The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business by Josh Kaufman

The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business by Josh Kaufman

Author:Josh Kaufman
Language: eng
Format: azw3, epub, mobi
Tags: Self-Help.Business & Career
ISBN: 9781591843528
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Published: 2010-12-30T00:00:00+00:00

Guiding Structure

Your environment will eat your goals and plans for breakfast.


For three years, Kelsey and I experimented with a vegan diet—no animal products whatsoever. No meat, no eggs, no cheese, no milk.

Most of our friends and family had two responses: “Are you crazy?” and “That must be very difficult—I could never do that.” It was such a drastic lifestyle change that people marveled at our willpower.

I’d like to make a confession: it wasn’t difficult at all. There was very little effort or willpower involved. Here’s the secret: instead of relying on willpower to resist the urge to cook a steak or order a pepperoni pizza, we changed the structure of our Environment to support our choices.

We threw out all of the food we didn’t want to eat and replaced it with healthier options that still tasted good. We changed where we shopped—instead of going to the supermarket, we went to a small natural food store. We stopped going to steakhouses and started going to restaurants that specialized in serving vegetarian/vegan food.

As a result, we didn’t have to use much willpower to act consistently with our choice. When I got hungry, I ate an apple or carrots and hummus—that’s what was in the refrigerator. Ordering a pizza or buying and cooking a steak took more effort, so I didn’t do it. By changing the structure of our Environment, Kelsey and I made it easier to act the way we had decided to act.

Guiding Structure means the structure of your Environment is the largest determinant of your behavior. If you want to successfully change a behavior, don’t try to change the behavior directly. Change the structure that influences or supports the behavior, and the behavior will change automatically. If you don’t want to eat ice cream, don’t buy it in the first place.

In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus and his crew prepare to sail past the island of the Sirens—bird women who sang so beautifully that unwitting sailors would lose all reason and shipwreck themselves. Instead of relying on strength of will to resist the temptation of the Sirens, Odysseus changed the structure of the Environment, plugging his men’s ears with beeswax and tying himself to the ship’s mast. Temptation thus avoided, the ship made safe passage.

Change the structure of your Environment, and your behavior will change automatically. Add a bit of Friction (discussed later) or eliminate certain options completely, and you’ll find it much easier to focus on what you’re trying to accomplish.

A great example of Guiding Structure is the “Sterile Cockpit Rule” that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) instituted in 1981. Most airline accidents happen below ten thousand feet, where distractions can be deadly. Above ten thousand feet, pilots can talk about anything they want, but below ten thousand feet, the only discussion permitted is about information directly related to the flight in progress. By eliminating distractions, the Sterile Cockpit Rule reduces errors and accidents.

Change the structure of your Environment, and you’ll be amazed at how drastically your behavior will change in response.


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