Benjamin Hardy: Willpower Sucks, Just Change Your Environment | E7

Benjamin Hardy: Willpower Sucks, Just Change Your Environment | E7

#7: Willpower Sucks, Just Change Your Environment with Benjamin Hardy

It’s time to unlock your true potential!

Today on the show we’re yapping with Evan Carmichael. Evan is a serial entrepreneur, speaker, author, and coach who sold is first biotech company at the young age of 19. He has a mission is to help 1 billion entrepreneurs in his life and aims to solve what he believes to be the world’s biggest problem— untapped human potential.  Evan is mostly notably known for his uber successful motivational youtube channel that boasts over 2 million subscribers and 300 million views. Forbes has called him one of the world’s top 40 social marketing talents and Inc. Magazine has named him one of the 100 great leadership speakers of all time.

Tune into this episode to hear his entrepreneurship advice and learn how he scaled his youtube channel to become one of the most popular self-improvement channels in the world!

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[00:00:00] Hala Taha: You're listening to YAP, Young and Profiting Podcast, a place where you can listen, learn, and grow. I'm Hala Taha, and today's episode features Benjamin Hardy, organizational psychologist and the number one writer on with appearances like Forbes, Fortune, and CNBC. Under his belt, Benjamin is the author of the best selling book: Willpower Doesn't Work, which Uncovers Why Using Willpower to force ourselves to behave in a certain way is a flawed strategy, how we can systematically remove the need for willpower to achieve our goals. Benjamin argues that creating an enriched environment to promote the behavior we wanna take rather than just depending on sheer willpower is the key to achieving positive changes in our lives.

[00:00:48] Welcome to the show, Benjamin. 

[00:00:50] Benjamin Hardy: Thank you. Happy to be here. 

[00:00:52] Hala Taha: Just so you know, Will Power Doesn't Work, was one of my favorite books that I've listened to in a long time. I really like how it goes against the grain of traditional thinking when it [00:01:00] comes to self-improvement so really excited to have you here. 

[00:01:03] Benjamin Hardy: I'm glad you liked it.

[00:01:03] How'd you hear about it? 

[00:01:06] Hala Taha: Actually our producer Tim, is probably your number one fan. He's obsessed with you. So we were going to the drawing board on the guests that we wanted to target and you were on the top of our list and I learned about you from him. And your stuff is really great and I really feel like you're probably one of the top rising self-improvement gurus out there 

[00:01:25] Benjamin Hardy: I'm glad that some people like it, so that's cool. I'm glad you found it. 

[00:01:28] Hala Taha: Okay. So before we dive into all the gems of your research and work, I just wanted to take some time to talk about, you got a really inspiring come up story that I think will motivate our listeners. So what was it like growing up for you?

[00:01:40] How did you evolve to become the accomplished Benjamin Hardy that you are today? 

[00:01:44] Benjamin Hardy: Yeah, so like a lot of people, I grew up in a, you not the best situation. My parents got divorced when I was 11, and it was just a really tough situation for my family. I am the oldest of three boys and my dad just went through a really deep depression [00:02:00] and we were living with him primarily after the divorce.

[00:02:02] We were trying to go back and forth, but it was weird. Yeah, my dad just went through a really deep cycle After the divorce, went through a deep depression, ended up getting into some really heavy drugs. The environment became very toxic as far as the people who were coming in and out of his house and just what was there.

[00:02:18] So eventually when I was like 14 or 15, me and my younger brothers moved full time to my mom's and she was just really busy. She was trying to run a small business with her sister and we just didn't really have any stability. And in high school was complicated enough as it is, with just changing friend groups, all sorts of influences.

[00:02:38] And so I just was very confused by the whole situation. Barely graduate high school. And it was about when I was 19 years old, about a year after high school that I really started to reflect on my life. I was living at my cousin's house, playing World of Warcraft, just super bored, had no ambition and was just very sad.

[00:02:59] [00:03:00] And I started doing a little bit of running just to mix things up. My cousin invited me to go running with him, a different cousin than the one I was living with. I just started running a little bit here and there it didn't really change anything about my life. Just ran intermittently just like a few times a week.

[00:03:14] Didn't really have a job. Just still played video games almost all day, and it was while I was running that I started to allow myself to think about my life. It's interesting looking back now, with the psychological understanding that positive behavior is really what shapes your thinking and your emotions.

[00:03:32] What a lot of people think is that you have to first have like thoughts, like positive thoughts that lead to positive behaviors, but it's generally the opposite. It's usually positive behaviors that change your identity and change your psychology. And so I was doing a positive behavior I was running, even if it was just for 30 minutes.

[00:03:45] And I away from all the noise of like my cousin's house, all the distractions, all the energy that's there and you just in an open free space where you can think and the book Willpower Doesn't Work, I talk about places like that being what's called like a sacred environment, basically just somewhere where you can [00:04:00] actually sit, be like, think, meditate, ponder, pray.

[00:04:03] For me, that was running for a while and just doing that for a while led me to deciding to leave where I grew up and I ended up serving a, like a two year humanitarian style mission. And what was really interesting about the experience was like you get like a name tag, you get like this new name badge, and you're basically like this new person and you're totally doing different things than you did before in a different environment.

[00:04:29] And reading books, just serving other people, doing community service. And it is almost like Peace Corps in a sense. But I was doing that and just changing a lot. I ended up reading tons of books, got into journaling and just did a lot of things. And one of the things that my leader in that experience told me after two years is he said, Ben, the worst thing that could happen to you after everything you've done?

[00:04:52] Cuz I had read dozens of books, done all sorts of amazing community service and stuff. He said The worst thing you could do is go back to the person you were before you came [00:05:00] out here. And what was really interesting is I went back home. And it was like palpable, like I could feel the energy, like all of my friends, my family, everything was pretty much the same as when I left.

[00:05:12] And I could feel that if I had stayed in that environment, I would quickly revert back. And so I ended up changing peer groups, continuing to study psychology, got married and then we did a lot of other things, but that was how it started. That was kinda the beginning of my journey. And then for the last 10 years, or about eight and a half years since I got home from that experie, It's just been studying and learning ever since and taking on new challenges.

[00:05:33] Hala Taha: Yeah. So why did you become interested in helping people achieve their goals and what motivated you to write your book? Willpower Doesn't Work. 

[00:05:40] Benjamin Hardy: So the reason I got motivated to write this book, Is because I've studied psychology for a long time. I've said self-improvement. I love it all. And basically I thought that a lot of the things that were being written were a little overly simplified.

[00:05:54] I'm a huge believer in obviously having a positive attitude, having positive thoughts and things like that. But my experience being a [00:06:00] foster parent and even studying psychology and even my own experience kind of made me really think a little bit more like from a first principal's perspective, like where does the positive mindset come from?

[00:06:10] For most people, It's not instinctive, it has to be trained like, so for myself, when we were foster parents and we've recently adopted these kids, we've had 'em for going on four years, but they came from a really bad environment. Obviously because they had to become foster kids they didn't have access to a lot of opportunity and their parents were very neglectful and on drugs.

[00:06:29] And when we get these kids and we put 'em in our environment, they all of a sudden have to adapt to something totally different. There's these two pretty highly educated people in a pretty affluent neighborhood who are super invested in them and who are giving them energy and attention, giving them good food, like wanting to get them extracurricular activities.

[00:06:44] Like all of a sudden, like you could imagine that I can't actually totally comprehend what that shift would be like for them. But I know what it was like for me because we had never been parents before. All of a sudden we were dealing with challenges, problems, things like that, that we had never had to deal with [00:07:00] before.

[00:07:00] And I wrote it for two reasons. I wrote it for one to say that a lot of people talk about willpower and discipline and are not bad ideas. But they're not really full pictures. Like my kids, for example, if they had stayed in their prior environment, they might have had a lot of grit and willpower, but they just lacked options.

[00:07:16] They didn't really have a lot of choice. And then when you put them in this new environment, all of a sudden a whole new world is open up to them, where change becomes a lot more organic. It's fruits and vegetables. Like you can't grow certain fruits and vegetables in bad terrains.

[00:07:28] You have to have the right soil, the right sunlight, things like that. And so I started to think about what about the circumstances that allow growth to happen? And then I started studying addiction and things like that because obviously, as I had mentioned before in my past, there was a lot of addiction in my environment growing up, and there's a lot of people in my world who are very close to me, who I love, who I've watched fail over and over when it comes to trying to overcome addiction.

[00:07:50] And if you really study addiction, you realize that you really can't overcome an addiction through willpower. It's the worst approach. It's trying to fight a silent battle. It's trying to do it all by yourself. And the only way really out of an [00:08:00] addiction, as they say, is through connection. It's through getting help with other people, through being vulnerable, through getting a supportive accountability based environment.

[00:08:08] And so those are a lot of the reasons why I wrote the book was cause I was sick of hearing people trying to grit their way to change. When you really can't do it that way, you need an environment that supports you and you need an environment that helps you move forward. . 

[00:08:21] Hala Taha: Cool. I really look forward to picking your brain on this.

[00:08:23] How about we start with some context to help our listeners understand what traditionally psychologists and scientists have said about willpower. Can you talk a little 

[00:08:32] bit about that? 

[00:08:33] Benjamin Hardy: Yeah, totally. Willpower, traditionally, it is a muscle. It's viewed as something that the more you use it, the more it goes away.

[00:08:40] Like another definition of willpower is decision fatigue. So you know, some people who have there's lots of blog posts and things that were popularized for a while talking about Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg and the fact that they wear like the same clothes every day. They did that because of this concept of decision fatigue, which is basically willpower.

[00:08:59] And it's [00:09:00] this idea that if you make too many decisions, it wears you down. And so people who have a lot of things to do, such as CEOs or entrepreneurs or people who are pursuing big goals. They don't wanna wear their mind down with menial things such as like what they're gonna wear that day. So they try to optimize or systemize as much of their life as possible to remove the decision making component so that they can use their mind to actually make bigger decisions.

[00:09:25] So that's like where the traditional perspective, and I actually agree with it, view of willpower. 

[00:09:31] Hala Taha: In your book you state that willpower is nothing more than a dangerous fad that's bound to lead to failure, or maybe it was a medium post. In your opinion, why does willpower suck so much, and why do you think people resort to using willpower to achieve their goals?

[00:09:44] Benjamin Hardy: So willpower. Willpower sucks for a lot of reasons. First off, willpower is clearly unsustainable. It runs out, so if you're using willpower, it's for a short term thing. . And so because of the fact that it's unsustainable, it clearly should not [00:10:00] be a first approach. There should be better ways of doing things.

[00:10:02] So I'm just gonna give a few different angles on why willpower is a bad perspective. But I'll start with the fact that just we live now in a very global world. We live in a world that's changing so fast that willpower is like an old model, like because things are changing so fast because we have so many options and choices now, our quote unquote decision fatigue wears out very.

[00:10:22] Rather than trying to rely on willpower in this environment, it's a lot better to actually remove as many options as possible. And so there's a really good quote from Dr. Marshall Goldsmith and he wrote the book Triggers . In the book he said, "If we do not create and control our environment creates and controls us".

[00:10:42] And that's basically what's happened for most people in the world today. Most people are addicted to technology to whether it be stimulants like caffeine, huge like rates, almost everyone drinks caffeine every single day, even though it's like not necessary. Unhealthy food technology work, like there's just in general, and [00:11:00] even things like depression, like all these things are on the rise and it's because the state of our environment is just in a huge state of flux. 

[00:11:07] Everything's changing so fast and these things are benefits. All the amazing options, the fact that you and I can talk over the internet, it's amazing. But the only way to like actually thrive in environments like this is to systematically remove most of the options that are mostly distractions.

[00:11:24] A very simple example is just if you don't want to subconsciously and out of habit, dopamine seeking that your body is craving, open up your cell phone and just mindlessly go through social media, like just delete the app. Like basically it's making one decision so that you don't have to think about it again.

[00:11:42] That's like the new model is make one decision rather than rely on willpower. So make one decision to change your environment so that you don't have to be influenced in a negative way . That's one reason why willpower actually sucks it's just burned too fast and environments is stimulating as this.

[00:11:57] Another reason that willpower is just if you really [00:12:00] drill down and ask yourself, why does willpower exist in the first place? A lot of it's because you haven't actually made the decision. Like willpower in a lot of ways reflects internal conflict. You're not actually sure what you want.

[00:12:10] I'll just give an example. I myself, and I have no judgment towards anyone who does this, but I don't drink alcohol. Like it's just not interesting to me and it literally takes a zero willpower for me to not drink alcohol. It's not a part of who I am. It's not interesting to me. I don't have an environment that would even.

[00:12:25] Obviously I'm around people. I've got friends, family who drink, but I'm rarely in environments where it's there. It's just not a part of my life and it's, it has zero interest to me. Therefore it takes zero willpower. And I know that some people, obviously there's certain things in my life that do require willpower because I haven't set things up and I haven't actually made firm decisions and commitments.

[00:12:42] But the actual Greek definition or root of the word decision is to cut off alternative. And so if a person is relying on willpower, it's because they actually haven't truly made a decision about what they want. Like they're still unclear. They're like, I of want to be in [00:13:00] really good shape, but I also really want to eat ice cream every day.

[00:13:02] And so like they're torn between two things, and they're not really clear once you actually make a decision and you're firm on that. Then like the other options go out the door. And then your job is to create the environment that facilitates that decision, the support, the help. So those are a few reasons why if you're relying on willpower, your environment is coming against you and also you yourself are not really clear on what's going on.

[00:13:25] Hala Taha: Okay? So if I have this straight, if you require to use willpower, you really don't know what you want and because once you actually make a decision, your internal debate is over. Is that correct? 

[00:13:37] Benjamin Hardy: Yeah. If you truly do make a decision, Absolutely. 

[00:13:40] Hala Taha: Okay. So if willpower doesn't work at all, what does work and what do we need to do to bypass the need for willpower and truly commit to something?

[00:13:49] Benjamin Hardy: Yeah, absolutely. I would say there's two core things. You have to make decisions and you have to create environments that facilitate those decisions. So as Marshall Goldsmith, He said, if you do not [00:14:00] create and control your environment, then it will create and control you. So the first step, is changing what's coming in.

[00:14:07] Zig Ziegler, who's a famous pop psychologist in a lot of ways, motivational speaker. He said, Your input shapes your outlook and your outlook shapes your output. Basically, what he is saying is your input, the things that are coming in, the information you're consuming, the books you're reading, the people you're around, the food you're eating, the music you're listening to, all those inputs coming in are influencing your outlook on the world and your behavior and your outlook determines your behavior and your outputs.

[00:14:31] And so I think that a really key, just initial step for people is mindfulness. Mindfulness is an awareness of what's going on around you and how it impacts you. So being mindful of the fact that you're being influenced by things, by this stuff in your newsfeed, by the people around you, by your upbringing, you're being influenced.

[00:14:49] And so then you have to ask yourself like, is this really influencing me in the way that I want to? Am I becoming the person I wanna be in my behaving? Is my environment reflective of who I really wanna be? And if not, [00:15:00] then you gotta start making different decisions and then changing those inputs to, to determine what you actually wanna get out of life.

[00:15:06] And so true decision making, if it's true, like if it's a real decision, not just a preference, it means that you absolutely will change your external circumstances to make that decision happen. So at the most basic level, and I can give you obviously a lot of strategies if you want. Happy to do it.

[00:15:24] There's lots in the book, but really what it comes down to is making real decisions and then creating an environment that actually allows those decisions to be real. Not just something that's in your head and not just something that you say you want to do. It's no, if you will do it, you have to actually go out in the world and make it happen 

[00:15:40] Hala Taha: So let's talk about those strategies. One of them I found really interesting was making them public. Can you talk about like social pressure and how announcing something and making it public can help us commit to a goal? 

[00:15:53] Benjamin Hardy: Yeah, totally. So in the book I talk about John Burke and he's a really good friend. He's fun guy. He's a piano [00:16:00] player in Atlanta, Georgia, and he's a super creative guy, 29 years old.

[00:16:06] He's pumped out lots of different albums. He, I think he's got eight or nine albums that he's composed and recorded. One of them was nominated for an emmy, but he uses social pressure a lot. He actually has a really good system that kind of goes through a lot of what I would call forcing functions or basically just strategic ways in which you can get yourself to do things.

[00:16:24] But how he uses social pressure is whenever he creates a new album, he tells his fans, that he's working on it and that it's gonna be out on a specific date. He says it, it really matters to him what his fans think about him. And so when he tells him that something's gonna come out soon, that kind of puts the pressure on him to actually produce it.

[00:16:45] And he does that on purpose. He publicly commit to his audience, whether that be on social media or Facebook or through email or concerts that he's got a new project coming out. And that it's gonna be out and he tells him when it's gonna be out, even though he hasn't even completed it or finished it or maybe even start working on it. [00:17:00] He does that so that it will actually force himself to do it in a lot of ways because now people are expecting it. 

[00:17:05] Hala Taha: I actually do that personally too. Even with starting this podcast, I had announced it as a New year's resolution purpose. Like I didn't even start yet, but just purposely to make sure that I had the fire under me to get it done.

[00:17:18] Benjamin Hardy: Yeah, the quote that is really good is, Pressure can busts pipes or can make a diamond, but I, in my opinion, creating a little bit of social pressure just to get yourself to do what you really wanna do internally anyways. Why wouldn't you do it? It's something that you already wanna do, so why not just add a little bit of motivational fire?

[00:17:35] Hala Taha: And how about investing up front and the importance of investing in your goals?

[00:17:41] Benjamin Hardy: Yeah, this is a huge one. This is like one of, in my opinion, This brings the two worlds together as far as making decisions and changing your environment, cuz investing financially into your goals, it changes your psychology.

[00:17:54] Like when you become invested in something, you have ownership over it. And when you have ownership over something, you become very committed to [00:18:00] it. That's a concept called sunk cost bias. And a lot of people look at it from the negative. They say, if you're too invested in something, you're gonna stay committed to it long after you should.

[00:18:08] But for someone who has a hard time committing in general, or who you know has a hard time making decisions in the first place, starting to invest your money into something, Let's just say it's a podcast, like buying a microphone or getting some form of mentoring or joining a gym and getting a personal trainer, like actually paying money and investing.

[00:18:28] In a lot of ways solidifies the decision. And I spent a lot of time studying this in my PhD research. I studied entrepreneurs and wanna be entrepreneurs, and I wanted to know the difference. And I interviewed a ton of 'em, and these are people, the wannabes, for example, these are people who said they really wanted to be entrepreneurs, but they didn't define themselves as one.

[00:18:47] They didn't see themselves truly as an entrepreneur. Their identity hadn't gone through a. So they were like, That's something I want to be, but that's not what I am. They were still an outsider of what they wanted to be. Whereas, actual people who are entrepreneurs, they saw [00:19:00] that as their identity.

[00:19:00] And I asked how did you make that shift? What was that transition ? In the transition, almost always involved some form of financial investment where they started investing money into their goals. They started actually taking on risk and then having to rise to the risks that they created, having to rise and produce and become, and they started behaving in ways towards that goal. 

[00:19:22] And when you start behaving towards a goal, your identity starts to change because your personality and your identity, they follow your behavior. So when you start behaving in a certain way, you start to see yourself differently. That idea is called self signaling in psychology, but basically if you start acting in a different way, you're gonna start to see yourself in a different way.

[00:19:39] And so that was the big shift and you can apply this idea in amazing ways. When I first started blogging, it started really small. It started by obviously like buying a domain name, benjamin That was an $800 investment in my wife. We had to actually ask ourselves like, is this something I'm actually gonna do, or is this just some pipe dream, or am I. Like, am I actually gonna do this or am I [00:20:00] wasting $800? And so I convinced her that this is something I really wanna do. And in the investment itself, I think in a lot of ways is what helped me maintain commitment and then just investing further. Buying an online course, learning how to write hiring coaches, people who had successfully written blogs, like paying for 30 minutes of their time, maybe like a hundred or $200, just to have a conversation.

[00:20:19] Like those investments, although not huge, when you watch yourself perform those type of behaviors. You have these aha moments where you're like, Wow, I'm actually doing this thing. Wow, like this is actually, in your case for example, like at some point, you start telling people you were gonna do a podcast.

[00:20:32] Like now you're actually witnessing yourself having a conversation, you've got a recorder, you're putting stuff out. So it's really important to have those moments where you're actually watching yourself do things that are goal oriented and then, you can stretch the idea really far.

[00:20:46] Where it's there's certain environments that are very exclusive. Whether they be like mastermind groups, which I talk about in the book. talk about a group called Genius Network, which is one that I was very intrigued by when I first heard about it like four years ago.

[00:20:57] Cuz my Aunt Jane, who is an awesome business [00:21:00] owner, she joined Genius Network, which costs $25,000 a year to be a part of. It's very exclusive entrepreneurial mastermind group run by Joe Polish. What was interesting is, she was freaked out, obviously, cuz $25,000 is an enormous investment for a one year, basically opportunity to be in a group.

[00:21:18] But what I watched when I saw her, and this was back in 2014, I watched her make some huge shifts and it was because of the type of people that she was around and the things that she was learning and the fact that she had invested so huge into her own goals. When you invest that much into your dreams.

[00:21:34] You're pretty much telling yourself like that I'm worth it, that I really believe in it. There's a really cool idea in psychology. It comes from Dr. David Hawkins. He wrote a book called Letting Go, but he basically said that your subconscious mind will only allow you to have what you believe you deserve.

[00:21:49] So like he said, if you believe you deserve poverty, then that's what you're gonna have. And so what's really cool when you make a big decision, or like an investment in yourself, or even small investments in yourself, is what you're doing is [00:22:00] telling your subconscious mind that you deserve more or you're telling your subconscious mind you, you can have more.

[00:22:04] And so that's what I saw in my aunt is when she made this huge investment, then she was surrounded by these people who were succeeding at a level way higher than she was used to succeeding. You become the product of the five people you spend the most time with. I just saw her transform and that had a huge impact on me, like four years.

[00:22:21] And so I was like, I made the kind of initial commitment in my mind. I made the decision that I'm gonna learn how to get into environments like that. I'm gonna learn how to invest in myself that big, and I'm gonna learn how to be able to contribute in groups like that. And that's what I've learned how to do on multiple levels.

[00:22:36] And I can just definitely attest, like Dan Sullivan's the founder of Strategic Coach, and he said, When you sign a check, like a check like this, where you join a group, or when you invest in yourself in some way, all of a sudden you start to get all these big ideas, you start to learn new things because you've already made the commitment, and once you've made the commitment, the decision's already been made, and therefore you don't have to think about or wonder about what you're gonna do [00:23:00] anymore. I call it the point of no return. And at that level, all of a sudden your motivation shifts.

[00:23:06] You're no longer pushing, you're no longer using willpower, you're actually being pulled forward and all of a sudden you just unblock the roadblocks and all of a sudden all the ideas and inspirations start coming and you start thinking bigger. And so that's some of why investment is so key. 

[00:23:20] Hala Taha: So let's focus on environment, cuz I feel like that's really one of your big tenants in your book is to remove and alter anything in your environment that opposes your commitments. Can you talk about how we should do that and how we should set limiting options to make sure that we accomplish our goals? 

[00:23:38] Benjamin Hardy: Yeah, You gotta be aware of what influences you. Jason Freed, he's the founder of Basecamp, which is a multi-billion dollar company. He said that he really limits what influences him because he doesn't really wanna be influenced by that much.

[00:23:50] So basically what he's saying is he realizes that most of the stuff out there is garbage. Greg McEwen in the book, Essentialism said that almost everything is irrelevant. And so I think first [00:24:00] step is just realizing that almost everything in the world on the internet is a distraction. And so you want to, you wanna limit all of that stuff.

[00:24:08] There's a really good book, Good to Great, and he says, Good is the enemy of great. And so I think the first step is just removing bad options, removing even good options so that you can save time for the best. And what does that look like? It includes food, books information.

[00:24:23] Just actually raising your standards for, for what's actually in your life, Like rather than trying to exert willpower to not eat big crap in your fridge, like just get it, Get rid of it. Just like literally remove it. Make one decision so that you don't have to drag your feet and think about it all day.

[00:24:39] That's a big one it's just removing negative influence or removing. Subpar influence that could include people who are dragging you down. It could include just information, media decision, even places that trigger you into, reverting back to perhaps unhealthy behaviors. That's just like 101 is just remove the negative and then being strategic [00:25:00] about what's gonna happen when you're in an environment where you may be triggered, so there's an idea in psychology called implementation intention and basically what it is you know, you want to preplan for the worst case scenarios cuz they're gonna come up. You wanna have a plan in place so that when you get triggered to self-sabotage, you have a game plan. Basically it's planning for failure.

[00:25:22] It's just, it's thinking about the process, but it's really easy actually. You just create if then scenarios and you're very specific. if this happens, Then I'm gonna do this. And in the book I talk about, I used to always, like when I walked into my kitchen, just I had a bad habit, just like craving sweets, and a lot of it was just, that was just how our environment was set up. That's where I was. And this was years ago. But what I did just using this strategy was whenever I walked in the kitchen and if I ever got triggered or just had the desire, because when you walk into an environment, generally you're triggered subconsciously to want something or do something, you feel a certain way based on the places you go.

[00:25:58] But every time I would walk in and if I [00:26:00] had the thought like that I wanted to eat something sweet out of habit, I would just drop and do 20 pushups. So it's if I walk into the kitchen and get triggered to do something, in this case, eat a cookie or whatever, eat chocolate chips, then I'm going to do 20 pushups and grab a cup of water.

[00:26:15] Basically what this does is it trains you to eventually develop the new habit. Basically you create a new trigger so that whenever I walk in the kitchen now, rather than being triggered to eat chocolate chips, I'm triggered to drink water and do pushups. Like you, You basically just shift the pattern subconsciously and it gives you enough time, especially in the beginning to distract yourself.

[00:26:34] Cuz in a lot of ways when you get triggered to do something, whether it's check your smartphone, , whether it's, for some people who with heavy addictions to go get drunk or whatever, in a lot of ways, you just need a few minutes to distract yourself, to divert your attention and focus on something else just for a few minutes, and the craving will go away.

[00:26:52] That's why they talk in AA, Alcoholics Anonymous about having a sponsor. So if you get triggered in like a person's like having this intense [00:27:00] craving, if they call someone who just helps distract them and helps them think about something else, refocus on their goals, you can get good at that those are a couple strategies. 

[00:27:09] Hala Taha: It seems relatively straightforward to remove things in our physical environment, but you mentioned distancing yourself from negative influences in terms of people, and you also mentioned you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

[00:27:24] And in your book you mentioned that the people you're friends are friends with also impact you too. Can you talk about primary and secondary connections and how we should aim to optimize that part of our lives. 

[00:27:35] Benjamin Hardy: Yeah, the quote is very popular by Jim Roan. You're the average of the five people you spend the most time with, which is true.

[00:27:42] But yeah, that's that would be considered a primary connection. A secondary connection is who are your friends, Because you may be influenced by your friends, but who are your friends influenced by? Cuz your friends aren't always with you clearly, and they're being influenced by other people and so, you wanna think about not only who are your friends, but where are your friends going? What are your friends [00:28:00] being influenced by? What's cool about this is that you think about the idea that, I think it's I think they said I'm not coming up with the word in my head.

[00:28:08] But the idea is that you're connected to everyone in the world through seven degrees of connection. You know what I mean? But if you think about it like there's certain people in your world who are connected to people who maybe you want to be connected to, right? You may really wanna get in touch with someone.

[00:28:24] And this is actually really a strategy in business. If you wanna get to someone who's really hard to get access to, but they may have friends or someone who's not very hard to get access to. How do you become friends with that person? And obviously that this is like a very strategic approach, but, in real simple terms, it's like you want your friends to be powerful and to have a positive impact.

[00:28:42] And I think generally, there's a quote that basically says attracts like, but generally if you're around positive people, they're probably around positive people. But sometimes they're not, sometimes you're the only positive influence in their life, which, heck, that's amazing. 

[00:28:55] Hala Taha: So something else I just wanted to touch on is, in your book you mentioned [00:29:00] creating environments that have a lot of high stress and high recovery, and can you talk about the difference between the two and why they're important?

[00:29:07] Benjamin Hardy: Yeah, definitely. So basically in order to grow, to get good at something like let's just say in fitness, for example, In order to get stronger, you have to have stress on yourself. To grow a muscle, you have to put a lot of stress on it, but where the actual growth occurs is actually during recovery while you're asleep.

[00:29:25] The same is true with your brain, you stress it out through learning or through some, form of tasks, but then you actually need to let it recover, like without sleep, for example, your brain, it doesn't process memories and things as well. And the idea is just simple is that you need to really stress your system and you need to really recover your system.

[00:29:43] And the problem in today's world is that rarely happens. The situation hasn't been set up for such, so most people are not really, on a regular basis, rising to really hard challenges and difficulties at work. Like for the most part, they're not paid [00:30:00] based on performance. They're paid based on just time and effort, and so because of that, there's a lot of room for being distracted. 

[00:30:07] There's a lot of room for just doing this or that. There's not a lot of true intense stress. And I'm talking about like you stress, which is positive stress like, and even in people who go to the gym, even though they're in that environment, they haven't situated themselves where they're actually pushing themselves.

[00:30:22] And going farther and farther in a lot of ways, they're just repeating the routine that they did yesterday. And the idea of recovery, like very few people truly allow themselves to recover. And recovery should be a daily thing, but it also should be a regular thing where you go a lot deeper into the recovery.

[00:30:37] So there's a lot of really good ideas around the concept of like sabbaticals nowadays, where there's a really good Ted talk about a guy and if you just like Googled Ted Talk sabbatical, you'd find it. But there's a really famous artist who lives in New York and every seven years, he leaves for an entire year, travels the world, [00:31:00] doesn't work.

[00:31:00] He closes his studio and just totally BSEs out. Just travels and just relaxes. Doesn't do any work. During that one year, he gets all of his best creative ideas because he is actually in a state of relaxation, which is generally required for creativity. It's why people get creative ideas in the shower or when they're on the commute.

[00:31:17] It's like most good creative ideas happen in a state of recovery and relaxation. And there's an idea in psychology called psychological detachment from work. And basically what it means is that if you don't turn off mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally from work, you'll have a really hard time attaching the work when you get there. You won't be fully in a flow state. You won't be fully engaged because you're not really engaged anywhere else. And Dan Sullivan has a good quote, but basically it's wherever you are, that's where you should. 

[00:31:47] So the idea is how do you set up environments? How do you set up situations so that you're under high pressure and actually growing and stretching?

[00:31:54] And then how do you set up environments where you can totally unplug and just be where you are and [00:32:00] actually recover and just be present with your loved ones? I think that's that's the key is figuring out how to set those two things up. But in the book, I, the flow triggers or the situational factors.

[00:32:08] But basically in order to have a high stress environment, there needs to be difficulty, meaning you're doing stuff that's above your skill level. You need to be doing new things. Novelty, like novelty and newness is really good for being engaged where you're at. Obviously you need to eliminate distractions.

[00:32:23] Having a short timeline is really good. Like obviously if you have a short timeline, then you're probably more focused and just like the more of these types of things you can create for yourself. Being paid based on performance, for example, rather than just time punched on the clock, like where your behavior actually matters.

[00:32:42] Like the more of those things you can do, like collaborating and working with other people. And then just actually having hard boundaries, Giving yourself boundaries and giving yourself and the other people in your life the respect of totally unplugging, leaving your cell phone. In your car or not bringing it home with [00:33:00] you, Like actually just trusting that everything's gonna be okay, the university is gonna be all right, and when you get back, you can get back to work tomorrow and just leave it alone and go home and just be home and just engage with the other components of your life and actually have a life.

[00:33:13] And it's so good for creativity and so good for work. 

[00:33:15] Hala Taha: Something else I wanna touch on is the different roles that people play. So in your book you go into how, based on the environment, you play different roles. Can you talk about that? And you can talk about how if it's possible to redefine our roles in a certain environment that we have.

[00:33:32] Benjamin Hardy: So obviously we all play roles in the various situations we're in. You can go in one situation from sitting in class and being a student. . So going into a different class and being the teacher, or, in my case, for example, especially as in my PhD program, I would go from sitting in class, having a student to going home and being dad.

[00:33:51] Like those are two different roles. And in those roles I operate differently, right? So who you are in one situation is not who you are in a different situation [00:34:00] because it's actually the relationship between things that is the reality. For example, the relationship between me and my teacher creates the roles.

[00:34:09] and that relationship between us, it defines us, so in that situation, there's a relationship between us. I'm the student, he's the teacher, and so within that relationship, I have certain possibilities, opportunities, I behave in a certain way, I act, I feel a certain way, and then when I go home, the context changes.

[00:34:26] And all of a sudden, the relationship between me and my child is that like they see me as dad, and from that role, I then act in a different place.

[00:34:34] What's really cool though, to realize is that in a lot of ways, most people are very reactive about the roles that they're in. Like they're not proactive about choosing their roles in life, so some people are like a victim to the situations they've been in, they don't proactively decide what role they will play.

[00:34:51] And I think when you start to really learn that you have a lot more creative control over your life, you get to design the roles that you're in. It's just like [00:35:00] acting and improv, Like you get to decide what role do I actually want to play in this situation? Is the role that I've been effective or has it been limiting?

[00:35:07] And you can start to design the roles that you're in. I think it's very freeing to realize if you've been acting a certain way, it's not because that's who you are, it's because you've been assuming a role and you can change that role. You don't have to. In a lot of ways the role is a story that you've told yourself about the situation, and you don't have to live in that role.

[00:35:25] You can change the role, and when you do, you can act in a different way. You've got a lot more freedom to act if you decide you want to play a different part in the situation. It's just taking a lot more control and responsibility over your life. 

[00:35:37] Hala Taha: So moving on to other gems that you put out there in the world.

[00:35:41] Something really popular you have is a morning ritual and getting into peak state. Can you describe that to our listeners? 

[00:35:49] Benjamin Hardy: Yeah, absolutely. So basically the idea is really simple. First thing in the morning, you don't want to be distracted and reactive to the addictions in the environment such as [00:36:00] smartphones and things like that.

[00:36:00] You actually wanna give yourself space to think about what you wanna do that day, who you wanna be, what you wanna do, big picture and long term. And so most people, their day is a repeat of the past. They wake up, they get caught into their subconscious loops, whether that be through smartphones or through just the foods they eat, or through their schedule and their routine.

[00:36:20] And they just, they live a pretty predictable life. But if you want to create a life from your future rather than from your past, you have to give yourself the space to actually think about that. And so that's, I think, in my opinion, the core reason for having a morning routine. Obviously in the morning routine, you can actually start behaving towards that future as well, and then you can start creating it.

[00:36:37] You can also do things like fitness and do those things which are more important than urgent. But the idea of getting yourself into a peak state is really connected to this idea and self-improvement called be then do, then have. And basically what it means is that in order to have something, you have to first be that thing you have to be, and then you have to do, and then you have to act.

[00:36:59] [00:37:00] And so you wanna give yourself space. And in, in the book, I talk a lot about journaling. Obviously there's a lot written to the idea of writing down your goals, but writing down your goals. And visualizing them has to also include really, truly experiencing the emotion of what it would be like and feel like to have achieved those goals.

[00:37:18] That's what true being feels like. You actually want to assume, There's a really good quote from, I, I forget his last name, Neville something and that might even be his last name, but he said, Assume the feeling of your wish fulfilled. Basically, you want to pond or meditate, Write about what you're trying to accomplish, and you want to feel gratitude, feel powerful emotions about what it would actually be like to have that and then believe it.

[00:37:43] And what's cool is that your brain, doesn't actually know the difference between true experience versus visualized and emotional imagination. Albert Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge. It's far more powerful than knowledge, and it can stimulate your brain the same way.

[00:37:58] And so when you give yourself space in the [00:38:00] morning to write about your goals, and you can obviously work out and you put yourself into the emotional place of the future you wanna create, then you act from that future you be, and then you do, You start acting from the future you wanna have versus acting the same way you did yesterday.

[00:38:15] That creates, What I would call peak state, because you're in this flow where you're living intentionally and you're living on purpose, and it just, it feels a lot better than just doing what you're doing because that's how things have been done. And obviously there's a lot of. A lot that comes with acting with intention.

[00:38:35] Like when you start acting in new ways, it can create a lot of uncertainty because when you act in new ways, it's slightly unpredictable. There's a reason why people act the same way every day is because it's predictable and they like their lives to be predictable. Our brains seek prediction, but when you do something new, you've stepped out of those boundaries.

[00:38:53] You've stepped out of the realm of Oh, I know exactly how this is gonna turn. And it feels different. But what that feeling is, even though it's [00:39:00] uncertainties, is that it's actually being alive. Like it's actually doing something new like you did when you were a kid, where you didn't actually know exactly what would happen, but you were okay with that.

[00:39:09] And that is really good for the brain and it's really good for the body. And it's just a great way to live. And it's better to live that way with intention, even though you don't exactly know how it's gonna turn out. And being reactive and just doing the same thing you did before. 

[00:39:22] Hala Taha: Before we go, what is one thing you would recommend a millennial change after listening to this show? If you had one thing to recommend a millennial to change.

[00:39:31] Benjamin Hardy: I would say probably take a hard look at what's going on around you and if it really matches with the person you see yourself as or see yourself wanting to be. And then just owning the fact that, your environment is a vehicle and it's taking you a direction.

[00:39:47] And that includes the friends you have, the people you listen to, the things you put in your body. Like those things are a vehicle taking you somewhere. And willpower is not gonna work in that situation because the environment's just [00:40:00] stronger than you. You're in the environment, it's you're inside the jar.

[00:40:03] And so rather than trying to fight against the jar, change it and, you can deploy a lot of the strategies we talked about in this book. Making decisions changing to having more positive influence investing in yourself seeking mentorship. So I would just say, Hyperawareness of what's going on around you and the fact that it's taking you somewhere.

[00:40:20] And then if you wanna do something about it, making strong, powerful decisions. 

[00:40:23] Hala Taha: And where can we find more about you and everything that you do? 

[00:40:26] Benjamin Hardy: Yeah, just benjamin You can Google Benjamin Hardy, but yeah, benjamin has, my top articles, my favorite quotes, some of the online courses I provide.

[00:40:36] Hala Taha: Awesome. Ben, this was so awesome and helpful. I feel like we've got so much good content to put out to our listeners, so thank you so much for joining us. 

[00:40:44] Benjamin Hardy: Absolutely. It's fun. 

[00:40:47] Hala Taha: So you heard it, folks. Willpower sucks. It's just not enough. You've gotta change your environment to change your life. So think about all the changes you need to make.

[00:40:57] Think about the things or people you need to [00:41:00] remove from your life that will stop the negative temptations or habits that you have. Think about the positive influences you will insert in your life. The environments things are people that will push you to the next level. Whether that's stacking your fridge with healthy foods, signing up for that gym class, you were always afraid to take switching careers to something more challenging that you're not entirely ready for or taking on commitments that will force you to make more money and live up to that life you've always dreamed of.

[00:41:30] You will adapt to the environments you put yourself in. So sometimes to take that next step in life, you've just gotta run to the fire and push yourself to do better. And remember, invest in your goals and make them public because then you've added that extra layer of commitment to help support ensure you follow through.

[00:41:50] Thanks for listening to Young and Profiting podcast. Follow YAP on Instagram at Young and profiting, and check us out at Kudos to our fabulous [00:42:00] producers, Timothy Tan and Daniel Mc fatter and much thanks to the entire YAP team, aka Kayla Baba and John Sparks. And please, if you enjoyed the show, write a review and tell us how you liked it.

[00:42:11] And don't forget to subscribe on YAP on your favorite platform to always keep up. It's truly a pleasure being your host. And lately I've gotten a lot of positive feedback on the show and things are really gaining traction and I just wanna put it out there that I'm really thankful to have the resources and the opportunity to be able to do this.

[00:42:29] Thanks for listening. This is Hala signing off.

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