Monday, May 2, 2011

The Truth About Your Physical Environment

How conscious are you of the connection between your state of mind and your physical environment? Most of your friends may consider a clean and quite environment simply as a nice and wonderful thing to have. A few would consider it essential. Here's why...

Is this car the standard in your mind of what your car should look like? Or does having one would simply be nice?
LP640 Roadster Photo Shoot by Jason Thorgalsen

In between your mind and your physical environment is your sensory system that collects stimuli through your five senses - sight, touch, smell, sound and taste. When something is out of line in your physical environment, that piece of information reaches your mind as fast as a blink and compare it with your standard.

Let me elaborate ...

What's a standard? It's the idea in your mind of how the world should look like. This varies from person to person. That's why some consider a particular environment simply as nice, while others consider it essential.

Once your mind receives a stimulus it then decides to (1) do something, (2) tolerate the problem, (3) ignore the stimulus or (4) revise your standards.

Let's examine each one...

Response #1. You do something

When a pencil is on top of your table instead of being in the case, doing something about it is to pick it up and put it in the case. It requires effort. But it delivers satisfaction.

After the action is done, signal changes from "bad" to "good" ... and that indeed feels good. Imagine yourself ticking off bad stuff each day -- it's called decluttering. You would actually feel your environment lighten up and energize you.

Response #2. You tolerate

To tolerate something is to recognize something is a problem, but to deliberately refrain from doing something about it. You say, "Oh, it's just a pencil. No big deal." Then you leave it outside the case as it is.

This happens because you think the effort of fixing it isn't worth nearly as much compared to focusing your energy to something of greater value to you -- like picking up the empty mug and bring it to the pantry.

Sometimes it's because you're simply lazy. Tsk. Tsk.

Response #3. You ignore the stimulus

To ignore the stimulus is to decide that it is not your concern, at least at the moment. Processing stops because there's no point in going further.

Old files in your magazine rack for instance may have been sitting there for more than a year. But you don't even spend more than a fleeting moment on it because what's important to you are only those on your work desk.

Response #4. You revise your standards

To revise your standards is to not do anything about your physical environment AND relabel it the stimulus from "bad" to "good." Get the picture?

You see pencils scattered all over. Initially you think it's bad. All of a sudden you say, "This is how things should be!" When that happens, having all pencils in the case becomes the abnormal thing.

The sad thing about that is, when you see the pencils in the case, your mind would try to "fix" it and look for ways to scatter the pencils all over because that is how things should be! To not do anything about the pencils in the case would be to tolerate something that is not normal.

It is Responses #1 and #4 that you should be concerned about the most.

Response #1 lets your character shape the environment around you. In contrast, Response #4 lets the physical environment shape you.

Sticking to a standard in Response #1 is neither good nor bad. It is the standard per se, relative to your worth as a person that is in question. Is the clean table your standard? or is it the cluttered one?

Revising standards can go both ways -- up or down. So, Response #4 per se isn't bad. It is the direction towards which it goes that makes it either good or bad. Are you going from cluttered to clean? Or from clean to cluttered?

So you see, your physical environment is, really, a laboratory of sorts of how your mind works. Chances are, the way your mind responds to your physical environment would be the way it would respond to the stimuli outside.

Here you are, dropping a pencil case in front of your colleagues. Do you leave the pencils scattered because that's the way they should be? Or do you quickly apologize, pick up the pencils and put them back into the pencil case?

Either way, what impressions would you generate? What would be the consequences of these impressions?

Something to think about, huh?

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