To win this year, design your environment!

To win this year, design your environment!

Jan 11, 2023

Hi everyone, it’s great to be back! This is my first article after my first writing hiatus since I started writing regularly in 2011!

Because we are just starting the year 2023, I wish to take advantage of our fresh start optimism. Have you set your goals for the year? Our family has a tradition of going somewhere after Christmas and before New Year for a vacation where we devote day to family goal setting. We rate ourselves how we fared in the year that’s about to end and share our goals for the coming year. To know more about this, here are a few of the many contents I have published on the subject matter.

Our goal setting tradition featured in Family Rules Show

Family Goal Setting & FQripot Tips During Family Vacation

#FamilyGoalSetting (for 2020/New Decade)

Have you set your goals yet? (Steps in Setting Meaningful Goals)

Reader asks for tips on how to achieve 2018 goals

Feel free to search for the rest.

Our Family Goal Setting, December 30, 2022 in Palawan

For this year, one of my shared goals is to focus more on the “systems” in place in my everyday life. What do I mean by that? It’s the design of my environment. In fact, one of the reasons for the timing of my one quarter writing hiatus was the “re-designing” of our home as empty nesters. We concluded an 11-month renovation in October 2022 and I spent the last three months doing some final touches, moving back in, organizing, and enjoying our new crib. (Do tell me if you want to see videos on this.)

Here’s the thing. No matter how strong-willed and disciplined we think we are, our actual behavior and habits are affected by our environment. Sometimes “who we are” is “where we are.” Because of our human wiring, we tend to conserve our energy and do that which is of least resistance. In Behavioral Economics, we call this Default Bias. It is our tendency to do the automatic or default option, avoiding complex or even easy decisions consciously or unconsciously.

The Default Bias may either be good or bad to you, depending on how your environment and systems are designed.

Let’s say your 2013 goals include the usuals:

  1. Eat healthy meals.
  2. Exercise regularly.
  3. Have enough sleep.
  4. Save and invest regularly.

Instead of counting on your discipline and will power all the time to achieve the above, be pragmatic help your Emotional Emong side! (Emotional Emong is the personification of our emotional brain as discussed in FQ Book 2.)

Designed For You versus Designed By You

Look around you, there is already an existing design in your environment – both your physical world and your virtual world, the latter affecting you more these days due to significant exposure to it.

Unfortunately, these two worlds are not necessarily designed with your goals in mind. They are designed to fulfill the goals of the ones who created them. Let’s take goal number 1: Eat healthy meals. How do you source your meals? Do you cook your own meals? Do you go to the grocery? Do you buy fast food meals? The design of groceries may not necessarily be conducive to someone who wants to prepare healthy meals as you have to go through long aisles of junk snacks before you reach the fresh section. Fast food meals are generally cheaper, more convenient, and sinfully tasty that our default choice when we’re on the go and on a budget points towards them.

Exercising regularly instead of doing sedentary activities may be difficult to sustain, what with all the movies and tv series on Netflix, Disney Plus, Apple TV, not to mention the mindless scrolling on our social media because our phones are always with us.

The same goes for having enough sleep. Raise your hand if, after clutching your phone the whole day, it is still with you on your bedside when it’s time to sleep.

With regard to saving and investing regularly, check your phone apps. How many shopping apps are there making shopping way too accessible and tempting, leaving nothing left for saving and investing?

After answering the above questions, how do now you assess your everyday environment? Is it designed to fulfill your goals? Probably not. Now is the time to take control and design it according to your goals. Design for default. This is going to be a case-to-case basis and I suggest that you check your existing habits now and build on them.

1. Eat health meals. Check how you eat. Are you always in a hurry? Do you go to the grocery with an empty stomach? Take out the unhealthy items in your grocery list and if you started doing it online during the pandemic, continue doing so. It saves you from the temptation of buying the many yummy but unhealthy options when you walk through grocery aisles especially on an empty stomach.

2. Exercise regularly. The hardest part of doing this is putting on your workout clothes. Let me share what I did before to successfully force myself to exercise everyday. I put my cellphone beside my workout clothes at night and I only turned it on (an existing morning habit) once I was already on the treadmill. This is called stacking popularized by James Clear of Atomic Habits. You stack an intended habit into an existing habit, making it easier to develop the new habit.

3. Have enough sleep. This may also be a function of your distance from your phone, so the technique above may also work. If your excuse of having your phone near you at night is that you use it as your alarm clock, buy an alarm clock! Or use an old phone as alarm, provided that you take out all the social media apps first.

4. Save and invest regularly. Let me tell you that among the four usual New Year’s Resolutions (Eat healthy meals; Exercise regularly; Have enough sleep; Save and invest regularly.), this is the easiest to implement! I’m not kidding. This is the one that you can design and then get out of the way and just allow the power of default bias and the power of compounding to work their magic! Do automatic saving and investing through your income/payroll account. And if you are still shopping for that equity index fund for your long-term investing, I suggest you to take a look at the newly launched COL Equity Index Fund or fund code: XCOLEIF (Full disclosure: The Honey is involved in this fund). The advantages of this fund over the other equity index funds in the country are as follows: 1. Low minimum initial investment of only Php500; 2. Low additional investment of only Php100; 3. No holding period; 4. No pre-termination charges. You can sell/redeem funds without penalty; 5. Quick settlement of withdrawals of 4 business days.

There are other design elements that you can use to make it easier for you to achieve your goals. I’d love to hear from you. I hope that this discussion helps you take control of your 2023. This year, let us be our own Choice Architects of our everyday environment. Manigong Bagong Taon sa inyong lahat!


1. To help you have a really great 2023, start off by checking where you are in your High FQ Journey. Take the FQ Test now. Share the link with your loved ones.

2. To have in-depth understanding of FQ and improve your life in general, grab your copy of the FQ Books.

This article is also published in Philstar.