If we do not create and control our environment, our environment creates and controls us.
-- Dr. Marshall Goldsmith
Introduction: Why willpower doesn't work
After enough failure, it’s easy to conclude that you are the problem. You must not have what it takes—the grit, the inner strength, the willpower. Perhaps you should just settle for the life you have…
What if the problem wasn’t you at all?
Most of us are in survival mode. To be addicted has become the norm, and if you want to control your life, willpower should not be your strategy of choice.
Instead, you need to create and control your environment.
Willpower Doesn’t Work
Willpower, or the power to exert your free will against internal or external obstacles, has only recently bombarded the psychological world.
To be frank, willpower is for people who haven’t decided what they actually want in their lives. If you’re required to exert willpower to do something, there is an obvious internal conflict. You want to eat the cookie, but you also want to be healthy. You want to focus at work, but you also want to watch that YouTube video. You want to be present with your kids, but you can’t stop looking at your phone.
The fact that willpower is required:
- You don’t know what you want, and are thus internally conflicted.
- Your desire (your why) for your goals isn’t strong enough.
- You aren’t invested in yourself and your dreams.
- Your environment opposes your goal.
Once these four principles are aligned within yourself, the internal debate is over.
So, are you serious about this?
Are you still on the fence, or have you decided?
Until you decide, you’ll be required to use willpower and will continue making minimal progress.
When it comes to achieving goals, making committed decisions involves:
- investing up front;
- making it public;
- setting a timeline;
- installing several forms of feedback/accountability; and
- removing or altering everything in your environment that opposes your commitment.
True commitment means you’ve built several external defense systems around your goals. It means you’ve created conditions to make the achievement of your goals inevitable. Everything has been put in place. You now have no choice but to act according to your highest desires. Too much is at stake if you don’t.
You Can Design Your Environment to Propel and Sustain Success
A conscious personal evolution involves purposefully controlling and creating environments that shape us into the person we want to become.
Want to change? Then change your environment. Stop the willpower madness already.
The pervasive self-help advice is to focus on yourself. This makes sense, because we live in a highly individualistic culture. We’ve been conditioned to ignore context and obsess about ourselves.
When you change your environment, such as surrounding yourself with different people, your thoughts and emotions change. These inner changes then alter your values and aspirations.
Thus, it is by tweaking your conditions that you proactively shape who you become.
Your worldview, beliefs, and values didn’t come from within you, but from outside of you.
Your goals, beliefs, and values are shaped by the cultural context in which you live.
“to be a product of your choices, not your circumstances.” At surface level, this is actually quite good advice. But it’s also naïve and inaccurate.
Yes, your life is the product of your thoughts and choices, as many self-help books explain. But where do those thoughts and choices come from? They don’t self-generate out of nowhere. You shape the garden of your mind by planting specific things from your environment, such as the books you read, experiences you have, and people you surround yourself with.
As will be shown, by shaping your environment directly, you’ll be shaping your thoughts and behaviors indirectly.
to attempt to be devoid of “environment” or “circumstance” altogether is not only impossible, but also foolish if you’re seeking growth.
If You Don’t Shape Your Environment, It Will Shape You
when you purposefully shape your environment, you can make quantum and radical leaps in your development.
Crafting highly demanding situations and then mindfully adapting to those situations is the key to success.
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.
-- Charles Darwin
It’s actually quite remarkable how quickly you can adapt from one environment to the next. Human beings are highly adaptive.
Rather than adapting to a negative environment, as the majority of the global population is doing, you can adapt to whatever environment you choose.
Psychologically, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually, your nurture is far superior to your “nature.”
And you are entirely responsible for your nurture.
Part 1: Your environment shapes you
Chapter 1: Every hero is the product of a situation
Understanding the Power of Surroundings