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Book Review: Willpower Doesn't Work

Love reading self-improvement books? Me too! Read on to learn what I loved, hated, and how I rated Willpower Doesn't Work by Benjamin Hardy.

Willpower Doesn't Work Book Quote

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐❌ = Worth reading ✔

Overall the book was good, and a valuable opportunity to evaluate aspects of my life and my goal setting to see how they could be improved. However, a lot of the book was common sense and it didn't move or touch me on an emotional level, which is why I docked it a star.

Summary: Your environment and the rules within it shape who you are as a person and what you do. You can either be reactive and allow yourself to be shaped by your environment, or you can be proactive and actively change and shape your environment to accomplish your goals. In this way you can change those environment factors to improve yourself as a person, and especially your productivity outputs. There were quite a few environmental factors explored, but the main ones were: your home and workspace, your routines and schedule, your friends (who you surround yourself with), your colleagues and who you compete with, and your mentor. In short your environment has a huge role in shaping you as a person and your results in life, and trying to work against a negative environment using willpower is a losing battle.

Readability: The book was pretty easy to read, and I was able to get through the whole thing without any issues. The chapters and concepts are clearly organized and titled, so it is easy to see what you are going to learn in each section or go back to re-read an old section.

Tone: For me the tone came out as mostly educational and conversational, but with a hint of superiority/a high-brow kind of attitude. I think the author really means well, but the "you have to do these things to succeed" finger on nose tone came out for me here and there and was a little off-putting when it did.

Key Concepts:

  • You are not fixed - your environment will shape your personality, your mental state, how you act, your role, and maybe even your genetic makeup itself.

  • Every environment has rules and limits. Changing your environment will change the cap of your limits.

  • You can create 'enriching environments' which are environments designed to focus on productivity and environments which are focused on rest and relaxation. Going back and forth between the two is the most productive. Rotating environments in general is also more productive than sitting in one place.

  • You can create 'peak experiences' which change your perspective by putting yourself in a radically different or restful or educational environments.

  • You should journal every morning (and maybe meditate and/or pray) so that you can focus by capturing your feelings, ideas, goals, and plans. This should be part of your morning routine, which should be carefully developed to get you in an optimized state.

  • Remove everything that interferes with your goals and is distracting whether it is the potato chips in the pantry, your TV, or the friend who is a bad influence. Eliminating those bad options will take away the need to have willpower to overcome them.

  • It is important to be adaptive - not only in your environment - but also in your learning style, your belief that you can do something, and your willingness to feel uncomfortable emotions.

  • You have to commit 100% to your goals so that doubt doesn't keep you from succeeding.

  • It 'ups the stakes' and increases the chance that you will deliver results to publicly announce your goals and to invest money in them.

  • You should purposefully work in a challenging environment, on goals way above your current level, and with others who perform above your level so that you can learn and improve faster.

What I Disagreed with: I agreed with practically all of the key concepts and found them to be good food-for-thought. Here's what I didn't like and why:

  • The whole book is about discussing how your environment shapes you and purposefully belittles willpower as a tool to drive success. To me willpower means determination, resolve, desire. These are important components for anyone to drive change in their lives. It's okay to focus on environment in the book, but trying to say that willpower isn't an important component to success is odd. Don't put your willpower on the shelf because I promise you that you will need it in order to enact changes in your environment!

  • There is a section explaining how you have to invest a bunch of money in order to be successful in business (and he infers to also be successful in life). As a small business owner I found this to be insulting. There are a lot of ways to invest in something (your career or otherwise) whether it is with your money, your time, your energy... I don't think it is fair to say that you can't be successful in business unless you spend a lot, and it's even more insulting to be called a "wanna-be-entrepreneur". I work hard and spend wisely, and there is more than one way to use your resources to reach your goals.

How it affected me personally: The book was an opportunity to consider if I could make any changes to my environment to help set myself up for success.

My morning routine: I really honed in on how I could improve my mourning routine and start my day off on the right foot. I realized that after I ate breakfast I tended to get on my phone and browse Facebook groups - which could quickly eat a chunk of my morning and leave me feeling unproductive. I changed the habit to leave my phone in another room and to sit in the living room with my daily planner. So after I eat the first 20-30 minutes of my day are spent on the couch petting my cats and planning what needs to be done that day and what my priorities are. I seriously love my new morning routine!

Rotate Environments: One of the things the book recommends is to rotate your environment throughout the week and even throughout your day. It stimulates activity and gives you an opportunity to think with more creativity. Instead of spending all day at my desk in the office now I try to rotate between the office and the living room throughout the day. I do think that it is helpful to prevent burn-out and stay focused on the task you are working on.

Focused Environments: I do see a lot of value in separating certain activities for certain spaces. I can't do this right now because I live in a small apartment, but someday I would like to have a separate area for reading and for screened (TV) entertainment. The more you can focus in your space the more productive you will be.

That's all folks! I really hope that you enjoyed my book review - if so please give it a heart below ❤ And make sure you follow me on Facebook to keep up with all the latest articles and reviews!

Amanda Aten

Happiness & Wellbeing Life Coach

As a Happiness and Wellbeing Life Coach I help people to discover their innermost values and priorities and to make internal and external adjustments in order to align their values with their lives.

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