For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s that terrible part of winter that just feels blah every day. And for those of us “lucky” enough to be living anywhere that’s not Southern California, Arizona, or Florida, that gray can be really hard to overcome.
Here in St. Louis, I’ve taken to dubbing it “St. Louis Gray.” I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw the sun, and that permeates everything. Add snow, melt, more snow, some rain, then mud, and I’m over it. Did I mention I haven’t seen the sun in seventeen days?!?
Anyway, it highlights the concept and importance of environment, and just how much it can impact our mental and emotional state, both personally and professionally.
I met up with a friend recently, and I think we both felt like old biddies complaining about the weather. Combined with our relative disenchantment with our local environments that affects our personal and professional lives, our conversation got interesting.
I’ve talked about it before, how this isn’t the place I want to put down roots. I’m still into planting seeds that can be carried anywhere on the wind, but I’m very much into being location-independent until that permanent location involves the Rocky Mountains. My friend agreed she felt very much the same, and she’s even working on it with her coach. To some extent, she’s happy to be in one spot after a long period of traveling, but she’s also still struggling with whether it’s the best spot for her. That leads asking herself questions along the lines of, “how much of it is just mindset stuff that I have to work on?”
Well, you know, it’s part of it, sure. There are always angles. New or different perspectives to shine a light on the same old streets or cubicle. Gratitude. Focusing on the people and places that are great where you are. But at a certain point, “bloom where you’re planted” doesn’t work. It just doesn’t. Physical environment has a real impact on our daily lives, and to deny that is ignoring a big part of the story.
We talked a little bit more about immediate physical environment, as in our homes and work areas. We both work from home, so that’s pretty important for productivity and comfort. Luckily, I feel pretty good in my spot, but it took curating to get that right too. (I was a total bear house-hunting and pretty much refused to compromise on location. And within the house, I recently moved my desk to face the window and hung up new art.) My friend talked about how many times she’s rearranged her entire apartment, to no avail. It’s still not changing how she feels in her space, and that’s affecting her energy in a real way. How many times can you buy a new chair or move your couch to try to make it work when it’s just not?
How long can you repeat your positive mantras, knowing it’s still not going to be a match?
I honestly don’t know. I’m still working on it.
And certainly, there are levels to this. For instance, I do love my home office, but environment matters. I’ve taken to co-working once a week in a coffee shop or restaurant with a fellow solopreneur and friend, and that one day I absolutely crush my to-do list. For whatever reason, just being in a different environment, with another person – even if we don’t speak to each other for hours – changes everything. It works for her too, and it’s now a standing date.
Another example – a friend of mine took long daily walks through and around her neighborhood when she was self-employed. Sometimes, they’d last for hours. She’d often to visit coffee shops, sometimes work in them for a while, not always. She’d observe and engage with her surroundings, frequently practicing photography, sometimes chatting on the phone while walking. And even when these walks took up a big chunk of her day, it encouraged her creativity, and the rest of the day she devoted to working was highly productive, allowing her to work on projects and priorities in a much more focused way. Environment matters.
One more – I’ve got a client who’s struggling with her broader environment, location, people, job. Guess what? We’re working on planning her exit strategy for an interstate move by the end of 2019. Environment matters.
Of course, I identify with that last one too in a big way. I think about it every day. But during those days, I dial back into the environment I can affect immediately.
Where can I put myself, and with whom, that will take the edge off that gray?
Bigger picture, it’s important to allow yourself to explore the gray and what it is about the environment that’s impacting you so you can get a better idea of how to shift your setting. Is it a company culture that doesn’t fit your values? Décor that doesn’t work for your chi? A house full of too many bad memories? A whole town full of them? A city or state that makes you feel trapped? A lack of professional opportunity or a small dating pool? Something you just can’t put your finger on, but you know this isn’t your vibe?
Your answers will help you get down to some roots that will inspire your next set of choices to move into a new environment that’s better suited to your tastes and aspirations, your productivity and purpose, your comfort and satisfaction. There’s some trial and error involved, some wait and see, but you certainly have the power to investigate new surroundings for yourself.
Just know that you’re not alone if it’s beyond mindset stuff for you too – I’ve worked it a million times over, and it can only take you halfway. And at that halfway point, it’s up to you to determine if and how you want to make do with the gray, or make a change and find your sunshine.
Because somewhere in the world, right now, that sun is shining for you.
If you ever need to talk exit plan strategy, hit me up. I’d love to help you find your sunshine.