Reproduced from my original column in the Miami Herald
People undermine the impact of the environment on our life. This is how the environment around us influences our behavior:
Trigger Situation: You need chewing gum. You drive to the nearest pharmacy at the mall.
Self-talk: I’ll just buy chewing gum. I don’t need anything else.
Behavior: You spend 7 hours at the mall and spend $ 1,287 on stuff you don’t need. You forget chewing gum.
Consequence: You go bankrupt with bad breadth.
Trigger Situation: You drive North on the Palmetto Highway every day to go to work. You pass through Dr. Buttsky’s Plastic Surgery Clinic. Buttsky displays on an electronic board some of the butts he has sculpted over the years.
Self-talk: Gosh, who needs that? I wonder what my butt would look like on his electronic board?
Behavior: You decide to have a Brazilian Butt Lift at Dr. Buttsky’s clinic.
Consequence: You become so sexy you decide you don’t need to live with the slob you have for a husband anymore. You leave your husband and your children and everybody talks about what a horrible mother you are.
Trigger Situation: You are at the buffet on a cruise.
Self-talk: I can handle all this temptation. I know better.
Behavior: You load your plate with six different cakes oozing LDL for six consecutive days, twice a day.
Consequence: Your cholesterol goes to 800. There isn’t enough Lipitor in the world to save you. Your life insurance is revoked; you collapse of a massive heart attack and your family is destitute for generations.
Trigger Situation: You go to a bar with your male buddies.
Self-talk: I know my limits.
Behavior: You get wasted out of your mind.
Consequence: You get up three days later, in another city. You miss work and get fired.
While department stores, cruise companies, breweries, and Dr. Buttsky are laughing their way to the bank, you have totally ruined your life, not just for you, but for your entire family, for generations to come, and have brought shame to your entire community, not just in Miami, but also in Colombia, where everybody is talking about what an infidel woman you are.
You, my friend, could have prevented all of this. But no, you thought that the environment does not have an impact on your behavior. No, you thought that your willpower was stronger than that. You thought you could handle temptations. You, my friend, and all the other 99.99999 percent of the population are suckers.
Not only do you buy stuff you don’t need, but you let others display your sculpted butt on The Palmetto. You, my friend, are manipulated all day long by ads and minds. Every time you do something totally stupid somebody is making money off of you. You thought that ads impact only other people. Not you, you the master of self-discipline.
So, what’s the solution? First, stop kidding ourselves. We are all suckers.
Once you realize that the environment is full of temptations, 99.99999 percent of which are bad for you, you can begin changing the environment so you are not tempted. I know that my family is not an example of anything other than utter neurosis, but I have never gone bankrupt or allowed my cholesterol to go over 200; although I have thought of a Brazilian Butt Lift. Still, in my house you will never find junk food, sugar, milk, meat, cakes, alcohol, sodas, white bread, or chocolate. Come to think of it, I don’t know what the heck we do eat, but I can tell you we are pretty healthy, and my life insurance has never been revoked, and I have never brought shame to my family, or community, here or abroad.