when someone cuts you off on the road, you’re likely to immediately think they are an inconsiderate, thoughtless person, instead of wondering whether they were speeding home to pick up a sick child.

The Power of Situations

Take the same scenario and change one variable: Imagine that Cavallo hadn’t been pinned under the truck, screaming for his life.
There’s virtually no chance that she could’ve done it.
That environment led to superhuman strength.

Introducing Forcing Functions

The act of leaving your cell phone outside: You can’t use it if it’s not there.

Putting Forcing Functions to Work in All Aspects of Your Life

How can you invest more of yourself and your resources into your goals as a forcing function?

Social Pressure

“When you’ve told someone you would meditate two times between your next visit with them, you feel like an ass if you don’t.”

Again, it’s not willpower that’s driving you, but external pressure, which pressure you’ve purposefully engineered because it forces you to achieve your goals.

What ways can you create social pressure to your current goals and projects?

High Consequence for Poor Performance

If you got fat the instant you ate ice cream, you certainly wouldn’t eat it. If you got lung cancer the moment you smoked a cigarette, you definitely wouldn’t smoke it. If your dreams were shattered the moment you scrolled your Facebook news feed, you probably wouldn’t chill on Facebook so much. If your marriage ended the moment you entertained terrible thoughts about your spouse, you’d probably figure out how to transform your thinking.

When you’re operating at a mediocre level, there is more room for mistakes and shortcuts—so people take them.

In order to perform at your highest level, your daily, hourly, and even minute-by-minute performance must mean something.

Take a look at your current situation. What are the consequences if you don’t perform at your highest level?

What ways can you make the consequences of your actions more salient and motivating?

High Difficulty

Rugged and hostile environments teach us. And they teach us by leveraging real fear.

-- Michael Gervais

The heavy load of wood provided the needed traction to get out of the snow, to get back onto the road, and to move forward. Without the load of wood in his truck, he would have remained stuck.

Most people mistakenly believe that happiness is the absence of a load. We want life to be easy, without challenge or difficulty. However, it is by having a load that we can have the traction needed to move forward in our lives. Our shoulders grow to bear the weight on them. When we don’t carry a substantial weight of personal responsibility, we can quickly become stuck like the man’s truck in the snow.

It wasn’t until after I became a foster parent—a substantial load indeed—that I was able to get the traction needed to develop my career as a writer. Before having that personal load to carry, I was somewhat complacent. I lacked urgency. Despite wanting deeply to become a writer, I didn’t have the traction to move forward. My situation wasn’t forcing me to succeed and the stakes weren’t high enough. I had plenty of leeway and figured I’d get around to it at some point.


When you do things you’ve never done before, you’re naturally more focused and engaged.

“A good shock often helps the brain that has been atrophied by habit.”

-- Napoleon Hill

The more novelty you can embed into your life and environment, the more engaged you will be. The more connections you make in your mental model, the more you’ll have to draw from in the work you do. The wider and more unique the connections, the more innovative your work can be.


The most powerful forcing functions are:

In what ways can you begin embedding these environmental components into your own life?