I picked up Benjamin Hardy’s ‘Will Power Doesn’t Work’ primarily because of the provocative title. For a long time, I’ve attributed my journey as an architect, designer, entrepreneur and runner to will power. It’s rare for a self-improvement philosophy to venture beyond reinforcing life lessons we’ve subconsciously known all along. But Benjamin’s take on success has been a game changer for me. He meticulously broke down every belief I held about will power with the breakthrough argument that our success is not a product of how motivated we are – it’s a result of our environment.
As a designer of positive work environments that enable teamwork, focus time and output, I resonated most with this thought. Benjamin proposes that will power is ineffective – because it cannot be perpetually integrated into the subconscious. It’s a sentiment that forces us against our wills to shed old habits. Meanwhile, Benjamin’s approach is a gentler, more practical one, where we create situations where the right choices become automatic ones.
It will take me more than just one review to cover everything I’ve learnt. I’ve therefore divided my learning from the book into four parts. I’ll begin with the first set of truth bombs that Benjamin drops – the four reasons you try to use will power:
1. When you haven’t made a decision yet: You look to will power when you have to force yourself to make choices you aren’t sure about yet. But when you make up your mind, you render will power irrelevant.
2. When you lack motivation: Will power forces us to blindly follow a path towards a goal. But when your purpose behind the goal is crystal clear, the steps towards achieving it occur automatically.
3. When you haven’t invested in the goal: Allocating resources to one’s goal makes it compulsory to follow the path to success. When you have more at risk, it doesn’t take will power to continue along your journey.
4. When your environment doesn’t match your goals: We try to push ourselves with will power when the situations around us are not supportive of our goals. The smarter way to go about this is to change the situations rather than willing ourselves into changing habits.
In the next part of this series, we’ll talk about automaticity – the ability to make the right choices in life automatic, rather than against our wills.