It can be tempting to blame failure on a lack of willpower or a scarcity of talent, and to attribute success to hard work, effort, and grit. To be sure, those things matter. What is interesting, however, is that if you examine how human behavior has been shaped over time, you discover that motivation (and even talent) is often overvalued. In many cases, the environment matters more. Let me share an example that surprised me when I first learned of it.

Human behaviors are often tied to one another. For example, consider the case of a woman named Jennifer Lee Dukes. For two and a half decades during her adult life, starting when she left for college and extending into her 40s, Dukes never made her bed except for when her mother or guests dropped by the house.

The bad news about health and productivity habits is that if you start to slip up, things can slowly spiral downward. If you are tired, you can’t focus on your important work, you don’t make time for exercise or cooking healthy food, so you grab some fast food, you veg out in front of the TV. This doesn’t lead to better energy the next day, but it does lead you to feel worse and worse about yourself.