking away temptation. I realize now, removing the temptation is environmental manipulation. Removing food you don't want to eat from your home, eliminates the late night temptation. Placing a remote control in a closet or room usually means less TV watching.
Look around and pay attention. It can be a negative influence. Try to see how the environment is being programmed to manipulate or influence your actions, behaviors and thoughts. There are specialists that are hired by stores and retail to show certain colors, certain music, what's eye level, were the lights are, all to manipulate your actions/thoughts without you realizing it. Did you know the color red tends to get you to buy more, whether in person or online.
Take a survey of what you want to accomplish. Brainstorm some simple ideas and then create simple changes to the environment that you live to accomplish the behaviors that you want. Use the invisible hand of environmental manipulation to your benefit.