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How To Be Successful When Willpower Doesn’t Work

willpower doesn't work; set yourself up for success; accomplish goals; how to succeed in life; how to succeed with your goals; practical tips and tricks for success; highlights of Benjamin Hardy's Willpower Doesn't Work Book

If you’re struggling to reach your goals because you don’t have enough motivation/willpower, you’re thinking about it all wrong! Read this for practical strategies to achieving your goals, based on Benjamin Hardy’s Willpower Doesn’t Work book,


How likely are you to succeed in your goals?

Whether it’s the little things you aim to do today, or the big dreams you have for life, your success depends almost entirely on your environment.

Psychologists and success coaches all over the world used to believe that people with the most willpower, the most grit, and the most determination were the ones who came out on top.

Come to find out, that’s not quite the truth.

If you remain in an environment conflicting with your personal rules, you have only two choices: conform to a bad environment or battle it through willpower. Both of these are very poor options and ultimately lead to the same place.

Benjamin Hardy, Willpower Doesn’t Work

We all have a certain amount of willpower, but for each and every one of us it is limited. If we rely solely on our willpower to see us through, we will fail time and time again.

That’s why eating clean for a whole week while the rest of your family snacks on potato chips is almost impossible…

Related post: The Ultimate Guide to Setting Goals and Achieving Personal Growth

Even if you do manage to power through for a week, you definitely won’t be able to sustain it for the year.

If there are chips stacked throughout your pantry, and your husband brings home a Costco tub of ice cream, and your in-laws cook spaghetti for family supper, you are going to run out of willpower and give in.

I know I certainly have.

Did you know that if your friend’s friend gains 15 pounds, you are more likely to gain weight as well?

It’s shocking. Absolutely crazy. A little bit terrifying. You are almost entirely a product of your environment.

You think you’re in control of your own choices, but in reality you are shaped and molded by the people you surround yourself with, the books you read, and the media you consume.

A person’s life, then, is not a reflection of their deepest held values and beliefs. But instead, a person’s life is a product of the social norms around them.

Benjamin Hardy, Willpower Doesn’t Work

Your success has less to do with you, and more to do with the situation you find yourself in.

How can you use this knowledge to bring your game to the next level, instead of sitting on the couch eating potato chips and deciding you have no control over anything?

Understand that, yes, your environment has a very strong effect on your results, but you also have very much control over your environment.

You can use your environment to guarantee your success.

Environmental design is a strategy for creating conditions that make your success inevitable.

How? This article features the actionable strategies you can start using today to eliminate your need for willpower and increase your rate of success, for your big goals and your small goals.

These are my key takeaways from Benjamin Hardy’s book Willpower Doesn’t Work, which I highly recommend you read, as part of your personal growth and learning.

Related post:3 Personal Development Books To Inspire Growth

willpower doesn't work; set yourself up for success; accomplish goals; how to succeed in life; how to succeed with your goals; practical tips and tricks for success; highlights of Benjamin Hardy's Willpower Doesn't Work Book

To help with your daily small goals: Use forcing functions to guarantee success

Turn a behavior you’d like to do into something you have to do, by using what we call forcing functions.

Forcing functions are about making one decision that makes all other decisions either easier or irrelevant.

Benjamin Hardy, Willpower Doesn’t Work
  1. Define your goal.
  2. Identify the things that will most likely derail you.
  3. Eliminate them from the equation.

If you want to be more present with the children, but you know you often end up scrolling through Facebook when you’re supposed to be playing Lego, then leave your phone in the car for an hour.

By eliminating your phone from your environment, you are making your success inevitable.

How will you scroll through Facebook if your phone is not only out of reach, but literally a jacket, a pair of boots, a door, and several steps away?

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Simply by changing the default option of certain choices is an easy way to immediately change behavior.

Benjamin Hardy, Willpower Doesn’t Work

If my phone is not in my pocket, I can’t unconsciously reach for it when I get bored. I might start to… and when it’s not where I usually put it, it triggers me to activate my brain and remember my intention to be present with the kids.

This is the same concept as ridding your pantry of all junk food when you want to make healthier choices throughout the week.

I know one of my worst habits is grabbing a sweet treat every time I pass through the kitchen. If there is literally no dessert to be found, there’s not much I can do to fail. Sure, I could technically get in the car and buy a cake at the store. But that’s not going to happen because at that point I can pause and assess my decision.

It’s when bad habits are wired into our routine and occur almost unconsciously that we get in trouble.

If you can create a break in your auto pilot, you trigger a conscious choice, and often that pause is enough to keep you on track.

If you want to dig more into the phenomenon of willpower, I highly recommend Benjamin Hardy’s book Willpower Doesn’t Work. It was a game changer in my personal development journey.

willpower doesn't work; set yourself up for success; accomplish goals; how to succeed in life; how to succeed with your goals; practical tips and tricks for success; highlights of Benjamin Hardy's Willpower Doesn't Work Book

To help with your big life goals: Craft highly demanding situations

Feeling comfortable with where you’re at in life right now?

Maybe you’ve got an okay job… it doesn’t light you up inside but it pays the bills and you like the people there and the commute isn’t so bad.

Maybe you’re in a decent relationship… it’s not like the movies but at least there’s someone there to watch Netflix with on the weekend. Sure, he can be kind of a jerk, but you’ve already swiped left on everyone in your Tinder vicinity, so this will do for now.

Who you become and what you do with your life are constrained by the people around you and the quality of information you consume… Your potential is shaped by what surrounds you. Most people are living small, not because they lack the inherent talent, but because their situation isn’t demanding more of them.

Benjamin Hardy, Willpower Doesn’t Work

If you are comfortable right now, your life will only ever turn out okay.

Now, that’s not a bad thing, and maybe that’s exactly what you want. Just an average existence… However…

If you’re dreaming of big things; if you want to live your best life; if you want to change the world and find yourself on top of it; you are not going to get there by doing what you’ve already done.

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Every hero is the product of a situation. History was not shaped by great men, but rather by demanding situations. Necessity is the single most important ingredient in the formula for greatness.

Benjamin Hardy, Willpower Doesn’t Work

It’s really a matter of being at the right place, at the right time. That’s why impostor syndrome is so prevalent among successful people: they realize that their success has little to do with them and a lot to do with the situation they found themselves in at a given moment.

Does that mean they didn’t deserve it? Absolutely not. The people who rose to the occasion are the ones who

  • Knew what they wanted down to the last detail, therefore they noticed the opportunity when it arose, and
  • Were so prepared for the challenge that there was no doubt they could succeed when they took it on

But they didn’t wander about life aimlessly waiting for a challenge to rise to.

They created challenging environments that purposefully launched them out of their comfort zones and into success.

When I was in university, ready to graduate, with no idea of what I wanted to do with my life, I didn’t sit around and wait for inspiration to strike me. One of the best things I did, which was 100% terrifying at the time, was enter into a ‘pitch competition’ where you had 2 minutes to pitch yourself to a room full of successful business people, and if they liked you they would give you their business card.

At the time, I thought I would puke, but I placed in the top 5 most hireable graduates out of my entire province. This provided me with a ton of networking opportunities and one of those business cards actually turned into a job offer, which turned into so much learning jam packed into 2 years, which allowed me to sky rocket to the top of the ladder and get an even better job opportunity, creating my own flexible schedule and working where I want, when I want.

The thing is, I was the same person before and after the pitch competition, but before it I had no job leads, and after it I had a world of opportunities.

willpower doesn't work; set yourself up for success; accomplish goals; how to succeed in life; how to succeed with your goals; practical tips and tricks for success; highlights of Benjamin Hardy's Willpower Doesn't Work Book

If you want to be successful in any area of your life, you need to get out of your comfort zone and create challenging environments that demand that you rise to the occasion.

Related post: 5 Personal Development Books To Change Your Life

Do things that make you feel like you’re going to throw up.

Commit to events that make you hyperventilate the night before.

Do all the scary things guys!

You must create your own opportunities to climb to the top.

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Far too often, people plateau at a certain stage in their development, and then over-adapt to a specific environment. Success becomes a catalyst for failure. Don’t become content with the results you’ve gotten and the progress you’ve made. Acknowledge how far you’ve come. But don’t get stuck there. Continually upgrade your standards for the quality of work and contribution you can make. There’s no end to how much you can change.

Benjamin Hardy, Willpower Doesn’t Work

If you want something more for yourself; if you’re got big dreams and a ton of ambition; if you want to live up to your values and create your best life, you need to stop relying solely on yourself and start creating an environment that guarantees your success, in little ways and big ways.

  • Sign up for Toastmasters
  • Set up auto-withdrawals to a savings account
  • Configure a Facebook time limit on your phone
  • Go to a networking event or conference

You can live your values and dreams. But it will never happen for you if you let your external world remain how it is.

Benjamin Hardy, Willpower Doesn’t Work

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How are you pushing yourself to get out of your comfort zone on a regular basis?

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