If you’re wondering why I’ve been talking a lot about James Clears’ Atomic Habits over the last couple of weeks, it’s because I’m currently writing about it for a longer project. Today, I thought I’d share a line that has struck a particular chord recently.
“People often choose products not because of what they are, but because of where they are…Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior.”
In the context of the book, James is talking about how you are statistically more likely to pick up items that are commonly in your environment—for example, if it’s easier to grab a healthy drink versus an energy drink then you’re probably going to pick up the latter—but, as usual, I’ve been thinking about how this adage fits into a cripped worldview when it comes to productivity.
And, fundamentally, I think the foundation is the same. We (usually) gravitate towards the path of least resistance no matter what our disability is. However, there is one way in which I think environmental design can help us think about productivity through a kind and crip lens.
For one, the biggest barrier to environment change for disabled people is the sheer cost of it. Disabled people are—and this isn’t just a gut feeling—highly un or underemployed. We’re more likely to be victims of domestic violence, to go hungry, and to have adverse health outcomes that could have been prevented. It’s all well and good to say, “Pick the healthy choice” if you can afford it, but what if you can’t? What if the healthy choice is to move away from your family, or buy a car, or go to some level of higher education. Crucially, we have to think about—-and grieve—-what is not available to us.
And yet, at the same time, we can be willing to take what small steps (lol) we can towards the environment we wish to live in. For example, I use art to remind me to take my medication and I purposefully painted the walls of two rooms of my house to be less triggering during thunderstorms. The art was inexpensive, as was the paint. Similarly, while I’ve chosen a not inexpensive food system to lessen my barriers to cooking (HelloFresh) a previous version of this was gravitating towards pre-cut ingredients. And, when I lived in residence at my university and had as much cooking skills as my puppy probably does now, I finally realized that pre-packaged food was better than whatever I could buy from the campus food court.
I think the one crucial difference within disability community when it comes to making these choices—particularly politically and socially engaged disabled people—is that we are conditioned to disproportionately think about the impacts of those choices on our wider society. While that is valid, I did think about the amount of plastic I was adding to my household garbage when I first started using Hello Fresh, I do think it becomes an unsurmountable barrier for many of our disabled kin.
One of my former journalistic colleagues, when I would bring this whole problem up, would say “We are all traitors to our class in one way.” I laughed, and laughed, and then realized that they were right. For me—and I give disabled folks an extra bonus area due to ableism—those two versions of tongue in cheek traitorism were using Amazon and food delivery services. One could also argue, thanks to Uber’s fairly horrendous worker rights record, that ride-sharing apps would be a third, but I’ll leave that alone for now.
The rationale to get past the aforementioned barrier? I need to eat and I often need to buy things that I can’t get locally. This may sound egotistical, but if you and I can’t eat, and can’t get the necessities to live that aren’t available in local stores (hello, large bag of epsom salts) then we can’t help others, we can’t support our communities, we can’t even begin to consider thriving.
So, as we enter the weekend, today’s mission—should you choose to accept it—is to ponder which ethical conundrum is holding you back from increased quality of life. If you’d like to share/have me write about it/offer suggestions, feel free to email me at John@Jloeppky.com.
I've decided to shift CRPL to a 5 times a week newsletter about productivity as I am fascinated by the topic, am in the early stage of writing a book about it, and want to have a place to think, and write, and create work about this vital area of thinking. Click below to join the daily newsletter and/or to help financially support this project.