Every six months Franny rearranges the furniture in her home. “Just moving the couch from one wall to another can change the whole feel of a room!” she exclaims. “The change in energy makes me more creative, invigorated, and ready to face any challenge.” Franny’s is just one example of how your environment reflects your identity.

A business major in college, Jeremy has trouble settling down to study. To help find focus he dresses in a suit and tie, places a copy of Investor’s Business Daily on his desk, and lights a cigar before opening a textbook. He says, “The smell of the smoke reminds me of my father working in his home office.”

Every week Justine adds some new, beautiful object to her home: an exotic flowering plant, a set of multicolored handblown iced tea glasses, a Swarovski crystal picture frame. She explains, “The world outside can be so harsh and ugly. By having things of beauty around my home, I create a world in which the presence of beauty, love, and joy dominates. Inside that space I know who I am, no matter what happens outside.”

What Franny, Jeremy, and Justine have intuitively activated is the tremendous impact of environment on sense of self. How you express who you are affects and can be affected by your experience of the world around you. On a cold and rainy day, for example, you feel different than you do on a warm and sunny one. In a tiny, cramped office with no windows, you feel different than in a large and spacious room with breathtaking views. Simply altering temperature, space, and light can change the way you feel, think, and behave. Long-lasting changes in these areas alter your identity, as they change not only your self-perception but also how you present and are defined by actions in the world at large.

While you live in the context of a global environment over which you don’t have complete control, your personal world offers abundant opportunities to assess—and choose to change—how your environment reflects and affects your personality. Consciously collaborating between yourself and your world further manifests the person you most wish to be. Four major factors have an impact on your identity-environment relationship:

Location. Your mind responds to cues in the physical world with thoughts that become feelings that create physical sensations that motivate behavior. Committing to a location that expresses your desired internal feeling puts your interior experience in alignment with your exterior surroundings.

Decoration. Personal spaces both define and can be defined by you. Identifying colors, designs, and spatial organizations that feel good allows you to express and respond in the physical world with things that resonate with and exemplify the nonvisible parts of yourself.

Energy. How you feel dramatically affects who you are. The better you feel—the more you inhabit your real, authentic self—the more you make choices and take actions in alignment with your inner vision. A creatively invigorating and rejuvenating environment increases your ability to achieve that self and its desires.

Expression. The more you behave in ways wholly aligned with the type of person you want to be, the more you become your ideal self. Choosing an environment that allows and inspires you to act and engage in ways congruent with who you are can be critical in accessing and unleashing the real you.

Look around your environment today. What does it say about how you see, feel, and think about yourself? Does it match who you are and announce that self with a sense of pride? Fully inhabiting your identity means purposely living according to individual values, plus expressing beliefs with confidence. Your environment can support this process by aligning internal and external experiences.

A simple place to begin practicing this is in your home. What actions need to be taken so that your home more precisely expresses who you wish to be?

Read about Michele Rosenthal.

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