As you’ve likely experienced, dropping “bad” habits and establishing “good” ones can be a tough task, but there are ways to make it easier.

My next tip for successful habit change and becoming unstoppable is simple, but not to be underestimated:

Empower your success by optimizing your environment.


Today we’ll focus on another metaphor for lasting habit change, and it’s this: Petri dishes.

  • Remember high school science with all those Petri dishes and funky bacteria experiments?
  • Remember how the environment we put the culture in made all the difference to our results?
  • And remember how a nutrient-rich environment would cause the culture to grow and thrive, while a deficient one would bring the opposite result?

The science on habit change tells us that that’s pretty much us: we’re the microorganisms, and our environment is the Petri dish.

The above may sound more silly than insightful, but all too often, intelligent people try to thrive in nutrition-deficient Petri dishes.

Have you ever felt like you’re putting forth so much effort, trying, struggling, falling short, and feeling exhausted and burnt out? Or not losing the weight despite your efforts? Or not sleeping well despite getting to bed “on time”? Or feeling unfulfilled in work? Or simply feeling incapable of closing “the gap” from where you are and where you want to be?

I’ve been caught in this trap too, and it’s soooo frustrating.

The good news however, is that the problem may not be you, but your environment.

When our environment doesn’t support our goals, and places an excessive demand on will power and mental strength, it drains energy and leads to poorer results.

As we know, unless the environment is changed, that situation can only have one outcome.

There are many examples:

  • engaging in a workaholic culture when trying to have more balance, joy and family time;
  • keeping a cookie jar or Halloween candy bowl around when trying to cut sugar or lose weight;
  • watching the daily news, when trying to decrease anxiety;
  • having your cell phone on the table, when trying to connect with your loved one;
  • working at an overly cluttered desk when wanting more focus and productivity;

We’d never expect an Olympic swimmer wearing ankle weights to achieve a podium finish, yet that’s exactly what we see in the above examples.

Just as failure to thrive in a Petri dish is less about the mircoorganism than the culture, the same is true for us.

So, let’s refocus on you now. 

Think of your own life and the area(s) you’d like to improve.

Even if things are pretty good right now, there’s likely at least one area where you’d like improvement or growth in. What is that?

… Your health? Career? Personal fulfillment? Finances? Relationship(s)? Personal growth? Spiritual practice? Home life?

What’s in your Petri dish?

  • what’s the state of your home, office, vehicle?
  • what do you read? (newspapers, books, magazines, FB, internet sites)
  • what do you listen to? (radio, podcasts, music)
  • what do you watch? (t.v., movies, news channels, YouTube, Netflix)
  • where do you shop? (Amazon, boutiques, malls, grocery stores)
  • what are the personalities of the people you spend most of your time with? (family, friends, mentors, colleagues, neighbors)
  • what kind of neighborhood and community do you live, work, commute and play in?
  • what’s the culture of your society, community, workplace, and family?

Ask yourself:

  1. What above factors are negatively impacting my ability to succeed? (Look to their influence on attitude, temperament, belief systems, thoughts, emotions, decision-making, and results?)
  2. What might the environment be like for someone who IS really successful in this area?
  3. Given what I’m ready, able, and willing to do, what 2 steps could I take immediately to optimize my environment?


In case you missed them, in the last posts, I covered:

1- Part 1: Find the purpose/function of your “bad” habit. Find a replacement habit that meets the underlying need. Reduce your reliance on willpower. [Part 1]

2- Part 2: Reward your behavior. Support your sleep. Prime your day. [Part 2]

3- Part 3: Think of habits as puzzle pieces to your life. [Part 3]