I’m not talking about judging your appearances or personal style; I am talking about judging your environment. What can you tell by looking at someone’s environment? To a large degree, the relationship between the internal and external is largely symbiotic, and it scales. When you are young, your ability to influence the external is largely null – you are only the master of the internal. As you grow older, get a job, and become more independent, your ability to influence both your external and internal environment grows.
As I said above, your external environment will drastically impact your personal environment, and your personal trajectory (and vice versa), so it is important to assess your environment, and what influence it is having on you. Let me go through a couple examples (although I in no way touch on them all).
MTV cribs loves to go through people’s fridges – and it shows more than you would initially think. Do you have a lot of healthy foods, or mostly frozen meals? Juice or pop? Your fridge is a window into your attitude towards your body. It’s the reaction of internal and external environment – going to the gym loses priority in your mind (I can’t image why), so buying an extra frozen pizza doesn’t seem so bad. After eating that pizza, you care about the gym even less, which leads to a large carb fuelled restocking the next time you visit the grocery store. That might be an oversimplification, but you catch my drift.
Chances are if you don’t have anything healthy in your fridge, you are probably falling behind on going to the gym. You might also be behind on visiting the dentist, or getting a check up at the doctor.
If a fridge full of junk represents an attitude towards your body, how can you start the process in the opposite direction? Stock your fridge with healthy stuff. Get something healthy. Getting some healthy food might inspire you to go for a run. Spending the time running will make you question that next unhealthy snack. External feeds internal.
Your Book Shelf
First off – my guess is that 90% of people don’t have one to begin with – at least one that has books on it. That right there is a huge indicator. I can’t tell you how many people I have talked to that tell me about their dreams of success and fortune. Then, when I visit their apartment, I see a 57″ TV, and no book shelf. Again, the external drives the internal.
Let’s say you have a book shelf though – and it has books on it! What kind of books are on it? Are you reading a lot of fiction, maybe Angels and Demons? Maybe Game of Thrones, or Hunger Games? There is nothing wrong with a little entertainment, just don’t trick yourself into thinking its helping you. That’s like claiming Carrot Cake is good for you – not a chance.
Eating is very similar to reading – you want to have a balanced diet. There is nothing wrong with a little junk food here and there; you just can’t live off it.
A lot of people are going to hate me for saying what I am about to say, but I will say it anyway – I can probably infer your chances of success at whatever you are trying to accomplish by checking your library. How many books do you have related to your field, how many about leadership, critical thinking, and general ideas? How many about personal development or books that will stretch your mind? Your library tells shows your desire to turn ambition into concrete action – and after all, action is all that counts.
This is a hard one to come to terms with. The people you associate yourself with might be one of the biggest variables to come to terms with – and it’s not easy. Deciding that you need to limit your association with someone is never a simple process, and can be extremely hard at times.
Again, you might disagree with me, but I think that your success will largely influenced by those around you. You will spend time where they spend time – you will buy what they buy – you will go where they go. Again, it might not be a 100% correlation, but if the friendships are strong, the relationship will be strong.
Your Online Presence
How can one characterize your online presence? Is it for fun, or for business? Do you tweet HBR articles, or photos of you doing shots? Again, those might be two extremes, but the point is important – how you think of yourself (and an extension to that; how you present yourself) will drive what you do. If you see yourself as a professional, you will do certain things. If you see yourself as a party animal, you will do certain things.
Some other area’s to consider:
Your Physical Appearance: Are you trying to get a professional job while having 7 different facial piercings?
Your Hobbies: on the weekend, what do you do with your time?
Overall, the important thing to understand is that your external environment – your apartment, your friends, your fridge, your bookshelf – are manifestations of your internal mindset. At the same time, your external environment serves to reinforce your internal mindset. It is important to understand the relationship, so that you can react accordingly. If you found your friend’s fridge stocked full of can’s of Coke-a-Cola, you might think he was living a rather unhealthy life – and you would probably be right.
You should use your external environment to drive and reinforce your internal mindset. Also, make sure your external environment reflects what you want your internal environment to be. If you see yourself as a driven, educated, continual learner, and you have nothing but John Grisham on your book shelf, you either need to change your external environment, or wait for you internal mindset to catch up – something’s got to (and is going to) give.
Chances are that by now you have a large degree of control over your external environment – and full control over your internal environment. Be aware of how they are interacting with your internal mindset, and use it to your advantage. It’s either that, or you become a slave to it.
Blair Livingston’s Blog