The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

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What Is 'Guiding Structure'?

Guiding Structure means the structure of your Environment is the largest determinant of your behavior.

If you want to successfully change a behavior, change the structure that influences or supports the behavior first, and the behavior will follow.

Don't try to change your behavior directly, that requires a lot more willpower. It's easier to focus on the Environment.

Josh Kaufman Explains 'Guiding Structure'

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 at all. When I got hungry, I ate an apple or carrots and hummus-that's what was there. Ordering a pizza or buying and cooking a steak took effort, so I didn't do it.

By changing the structure of our environment, Kelsey and I made it easier to act how 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 as a result.

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 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 10,000 feet, where distractions can be deadly.

Above 10,000 feet, pilots can talk about anything they want, but below 10,000 feet, the only discussion permitted is about information directly related to the flight in progress. By eliminating distractions, the Sterile Cockpit reduces errors and accidents.

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

Questions About 'Guiding Structure'


"Your environment will eat your goals and plans for breakfast."

Steve Pavlina, author of Personal Development for Smart People and blogger at stevepavlina.com


From Chapter 6:

The Human Mind


https://personalmba.com/guiding-structure/



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The Personal MBA

Master the Art of Business

A world-class business education in a single volume. Learn the universal principles behind every successful business, then use these ideas to make more money, get more done, and have more fun in your life and work.

Buy the book:


About Josh Kaufman

Josh Kaufman is an acclaimed business, learning, and skill acquisition expert. He is the author of two international bestsellers: The Personal MBA and The First 20 Hours. Josh's research and writing have helped millions of people worldwide learn the fundamentals of modern business.

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