But does the space really matter?
Many people have a good sense of how the quality of their environment helps them to be happier and more successful at work. So they create or choose a workplace that works for them.
Some other people believe that it’s all about the work and the people around, and that the physical space doesn’t really make a difference to their results.
The truth is, that whether we believe that we are influenced by the environment or not, it doesn’t change the fact that we are affected in many ways that we are not even aware of.
I’ve spent several years exploring different ways of working; in particular, I’ve observed myself: how I feel and perform in different spaces (or work at different times of the day, or in different postures). I continue to discover more things that either support or hinder my productivity, and new ways of making the most out of my day and maintaining my flow.
93% of our mind’s activity is unconscious. In other words, it impacts on us without us noticing it, manifesting only though our emotions, behaviour and choices. And our surroundings have a lot of influence on how our unconscious mind works!
To understand the subtleties of how the environment shapes how we feel and what we do, I also like to learn from people who use or create working and learning environments in non-traditional ways.
Accessing all your resources
One of these people is Tony Robbins, the world’s #1 performance coach. For those of you who don’t know him … He teaches strategies to help people make the most their potential, so that they can live a purposeful, active, healthy and fulfilling life. At his training programs there are often thousands of participants who don’t just sit on a chair all day; they shout and sing, jump and dance, while engaging all their senses.
For many people who haven’t experienced an event like this, this may sound weird, and I was also somewhat sceptical until I had the opportunity to participate. Being there helped me understand that every detail of the space and activities had been carefully designed to support the best learning outcomes for the participants. And these events truly make an impact.
These trainings are designed around the principle that our mental and emotional states determine our life quality, experience and results, and that it’s in our control to achieve productive mind states (e.g. feeling energised, confident and focused) by using our own resources skilfully. One of these resources is our own body.
Tony teaches how we can use the body to enhance learning, to make better decisions, to make those decisions stick so that we follow up on them, and to access our multiple intelligences – as opposed to using only our analytical mind to solve problems.
These strategies – regardless of how effective they are – are hardy ever used in traditional workplaces, where we normally just sit still all day, pushing our mind to work harder. But imagine what you could achieve if it was OK for you to jump, cheer and dance at work sometimes. Imagine if it was possible for you to access thoughts, ideas, and emotions that otherwise remain locked in.
Harmony with the elements
Another person I’ve learnt a lot from about the power of our environment is Roger Hamilton, social entrepreneur, creator of the Wealth Dynamics and Talent Dynamics profiling systems. Roger established XL Vision Villas, a resort-style training centre located in Bali, to provide an optimal environment for people to develop their personal or business vision.
Roger’s goal is to help people follow their path to ‘true wealth’, meaning making the most out of their talent and creating value, as opposed to being limited to the accumulation of material goods. And this is exactly what this place aims to achieve: enhancing people’s mental state and well-being, so that they can think clearly, work effectively in teams, and perform to their best potential.
Roger teaches that any value-creating process has five distinct phases: clarifying our purpose, generating creative ideas, forming teams, implementing plans, and re-evaluating strategies. The type of thinking required for performing well at each of these stages correlates with the five elements (water, wood, fire, earth and metal) as described by the 5,000 year-old Chinese book, the I-Ching.
Vision Villas is a physical representation of these principles, and houses five different outdoor pavilions that represent these five elements (also referred to as frequencies). They have been designed to enhance people’s performance at each phase of a project, helping them to be in flow.
Roger encourages people to answer this question before starting to work on any task: “What sort of environment could best support the type of thinking needed for this task?” and to choose the work environment accordingly. At Vision Villas, there were experiments to see how the different pavilions support different skills and activities, and the results were consistent; people working in the space best suited to the task always achieved better results.
A final question
Are there ways in which you could get better results by choosing or adapting your work environment, so that it helps you to be more energised and connected to your work and the people around you?