Environment and frameworks and affordances

The most basic form of this idea is the question of how to make it easy for yourself to do something. This is an important question, because when we are trying to grow, a way that we can accomplish that is by changing our actions and reactions. Almost all of the time, I will have some sort of mental or emotional block around making those changes, and even if I didn't, because of the inertia of my normal ways of being, making these changes necessarily takes effort.

An idea that has been useful for me in this domain for several years has been the one of affordances, from design. An affordance is a "quality or property of an object that...makes clear how it can or should be used."[1] One of the canonical examples of affordances is a door knob—the shape of a well-designed door knob affords turning. By clarifying the ways to use an object through intuitive design, an affordance makes it easy to interact with the object in the intended way. Similarly, we can create affordances in the realm of our goals, to make it easier to act or react in the new ways we are hoping to. For instance, signing up for a workout class with a friend can be a double affordance that helps you stay accountable to your goal of exercising regularly.

More recently, I've been thinking about larger-scale affordances in the form of environments and frameworks. It's obvious that the environment that you are in can have a big effect on you—what you think about, what you value, how you communicate, etc.—and I am more conscious of the fact now that putting yourself in a good environment can create all sorts of affordances for you. And of course the opposite is true! So I think it's just as important to recognize when your environment is inhibiting your growth or making it easy for you to act in ways that are not aligned with your goals. 

A framework is an overarching set of beliefs or, in other words, a philosophy. For example, minimalism is a framework, and adopting the framework of minimalism can help to simplify decision-making in many areas of your life, like diet, and how to spend your time. I think that any well-articulated goal, including New Year's resolutions, can also be thought of as a kind of framework; if you commit yourself to a value (e.g., fitness, learning, loving relationships) and formulate actionable changes towards that value, you may find that making those changes and growing in that direction is a lot easier, having identified that underlying value or belief.  

However, I do want to say that it's sometimes not enough just to create an affordance, or be in a good environment, or have a strong framework! The reason for this is while you might have "externally" made something as easy as possible to do, if you still have significant internal blocks to doing that thing, then those blockages may dominate. This has felt really discouraging when it's happened to me in the past, especially when I've been unaware of what that internal resistance has been about. For this reason, I think it's important to, among other things, be gentle with yourself when a system that has worked for others does not seem to be working for you. Remember that everyone has their own path 🌱💕


  1. Hi Julia! I unlocked your AdmitSee profile in order to view your application essays, but unfortunately I am not able to view the entire essays. Can you please forward them to my email @ Sarh.gupta@gmail.com ? Specifically, I would really love to read the personal statement piece. Thanks!


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