What’s in it for me? Achieve your full potential without exhausting your willpower and energy:
Think back to the last time you achieved a purpose. It could have been something shallow, like skipping an enticing sweet for the advantage of your waistline. Or possibly you woke up at 6:00 a.m. to walk ere work. Or maybe you eventually powered for and met your deadline on some torture plan.
When trying to accomplish your goals, willpower is less important than your domain:
People usually state that willpower is like a muscle; the more you use it, the more it gets tired. And like any other muscle, you can make your resolve stronger over time – so using stability today will make it a bit simpler tomorrow.
So self-improvement is easy. To change our living, we need to challenge ourselves daily – and before you even know, we’ll be able to take on the world!
The willpower’s problem is that it’s quite a weak muscle. Our self-control abilities are almost always exhausted these days, but we don’t believe it’s our fault.
When trying to accomplish your goals, willpower is less important than your domain.
Let’s consider the obesity epidemic. The facts are pretty stark: they predicted that in 2025 most people in the world would be overweight or fat. Is this down to a breakdown of willpower? Was it more excellent self-control that kept our ancestors slender?
Of course not. In history, people didn’t demand to rely on willpower to stay slim. What’s improved since then is our climate. These days, rather than working outside, most of us work inactive jobs and sit at our desks all day. And the nurture we rely on is often unhealthy food from a package.
As the author puts it, our atmosphere has encouraged our weight gain. But thankfully, the power of your region can also be a force for good. How so? Suppose Darwin’s distinction between real evolution and domesticated evolution.
In a natural evolution, bodies adapt to whatever position they find themselves in. So if it’s helpful to be more petite, a variety may start to shrink. Most importantly, they force them to adapt.
As if for people, many of us are like wild animals undergoing natural changes. We’re not often able to change our environments, so we adapt to them instead of making our benefit. Others do the opposite. Like how we treat the animals we domesticate, they design their environments to develop any adaptation.
The tactic is to design an environment that leaves you no choice but to “adapt” to your unique self.
“You can adapt to whatever environment you choose.”– Benjamin Hardy
Design your environment with unique spaces – one optimized for working and one for playing:
Have you ever worked from home? If you have, you’ve probably experienced some typical problems. Any parent with young children will understand the difficulty of trying to work where you live – but even for the rest of us, it can prove a challenge to work somewhere we usually relax.
So maybe the phrase “work hard, play hard” needs an update: work hard and play hard, yes, but make sure you do each in a different place! They show people to operate at their best when using two very different environments – one high-stress and the other high-recovery.
Design your environment with unique spaces – one optimized for working and one for playing.
These days we often hear about the results of a “stress-free” life, but such thinking ignores all the positives that healthy stress levels can bring. There’s a term for this type of manageable stress. It’s called eustress, and it helps us reach our full potential. The added pressure means that we’re less inclined to be distracted and sluggish, ensuring we give all our attention to the task at hand. And designing environments with eustress in mind is a great way to maximize your productivity!
Take Courtney Reynolds’ case, a young entrepreneur who splits her time between Denver and Las Vegas. While in Denver, Reynolds is in eustress mode, and she makes her environment reflect that. It means she keeps her Denver apartment distraction-free, with minimal decoration and just the things she needs for work.
In Las Vegas, it’s a different story; this is Reynolds’s recovery environment. She decorated her Vegas home with luxurious furniture and a warm color palette. Even her social life changes in her recovery environment. Reynolds works from morning to night in Denver, whereas in Vegas, she prefers to spend her time socializing with friends.
Believe it or not, you’re most likely to be struck by creative insights and novel ideas when you’re relaxing. Neuroscientists have shown that just 16 percent of mental breakthroughs happen at work. When you ease up and allow your mind to wander, you give your brain the chance to forge new connections – leading to fresh ideas.
With this lifestyle, Reynolds has tapped into a fundamental aspect of human psychology. We work best when we switch back and forth between pure work and pure play. By designing separate environments for each state, you make it far easier for your mind to work hard and play hard.
You can improve your creativity by including “peak experiences”:
Tsh Oxenreider got stuck in a rut. For a while, her life hadn’t been moving in the right direction. She had plenty of goals, plans, and projects, but she couldn’t find it in herself to commit to them fully.
Then, on a whim, Tsh and her husband decided to travel the globe with their kids. For Tsh, the effect was profound. As the family moved from a place to another, she found she could work with a newfound sense of purpose. In short, her ideas began to flow.
What happened to Tsh? Was there something in the air back home that had kept her from achieving her full potential? Not exactly.
You can improve your creativity by including “peak experiences.”
It turns out that by merely changing her environment, Tsh enjoyed a peak experience, which is a rare, exhilarating occasion in which you feel and think with heightened perception and sensitivity. For Tsh, uprooting her life and traveling the world was one of these special moments – and experiencing it allowed her to see what her life had been missing truly.
Usually, it’s during such times that inspiration strikes, and we get those all-important “lightbulb moments.” And as we learned earlier, this happens when we’re in relaxation mode more often than not.
The great thing is, you don’t need to wait around and hope you’ll be lucky enough to have a peak experience one day. If you’re bright about it, you can make them a regular part of your life.
How? Well, the answer’s simple. First, you need to disconnect and go somewhere unfamiliar. This destination doesn’t need to be your recovery environment. If you want, you can drive just 30 minutes from home. Once you get there, pull out your journal and start writing. Begin by expressing gratitude for everything and everyone you value in your life, and reflect on what’s happening in your world. Don’t be scared, be honest with yourself about your failings. Have you been meeting your goals or slacking off? Write all your thoughts down.
Next, write about your “big picture” dreams. What do you want to do in the next few weeks? What about in one year? What’s your life goal? It might be laborious at the start, but try to identify your fundamental “Why?” What’s your underlying motivation for whatever it is you want to do?
By breaking out of your routine in this way and giving yourself time to consider the big picture, you prepare your mind for peak experiences. They may sound elusive – but the payoff is well worth the effort.
Start acting decisively, and eliminate dead weight from your life:
Gary B. Sabin, a successful corporate CEO, tells a funny and instructive story about the illogical ways we avoid discomfort. Once, he took a group of Boy Scouts on a camping trip to the desert. They reached their destination in good time, set up camp, and hunkered down for the night.
But when Sabin woke up in the morning, he noticed that one boy looked sleepy and disheveled. The reason? It turns out he hadn’t used his sleeping bag that night because he didn’t want to pack it up in the morning. In other words, he’d spent hours freezing to save himself a few minutes’ works!
When it comes to making challenging calls in life, we often adopt a similar nonsensical strategy. We put off taking immediate, decisive action and suffer long-term regret as a result. All the while, the solution is simple: bite the bullet, and organize our lives following our goals.
Start acting decisively, and eliminate dead weight from your life.
One example of the many ways we hamper our long-term goals is by wasting time on the internet. We’ve all done it. You’re working on a project, and the going gets tough, so you reach for your phone. You get bored of answering emails, so you check your social media. Instead of focusing on our real tasks, we give in to the superficial attractions of the internet.
To prevent this, you need to be firm and decisive. Delete any apps that are standing in the way of your goals. No ifs or buts – go ahead and delete them. When you remove distractions from your life, you ensure willpower doesn’t even enter into the equation. After all, you can’t succumb to a temptation that isn’t available!
Once you’ve temptation-proofed your phone, take the same principle and apply it to your life at large. Is there food in your fridge that you know you shouldn’t eat? Get rid of it – it’s dead weight. You’ll be surprised how much easier decision-making feels when you do this.
As Dr. Barry Schwartz points out in his book The Paradox of Choice, having too many options can be a bad thing. By reflecting on all of our potential decisions, we often act in a half-hearted and uncommitted way. Instead of working confidently, we hem and haw over the details of every little opportunity.
But there’s a better way: recognize the dead weight in your life, and let it go. Once you’ve identified the options that suit your goals, eliminate anything else from the picture.
Make use of implementation intentions to ensure you stay on track:
You probably heard of the statement “The power of positive thinking.” According to this theory, if you believe you can achieve something, you’re already one step closer to getting it done. It would help if you avoided dwelling on the fact that you might fail.
It’s a familiar notion – but what if it’s entirely wrong? What if thinking about how you might fail is a great way to ensure you meet your targets?
Make use of implementation intentions to ensure you stay on track.
Let’s start with what implementation intentions are. They’re a form of planning that involves identifying how failure might arise – but only to nip it in the bud.
This strategy usually takes the form of an “if-then” response. Think of it like this: when you say to yourself, “Next time I want a soda, I’ll drink water instead,” you’ve already made use of an implementation intention. Your “if” was the desire for a soda; your “then” was the decision to drink water as a substitute.
The key here is to stick with your plan long enough that the “if” shift to the “then” becomes automatic. After a while, it shouldn’t require much conscious effort, and the desire for a soda will seamlessly trigger thoughts of a healthier substitute.
Psychologists had demonstrated that implementation intentions are beneficial for students when they asked schoolchildren to imagine how they could avoid falling short of their goals, grades, behavior, and attendance.
As well as helping you resist temptations, this strategy can also make it easier to identify when to quit. When we face serious challenges, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and bow out early. But if you’ve pinpointed the “if” indicating it’s time to call it a day, you can keep giving it your all, right until you reach your limit.
For an ultramarathon runner, that might mean only quitting the race when his eyesight fails. If he knows he’ll only stop running if the runner can’t see anymore, he’ll have the confidence to power through any lesser difficulties.
What’s important is to have definite markers to clear when your “if” has been reached.
Use forcing functions to compel yourself to achieve your goals:
We don’t like someone to force us to do things. If we think something needs doing, we can always get up and do it voluntarily. But as you may have experienced, this isn’t still the case. We know we need to start exercising, but we don’t. We know we should be working, but we continue wasting time.
There are several reasons for this behavior – like laziness, discomfort, and fear – and the results are always the same: dissatisfaction and regret for our actions. Willpower alone is rarely up to the task, so what can we do to become our better selves?
Use forcing functions to compel yourself to achieve your goals.
Using forcing functions is one way to do this. These are self-imposed constraints that force you to act in line with your goals. For example, if you want to be more present with your family after work, you might think of leaving your phone in the car when you arrive home. That way, taking calls and answering texts isn’t even an option, so you “force” yourself to disengage from the world beyond your family.
The entrepreneur Dan Martell uses one particular forcing function to boost his productivity. When he needs to get something done, Martell brings his laptop to a coffee shop and deliberately leaves his charger at home. Why? Knowing that he has only a few hours of battery life, Martell ends up working far more efficiently than when he gives himself the entire day. By imposing a non-negotiable deadline, Martell forced himself to work full capacity for as long as his laptop is running.
The power of social pressure is another critical forcing function. Nobody wants to look like a failure in front of their friends, and most people will go to great lengths to retain their colleagues’ respect. So tell them what your goals are – and be specific.
The knowledge that you’re accountable to your peers will help you reach your goals. Often the fear of having to admit that we’ve failed is enough to drive us toward success.
“Forcing functions are about making one decision that makes all other decisions either easier or irrelevant.”– Benjamin Hardy