Role of tools and environment in behavior, and why I switched to Ubuntu/VSCode from Arch/VIM after 8 years


  • With better tools in your environment your ability will be higher. This will lead to doing more which will in turn give you more actual skills. Then it will be easier to do that behaviors in future even without tools.

This is a story about role of environment in our behavior. It's written through my personal journey. Lot of it can be looked like and probably is bragging. Hope is though, that you will get some useful info out of it. For regular people -- not geeks -- to understand this article here are crude descriptions of tools used. They are all free and open source technologies:

  • Ubuntu: Linux Operating System (OS) for PCs built for regular people.
  • VSCode: text editor with very easy learning curve and many great extensions.
  • Arch Linux: Linux OS for die hard geeks with hard learning curve.
  • VIM: text editor for die hard geeks with hard learning curve.
VIM inside VSCode

Accidental success

It's year 2009, it's third semester at my University journey. I'm more happy about running Ubuntu then learning. Around that time friend of mine suggests and helps me install Arch Linux OS. It's the coolest operating system for wannabe hacker at the time. Cool thing about it is that you have to construct it by yourself. Like Lego's.

This was huge change. Until that moment my knowledge about Linux like OS was more theoretical then practical. That started to change because everything I wanted and needed for my assignments I had to setup by my self. That meant a lot of tries and errors, and getting hands dirty to actually understand the underlying technologies and concepts. That process is and was very painful and frustrating at times. But I had no fallback computer. I gave away my laptop to parents. More accidentally though, then purposely to change environment.

My small room with PC, laptop and a bed.

Success was sticking with Arch for first year. That only happened because there were no fallback. After that my skills were much better and sticking with all the housekeeping that needs to be done when running Arch was not a big deal.

On journey of 8 years with Arch I got a lot of good stuff. Most importantly skills and knowledge about tools, concepts and ecosystem of applications in general. But also insights about different Free and Open Source Software -- FOSS -- community cultures and benevolent dictators. On the bad side, I formed some half baked opinions and values. Mostly held dogmatically as would describe well my personal development at that time. Which can be summarized as: open source is the only way to go. I was missing that these are just means in bigger fight for values in this universe.

Analysis of behaviors, tools, skills and environment

Before returning to values. Let's see how can we understand our behavior. For that we need a model. Best model out there is Fogg Behavior Model FBM. FBM says Behavior happens when Motivation, Ability, and Prompt come at the same time. Prompt says do the thing now! There is connection between Motivation and Ability which is Action Line. If combination of Motivation and Ability is bellow Action Line when Prompt happens there will be no Behavior.

Meme - Well... thank you captain obvious

Let's take for example donating to your favorite charity. If somebody asks you to donate 1000$, and you don't have that money with you or it is too much for you. Your Ability will be very low and if you don't have huge Motivation you wont do that Behavior. But if they ask for 10$ and you want to do it, and you have the money with you, Behavior will happen. The takeaway here is that Motivation is like a wave. It comes and goes, everybody knows that. But where great idea is, is that by making things simpler or more easy to do we don't have to rely on Motivation.

Simplicity changes Behavior

Or in other words anything which will boost your abilities will change your behaviors. So how can we increase our abilities you ask?

  • by training person so that his skill increases
  • by simplifying action with starter step or with tiny version
  • by putting a tool or resource in person's environment

Tools are important

Meme - Well... thank you captain obvious

More important then you think

With better tools or resources in your environment or context your ability will be higher. This will lead to doing more which will in turn give you more actual skills. Then it will be easier to do that behaviors in future even without tools. And in different environments.

That is the reason why I'm very deliberate about everything in my environment. And why I switched Arch Linux for Ubuntu. And VIM for VSCode. And why I bought three different chairs, and a standing desk, and so on. I'm sure that the benefits of having more stable OS and text editor with such an easy learning curve, great user experiences, and powerful extensions will increase my skills even more. As they already did.

This ideas about behavior design comes from Stanford professor BJ Fogg. This is a tiny part of BJ's work go and learn everything about it will change your life forever! Preorder his book on Tiny Habits.

Tiny Habits book cover photo

BJ's ideas did change my life. Because as most of us I also knew what would be and what is good for me. But the problem was how to change habits. How to change childhood conditioning. How to change lifestyle, how to make healthy habits.


Switching to VSCode and Ubuntu is my way to sharpen my tools. To heighten my abilities by changing environment. So I can work more successfully on things that I value. Hope is that you also see the arguments for importance of tools.

For all of us, this is a call to action. We should collectively always be aware how our our environment steers our behavior and focus on consciously designing it. So we don't have to be saints to do the right thing. Live long and prosper. Thank you. Have a nice day. 💗

Modification notes

My friends rightly noted that I was jamming too much of my interest in one article. Thank you guys for honest criticism.

2019 Oct 19

  • Remove parts about personal trauma, and behavior.

2019 Oct 21

  • Remove parts about Bitcoin.
Show Comments