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Episode Summary

In our previous episode, Stephen Box interviewed Sean Robinson, a firefighter and electrician, about the pushback he got from his environment when his Dry January Challenge went into March and beyond.

This week, Stephen dives deeper into this conversation and gives you a few practical tips for building good habits for your health when faced with an unsupportive environment. 

Key Topics

  • Why changing is so hard?
  • The 3 potential outcomes of choosing to make a change within an unsupportive environment.
  • The importance of choosing our identity to make lasting changes and overcoming fears that may arise during the process.
  • How to identify your sphere of control.

Read Transcript

[00:00:00] Hey guys, welcome to the Unshakable Habits podcast. Today we're gonna be talking about what happens when you are in an environment that has resistance towards positive change. So you've probably heard the platitude. You are the average of the five people who you spend the most time with, and this is problematic for a lot of people who are in professions

or in environments that maybe they have limited control over who they're around, and they have very limited control over what the culture of that environment is. So today's episode is going to talk about what to do when you are trying to make changes to make your life better, but your environment does not exactly embrace those changes. I'm gonna give you guys some actionable strategies to deal with that right after this intro.

Podcast Intro: Are you ready to break [00:01:00] free from your old habits and create a better life for yourself and those around you? If so, welcome to Unshakable Habits, the podcast dedicated to helping men be better husbands, fathers, and leaders by prioritizing their physical and mental wellbeing. Each week we'll look at health from a 360 degree perspective with inspiring stories and practical strategies for building Unshakable habits that'll transform your life. Join Stephen Box, a board certified health and wellness coach, and let's change the world together. One habit at a time.

Welcome back. This week's episode is going to be a solo podcast, and what I wanted to do is touch on this subject about environments because if you caught last week's new [00:02:00] episode with Sean Robinson, you know, this was really the focus of our conversation.

If you haven't already checked out that episode, highly recommend you do so. I'll go ahead and actually link that in the video here above. But if you've already checked it out, then this is just gonna kind of be an opportunity for you to get a little bit more insight into this. If you haven't watched it yet, feel free to finish watching this video first, and then go back and watch it.

It's not gonna matter which order you watch them in, so you're good either way. So let's dive into this thing. Let's talk about when you are in environments that are not conducive to change. This is the situation that Sean found himself in and we talked about in his episode. Where being a firefighter, being an electrician, he was in these very manly professions.

Now, there are women that work in these professions as well, but they're still very manly environments and a lot of the, let's say old school masculine [00:03:00] mentality type stuff was there. Right? And some of that stuff isn't necessarily conducive to change. And this was the struggle that Sean had when he started doing his dry January challenge.

He met some resistance from his coworkers. So we kind of dive into how he dealt with that. But I'm gonna give you guys some actionable strategies for that today. So first thing is, let's talk about why is it so difficult to actually change in these environments, right? What does it actually look like?

Well, most of the time you find yourself wanting to make a change. You know that something's not quite right, you wanna get better, but. The changes you wanna make a lot of times will go against the norms. So I mentioned with Sean, it was a dry January challenge, and he was in an environment where alcohol was a regular part of just being part of the group.

So for him to go and give up alcohol was something that was kind of frowned upon. Now, in the beginning, he was able [00:04:00] to get away with it, so to speak, because. He was doing a challenge, right? So it was more acceptable because it was a way to challenge himself. But as the months went on and you know, dry January's thing, dry February is still kind of a thing.

But by the time he got to March, It was full on resistance. It was full on, dude, what are you doing? You're good now you've done it. Why would you keep doing this to yourself? So his environment was pushing back on him and so he had to figure out how to make this change. And this is an experience that I think a lot of us find ourselves in is society has expectations for us as men.

Our families have expectations for us as husbands and fathers or boyfriends, if you're not married yet. Maybe your parents have certain expectations for you. Your employer has certain expectations for you. Everyone it seems, has expectations, and sometimes it can feel like everyone but you is living [00:05:00] your life.

So that's why it can be really challenging, and especially I think for us as men, it can be challenging because a lot of what we've been taught by society is to kind of put each other down. And we're then told, don't be sensitive about it. Don't take it personal. And here's the reality. Even if you've got pretty thick skin, there's only so many times that people are going to insult you and say things to you before it's gonna kind of start to eat at you.

You might not recognize it, right? You may have convinced yourself that you're not feeling it, but the reality is those things do have an impact on you. So let's give you a quick example of what this looks like in real life. There's a show. That I used to watch many, many years ago. I think they've changed the format of it.

I don't even know if it's still on, but it was called Brain Games. what they would do is they would put hidden cameras and they would go out and do these different experiments. So the one experiment they did very interesting was they put cameras in a dentist office [00:06:00] and everyone in the office was a plant.

So they were, they were all in on it, except for one person. So what happened was this woman goes into the dentist office and every single person in there, when they played this chime sound would stand up. Now, of course, in the beginning she looks at everyone like they're crazy, just like we all would.

But after a couple times of everyone's standing up, every time this chime went off, she started to follow suit. Okay, and now here's where things get really crazy. So one by one, they start taking the people away and it's just her left in the room. So now you would think, okay, there's no peer pressure for her to continue to conform to this norm that had been established in the office.

But when the chime went off and she was the only person in there, she stood up. Now here's where it gets really crazy. They started sending other people into the room. Now these people also were not in on it. So [00:07:00] these were completely unsuspecting people. And as they started to come in one by one, she would stand up, they would look at her crazy, then they'd start to follow suit until they eventually got a whole room full of people now doing the exact same thing.

So when we look at an example like that, it's hard to think to yourself, why would you do that? Like, I would never do that. That's what we like to think, right? But the reality is, as one of my mentors, so elegantly put it, we are not rational or irrational.

We're post rational, meaning we don't actually make decisions that make sense or don't make sense. We make decisions based on what feels safe, what. Maybe makes sense in that moment, because that's one of my other mentors says all problems or all behaviors, excuse me, are an attempt to solve a problem. So even if it's not the best solution.

So that's what we're doing. We're just trying to [00:08:00] solve a problem that we have. And in the dentist office, it was discomfort, right? It was not being a part of the crowd. And that's the situation. That a lot of us find ourselves in, where we try to make changes in these environments is we want to conform to the crowd, and then what we do is we post rationalize the decision that we've already made.

And that's why a lot of times we think we made a rational decision because there was a thought process, but we're not really thinking about the fact that we started that process after the decision was already made. So that's why there's so much struggle when it actually comes to making changes in these environments.

Now this might all sound like doom and gloom, and you might be thinking to yourself, well, great Stephen. So basically what you're telling me is if I'm stuck in this environment, I am screwed. And the good news is you're not because here's the truth. Yes, our environment has an impact on us, but when we start to become aware of our environment, when we start to become aware of our [00:09:00] automatic tendencies, when we start to become aware, Of the things that are happening, our environment no longer shapes us.

We shape us. That's right. You get to decide who you're gonna be, not your environment. Your environment does not get to decide ultimately who you're going to be. See, I can take this five person analogy, right? And I can point out to you that. If I were to put someone who drinks occasionally, right? Not, not all the time.

Just occasional drinking is something they enjoy doing, but it's very occasional and I put them into an environment where five people who drink all the time. That person is likely to start to drink more But if I take someone who doesn't drink at all, then that person is gonna go in and they're not going to start drinking just because everyone else is, because they don't see themselves as a drinker, right?

But on the other hand, [00:10:00] maybe that person goes in and they have that person who doesn't drink, goes in, and they have low self-esteem, and it's really important to them to fit into the crowd. And they just never drank. It wasn't really a part of their identity per se. It's just something that they haven't actually done.

That person might actually start drinking. So this is where this idea comes from, that these five people have an influence on us, but ultimately that influence is dictated by the beliefs that we come in with. So I hope that makes sense for you guys. Now, when we start thinking about making these changes, there's three potential outcomes to making changes in these environments.

Number one is you end up deciding on your own that this environment is not for you, that it's not conducive to where you want to go and you decide to leave. This was my story when I worked retail management. I started losing weight. I got to a point where I realized if I wanted to continue getting healthy, if I wanted to continue making [00:11:00] positive changes in my life, I had to remove myself from that environment because I couldn't really change a lot about the environment itself.

I had made all the changes I could make, and it wasn't conducive to my growth. So I made a decision to leave the environment. The second possibility that can happen. Is that you end up having an impact on your environment and if you go back and listen to Sean's episode, this is what happened with him.

Yes, there was some initial resistance there. But over time, his willingness to stick with it and continue making these positive changes, and not just one change, but multiple positive changes in his life, led other people to start going, Hey, I kind of want what Sean has, and he started having a positive impact on his environment.

The third outcome, and this one is the one that a lot of people fear is gonna happen, is that the environment is going to kick you out. And for a [00:12:00] lot of people, their environment, especially if that environment is work related, is a huge part of their identity. And that is a big scary thing. Right? That's why I love Sean's story and I commend him so much for what he accomplished.

Because the reality is Sean loves being a firefighter. That's why he is been doing it for 20 years, but, Going into that situation, deciding I'm gonna give up alcohol. Getting that resistance, getting that pushback from, some people want, Hey, why are you still doing this? Why aren't you being one of the guys?

Or, he used the example that one of his friends got married and they really wanted him to drink at the wedding, and he's like, I'm not going to drink. So realizing that in any of those situations that fear could have kicked in. That Sean's gonna lose his friends, he's going to lose his, his career, or at the very least, those things are become less enjoyable.

Right? But he was committed to who he wanted to be, and that's what allowed him to stick with that. [00:13:00] So, big ups to Sean on that, but I just wanted to kind of point that out to you guys because a lot of times we fear these things and the reality is, That initial pushback that we get is just other people kind of being afraid to move forward themselves.

It's them being afraid to let go of what's comfortable for them. Cause remember, our brains are hardwired for survival and there's nothing to guarantee survival better than predictability. So when everything is status quo and our brains know what's gonna happen, Everything is good, but when all of a sudden we are being asked to start doing new things, when our brain has to learn new patterns, new routines, it's kind of scary for our brains.

So let's talk about what we do to make this actionable. Well, number one, and, and I've already kind of given these to you guys, but I'm gonna break them down into steps so that you can actually see them more clearly. So number one is you have to choose your identity, right?

So I used this example with Sean of [00:14:00] how he decided, you know what? These are things I'm gonna do. I'm going to stop drinking. And by the way, he didn't set out to stop drinking forever. He decided in the beginning that it was really just a challenge. It was a way to push himself just to see if he could do it.

But over time, that identity started to develop and the more he became entrenched into that identity, the easier the change became for him. So that's number one, is you have to change your identity. If you continue to see yourself in a certain light is going to be difficult to change that thing. You have to change the way you see yourself.

So, for example, in his book, atomic Habits, James Clear uses the example. That if someone is giving up smoking and someone offers them a cigarette, and that person says, no, thanks, I'm trying to quit. Your identity is someone who's trying to quit. Trying is hard. Trying, basically tells you that you're not there yet, and so you're more likely to maybe give in [00:15:00] and take that cigarette, but on the other hand, If that person responded with no thanks, I don't smoke.

The temptation is gone because you no longer see yourself as a smoker. You see, like I don't see myself as a drinker, so when people offer me alcohol, I have zero qualms about saying, no, I'm good. And if I get any pushback on it, it doesn't bother me because. My identity is someone who doesn't drink, so I'm not gonna let someone pressure me into drinking.

But if someone else has low self-esteem or they see themselves as someone who does enjoy alcohol, even if they don't want to do it all the time, it's easier for them to get pulled into that environment because their identity isn't that As someone who doesn't drink right. Now if that person has a strong identity as someone who only drinks sometimes, then maybe they at least control the intake in those environments.

But do you see how it really doesn't matter what the other person's doing, it's all about you. I [00:16:00] wanna kind of point out to you guys here real quick too, that this goes back to what I always talk about about connected health, right? So if you're not familiar with the concept of connected health, it looks at health from six different perspectives, physical.

Mental, emotional, relational, environmental, and then existential. So when you look at this, mental is our thoughts and beliefs, right? So in this instance we're talking about alcohol. Your belief is I'm not a drinker, or I'm a social drinker, or, Whatever, right? Like you have your thought, your belief around that emotional health is our internal or external reaction to our thoughts and beliefs, right?

So when you say those things, it creates an emotion in your body. And so for me, you know, if someone gets really pushy about wanting me to drink something that might cause anger to bubble up. Or frustration to bubble up, or it might make me want to [00:17:00] just leave the environment because it is so strong against my identity, right?

Whereas someone who is considers themselves a social drinker, Maybe they're more inclined to say, I'll have a drink because I'm in a social environment and I am a social drinker. So hopefully that makes sense for you guys in terms of understanding the identity. And guess what?

You get to choose your identity. So that's why I said ultimately you get to choose. Not your environment. All right. So the second thing is you have to look at your sphere of control. The reality for a lot of us is we are going to be in situations where we may not have a lot of control over the environment itself.

We can't change things around, we can't change policies, we can't change the people that we're around. We're stuck with them. But what we can change is things about ourself, right? So kind of switching gears to use a different example here. Let's say that we're talking about eating. Healthier foods. I can make a choice about what food I bring.

[00:18:00] I can make a choice about what foods I eat. I can't control if there's a 10 minute wait at the microwave, right? I can't control that. But what I can control is bringing my food, maybe having a backup plan. I can do that, that I can have control over. So start looking at your sphere of control and look at this from the concept of layers.

So let's think about like starting with what's on your physical body. What's in your immediate vicinity? What's in the room around you? What's in the building? What keep going out like that, right? Like start thinking about these different layers of your environment and think about what within each of those layers, do you have control?

Do you have full control? Which ones do you have some level of control? And which ones do you have no control at all? Right? And now the things that we have full control over, we can make changes to things we have some control over. We can make changes within our. Individual ability to make change and the things that we don't have any control over, we have to learn to let go of.

then the final thing in this kind of touches on that,[00:19:00] idea of letting go is you have to set boundaries, right? And, and this was something that Sean talked a lot about in his episode of how he went about setting boundaries. So, I really encourage you guys to go listen to the episode and see what it was that Sean actually did to, to set those boundaries and see how he really started creating this identity for himself.

And he really started to take accountability for what he could and could not actually control and how that ultimately led to him having a positive impact on his environment. hopefully that helps you guys. And, you know, gives you something to think about in terms of are you in the situation where the best thing for you to do is just leave your environment, create a whole new environment for yourself?

Or are you at a point where maybe you love the environment? But you just don't love who you are in it, and that's what you need to change. there is no right or wrong, either one is completely fine. You get to decide for yourself which one is right for you. And I just hope that this video today is kind of helping you take some steps towards [00:20:00] doing that.

So again, if you guys want more information on this, if you want some more examples, if you wanna see this really kind of played out full in real life, go back, listen to Sean Robinson's episode and if you wanna check out any other episodes of the podcast, there'll be a link at the end of the video to those as well.

So as always, guys, Stephen Box reminding you that we are not all born Unshakable, but we can all become Unshakable.

Podcast Outro: Thank you for listening to the Unshakable Habits podcast with Coach Stephen Box. Be sure to hit the subscribe button and help us spread the word by sharing the podcast with other men. If you are ready to create Unshakable habits, you can learn more and connect with us at UnshakableHabits.com.


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