Your Environment Shapes Your Success

A review of Benjamin P. Hardy’s “Willpower Doesn’t Work

Photo by Colin Rex on Unsplash

When I was at my previous job, I was miserable…

It wasn’t a very apparent miserable. It was more of a slow, soul-sucking type of misery. A classic 9-to-5, energy drained by lunch, motivation gone by closing time, dinner and Netflix and a lot of unmemorable nights.

This was not without its effort of trying to escape.

I would try to research other ways to live my life. How to make money outside of the normal grind. Buying courses to learn new skills.

And while those might be considered “investments,” my first real investment was actually my girlfriend, Jessica Bonnett. She was the one who launched our lives into a completely different trajectory. This time, it felt right; this time, it felt incredible.

Making such an investment is one of the many life lessons Willpower Doesn’t Work, Benjamin Hardy’s recently published book, has within its pages.

Here is a list of the lessons that resonated the most with me…


Environment > Willpower

Willpower is a finite resource, and definitely not what you should be using as your main source of motivation and productivity.

When you simply use willpower throughout your day to create a certain habit, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Sure, you could get a few hours of solid willpower, but afterwards you reverse that good work, HARD.

Instead of overworking your willpower muscle, structure your environment for focus and production.

Eliminate stuff, distractions, and options from your daily life. Even some people in your friend and family group need to be let go. We become addicted to our environments filled with dopamine, so we must alter the environment to curtail this constant dopamine dump.

Benjamin’s advice is simple: Create defaults where you aren’t a slave to tech, you’re present in your current situation, and you act on instinct and tuition.

Don’t be dependent on addicting stuff; rather, be mindful of your environment.

Morning Routines ARE Important

It isn’t just Hardy’s most popular Medium post, it’s a vital part of anyone’s day.

You want to be in that peak state immediately upon waking up. You can only get 1–3 hours of deep work done daily. The name of the game is to increase this number to its maximum.

One of the best places to change the trajectory of your life is, according to Ben, “In the morning after a powerful and ritualized morning routine.”

Here’s a solid way to establish your morning routine:

  1. Begin by exposing your body to as much natural light as possible. (This wakes your body up.)
  2. Journal to connect deeply and be proactive for the entire day. Thought-dump anything that comes to mind.
  3. Write out your goals, both for today and for the year. This keeps your eyes on the prize.
  4. Get your blood pumping. Moderate exercise is fantastic for getting your body primed for the day.
  5. Focus on your most important task. Realize, it isn’t “urgent” or useless “busywork,” but important.
Get a morning routine, put it at an early hour and rip your old bad habits of staying up late and not getting anything done off like a band-aid.

“Implementation Intentions”

When the going gets tough, what do you do?

Benjamin provides a wonderful solution to things that deter you from your goals and health: Expect them. Knowing ahead of time that you’re going to fail seems counterintuitive, but in actuality this veering off course is totally natural. No sense in trying to stop something you can’t.

Instead, utilize “if-then” statements that deters you from the deterrent. For example, if you check Facebook constantly (hello, right here), then the next time you feel like doing so, do something else:

“If I feel like checking Facebook, then I’ll get up and walk 100 steps.”

This works because, as Ben says, “they divert your attention from your triggered temptation.” Distract yourself from the distracting, and you can get back to productive work faster. It’s like a twist on an old adage: “If you plan to fail, you will succeed.”

These if-then responses are most definitely part of your environment. Use them to your benefit.

Create “if-then” statements that keep you more proactive and less responsive.

“Forcing Functions”

Probably the coolest idea Ben has in the book — at least, in my opinion — is that of forcing functions. These are things that force you into action and achieving what you intend.

Ben says it best (emphasis his):

“Forcing functions have this combination of usefulness and simplicity: You turn a behavior you’d like to do into something you have to do.

This decreases decision fatigue because you’ve set your environment up as giving you no other options but to DO. It puts an external defense around your goals and ambitions, saving you from the outside world’s influence, as well as yourself.

The top forcing functions include:

  • High investment: buying a course, being in financial ruin if you don’t succeed;
  • Social pressure: making a public commitment to stay accountable;
  • High difficulty: putting a decent-sized load on your plate to gain traction;
  • Novelty: exposure to new ideas and environments, spurring engagement;
  • High consequence for poor performance: set high standards and have punishments set up for when you don’t reach those standards.

This will definitely be one tactic I’ll be using for the rest of my life.

Implement forcing functions to force a one-decision environment of productive action.

Be a Flexible Learner

Most of us likely loathed school. Other than blaming it on ADHD or something just as weak, why don’t we blame it on the school system entirely.

The “factory model of education” was conceived during the Industrial Era, back when everything, including K-12, was on a conveyor belt. Fast forward almost a century and we still have this system. Clearly this won’t work for today’s economy or young talent.

Ditch the factory model and learn contextually. Immerse yourself in what you want to learn, gain a mentor that’s already proficient in that skill, and practice with real-time critiques and tweaks.

Famous musicians and world-renowned chefs didn’t learn their craft by sitting at a desk, having information being regurgitated at them. So why should you?

Commit to a skill or giant goal, then learn as you go. Move forward with small, deliberate steps rather than sit and be instructed without ever practicing.

This is the most important book of 2018 (or maybe your life).

I’m not kidding. I’ve read my fair share of self-help books, from The Power of Habit to The 4-Hour Workweek. While both are fantastic reads, I can tell you with absolute certainty that this book will blow them out of the water in terms of practical advice.

Not only that, Willpower Doesn’t Work presents multiple strategies you can use immediately upon reading. This was one of those books so choc-full of info I had to use a pen to outline sections and write in my journal at the same time.

If you’re looking for a book worth the money and then some — and you’re tired of spinning your wheels and going nowhere — Benjamin Hardy has the answer.

(And this is coming from a guy who thinks Benjamin Hardy’s reposts of his popular articles is annoying as hell!)

“Although you are the product of your environment, that environment must be your proactive decision. Otherwise, you’re living reactively.”
-Benjamin P. Hardy

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Who Is This Guy Anyways?

Jake Lyda is a freelance writer and fiction author. He is currently working on short stories with a Black Mirror feel. For more information on his freelance writing services, visit his site. Look out for his weekly posts on Medium.

Hope this helped you in your writing journey! ✍️

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