Article by Zen Habits contributor Jonathan Mead.
Our inner world — emotional, mental space — helps determine our outer world, right? But the space we spend the majority of our time in also plays a huge role in our lives. It can influence our actions, our mood, and it can determine whether we remain stuck or achieve our dreams.
I want to share with you a few strategies I’ve discovered to design your space to help your achieve your goals.
I’ve been using this technique for quite some time to take advantage of my environment’s ability to help my achieve my dreams. The reason this is so effective is because when you design your space in a way that supports your dreams, you’re receiving perpetual subconscious reinforcement. So even if you design your space to reinforce a reality that does not yet exist for you, it is still effective because your environment is constantly introducing the possibility to your mind as a new reality.
There are three basic categories for engineering your space to reinforce your dreams.
- Identity modifiers
- Style and energy
- Specific goal reinforcement
Let’s start at the beginning…
1. General identity modifiers.
If you want to change a part of your identity, changing your space will help introduce a new trait of behavior.
Here are some examples:
- If you want to become a writer, reorganize your space to support your identity as a writer. Make sure there is a bookshelf near your workspace with classics novels and books on writing. Buy some nice pens or make word-processor the only icon on your desktop. Put quotes of famous writers around your workspace. Create a fictional cover for a book with your name as the author and have it framed and placed on your desk.
- If you want to simplify your life, remove all the clutter from your space. But don’t just remove the clutter; incorporate minimalist reinforcements in your space. This might mean getting a desk without a lot of drawers that forces you to keep it neat. Create a minimalist computer experience, a minimalist home and a minimalist workspace. The more you organize your space in a way that reinforces simplicity, the greater effect it will start to have on your inner space.
- If you want to become a musician, surround your space with musical instruments. Put up photos or album covers of your favorite artists. Make your space speak music. Design in it a way that if someone were to walk into your room, they would immediately think “this person is a musician.”
These are just starting points. There are many other creative ways to implement this simple idea. While these examples are of specific traits, the techniques can be applied to any shift.
2. Influencing style and energy.
The spaces we live in can be either creative and inspiring, or dull and suffocating. Imagine the picture of a cubicle colored in mind-numbing grays, fluorescent lighting, no plants, no photos, no personality. Not exactly electrifying, is it? Now imagine a workspace that is completely you. The desk is a beautiful, sturdy wood in your favorite color. The chair is well built and comfortable. You have photos of smiling family and friends framed on your desk. The lighting is warm and inviting. It feels much different, doesn’t it?
Here are some ways you can improve the energy of your space. And in doing so, make it more inviting and likely to make you want to be there and in turn want to work there to achieve your goals.
- Take inventory. Take a second to close your eyes and allow your mind to be still and your body to relax. Now open your eyes and look at the room around you. How does it make you feel? Does it call you to your purpose? Does it excite you or does it bore you? Is it inviting or indifferent? Now think about way that you could change or improve your space to achieve the feeling you would most want it to impress. What could you change to make it more in harmony with who you are?
- Energize your space. It’s amazing the effects that a few simple changes can make in your space to increase the energy and vibration. A few easy and simple ways to do this are by bringing more plants into your space, putting fresh fruit on your table or your desk, and place photos of yourself and family or friends around where you work. What colors could you change to bring in more energy? Could the lighting be changed?
- Do you resonate with your space? Everyone has their own individual and unique style. Some people may feel more drawn to classical pieces, while others are drawn to a more modern style. Some prefer the thrashing chords of punk rock to work to, while others are moved by the dramatic art of opera. Your space should reflect on some level who you are as a person, what your tastes are, what your interests are, and what you care about. The more your environment speaks to you, the more of an inspiring effect it will have on you.
Your imagination is your only limit.
3. Promoting specific intentions or goals.
This is really where the rubber meets the road and we get down to reinforcing specific goals, rather than general space manipulation.
Everyone says to write down your goals. That’s a good idea, but it’s much more effective when your goals are an element or a fixture of your surroundings. So the idea is simple, figure out what your most important intentions or goals are. Choose no more than five or six. Now place them somewhere in your space that will be constantly visible.
Here are a few ways you can do this:
- Post it. Print them out in big type and put them on a cork board, directly in front of your field of vision where you most often work.
- Frame it. Print and frame your goals in a 5 x 7 inch frame. Put the frame on your nightstand or desk. Or both.
- Desktop it. Create an image in a simple image editor (try pixlr if you don’t have one) that’s roughly the resolution of your desktop. Now type out your intentions, save the image and select it as the background on your computer desktop.
- Use a digital photo frame (thanks to Steve Pavlina for this idea). Create a few images of your goals with plain text, or combine it with an inspiring image. Plug the images into your digital frame and you’re done. This has the added benefit of animation, which has a natural tendency to draw your eye to the image. I haven’t tried this, so I’m not sure how distracting it would be, but I can’t think of a better thing to be distracted by.
- Send yourself blank emails. When I want to remind myself to stay focused on something, I’ll send myself a blank email with the subject being whatever my reminder is. If I want to remind myself to focus on writing I’ll make the subject “You write for two hours a day this week.” This strategy has a drawback though, as its effectiveness is dependent on how often you check your email. And I don’t think obsessive email checking with the rationalization of being reminded of your goals is a good trade off, unless you make one of your reminders “Stop obsessively checking email.”
- Setup reminders. Use a software like Dream Wizard. Dream Wizard allows you to plug in your most important goals, add a picture and voice (if you want), and set it to remind you at certain intervals as a pop up on your computer. I think this could also be accomplished with Gcal or other application to send you email reminders. That would another option without having to pay for a piece of software to remind you. Using this method is a good strategy if the majority of your time during the day is spent on the computer.