Nixon famously implemented a mandatory drug dest of all military service members returning from war. Vietnam soldiers were not permitted to board the plane home until after their urine tested negative for opiates. If they failed, they stayed abroad, underwent detox, and tried again until they finally passed. America will not welcome you home without a golden stream, the president ordered. Public radio ran a comprehensive story on this program. At the time, twenty percent of the soldiers identified as heroin addicts. Doctors tracked them, collecting data at regular intervals. And according to their research, the number of soldiers who stayed addicted to drugs after returning home was shockingly low. About ninety percent of them did not relapse. Ninety percent. Wow, how is that even possible? Isn’t heroin pretty much the most addictive substance on earth? Maybe. But then again, habit change is a funny thing.
RELOCATION — Reducing our exposure to the kinds of situations and surroundings that enable us in the wrong direction
The environment around us can be a potent psychological cue that’s gets so deeply ingrained, it’s irresistible. As one of the doctors from the military study quoted, we leave parts of ourselves all around us, which in turn, come to shape who we are. Lesson learned, maybe the best way to change our behavior is to change our geography. Because according to the study, when human beings perform a behavior a lot in the same environment, they outsource the control of their behavior to that environment. It doesn’t mean they’re powerless, to use the recovery phrase, but it does mean that they’re caught in the machinery of their own maladies. Their surroundings have becomes a powerful associative trigger. People become disabled from free action and get trapped into automatism. Think about the last time you changed homes, cities, apartments or jobs. Which of your unhealthy habits, the one that seemed impossible to break in your life to date, simply went away by virtue of the move? Everyone has at least one.
My worst habit was eating and drinking in the car and leaving a mess on the floor. It was disgusting. Empty bottles of soda, chip bags, meat stick wrappers, even the occasional chicken wing. My wife once told me that my car smelled like a hamster cage. Point taken. Not my best self. Thankfully, we relocated across the country to a city where we didn’t need cars. Sold those gas guzzlers before we moved, and that habit miraculously vanished from my life. Although I do occasionally find empty bags of chips in my coat pockets.
There nothing that is making us do the bad things we do today. The responsibility is ours. However, our environment might be making it easier for us to keep up our bad habits. And if we find ourselves caught in the machinery of our own unhealthy behavior, we might consider reducing our exposure to the kinds of situations and surroundings that enable us in the wrong direction. This is where you become prolific, in the day to day actions. What habitual rituals, that have made a cozy home in your comfort zone, are negatively impacting your life?
Change deeply ingrained negative habits quickly and easily
Overcome psychological cues and associative triggers that block creativity
Empower yourself to control the thoughts and behaviors that lead to productivity
Create nurturing environments that make it easy to end unhealthy habits and start new ones