Show notes

Most of us have heard about the importance of having willpower in the process of achieving our goals, but is it really as effective as we think? Benjamin Hardy is the author of the bestselling book “Willpower doesn’t work” and a top content writer at Surprisingly, using willpower alone to change our behaviour is often a flawed strategy. Benjamin Hardy shares his perspective on how being in an enriched environment has a greater impact on creating positive changes in our lives. As he states during the interview: “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 helps you move forward.”

We all dream of achieving our personal goals someday, and our environment plays a key role on that journey to success. In this episode, Hala Taha and Benjamin Hardy discuss how our environment shapes the way we view the world and how we can use it to work towards our goals.

For more on Benjamin Hardy, follow him on Twitter @BenjaminPHardy and subscribe to the newsletter on his website at  

Mindfulness is really an awareness of what’s going on around you and how it impacts you.


Young and Profiting podcast is brought to you by audible. Get your FREE audiobook here:

What we are yapping about in this episode:

  • Understanding why willpower alone doesn’t work [11:03]
  • The psychology behind investing in your goals  [22:15]
  • How the subconscious mind is affected by our environment [32:06]
  • Learning to use habits and triggers as strategies when working towards personal goals [28:27]
Read Full Transcript

Hala Taha: 00:00 Your listening to YAP, Young and Profiting podcast, a place where you can listen, learn, and grow, and today's episode features Benjamin Hardy, organizational psychologist, and the number one writer on was appearances like Forbes, fortune and CNBC under his belt, Benjamin is the author of the bestselling book. Willpower doesn't work, which uncovers why using willpower to force ourselves to behave in a certain way is a flawed strategy and how we can systematically removed the need for willpower to achieve our goals. Benjamin, arguing that creating an enriched environment to promote the behavior we want to take rather than just depending on sheer willpower is the key to achieving positive changes in our lives. Welcome to the show, Benjamin.
Benjamin Hardy: 00:50 Thank you. Happy to be here.
Hala Taha: 00:52 Just seeing your willpower 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 comes to self improvement, so really excited to have you here.
Benjamin Hardy: 01:02 I'm glad you liked it. How'd you hear about it?
Hala Taha: 01:05 Actually, our producer, Tim, is probably your number one fan. He's like obsessed with you, so we were going to the drawing board on, 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.
Benjamin Hardy: 01:27 Yeah, well I'm glad that some people like it. So that's cool. I'm glad you found it.
Speaker 1: 01:32 Um, 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 story that I think will motivate our listeners. So what was it like growing up for you? How did you evolve to become the accomplished Benjamin Hardy that you are today?
Benjamin Hardy: 01:49 Yeah, so like a lot of people I grew up in know not the best situation. My parents got divorced when I was 11 and was just a really tough situation for my, my family. I am the oldest of three boys and my dad just went through a really deep depression and we were living with him primarily after the divorce. We kind of were trying to go back and forth, but it was kind of 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. 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.
Benjamin Hardy: 02:32 She was trying to run a small business with her sister and we just didn't really have any stability. And in high school, high school is complicated enough as it is, you know, with this changing friend groups, all sorts of influences. And so I kinda just was very confused by the whole situation. Barely graduated high school and it was about when I was 19 years old, about a year after high school that I really started to kind of reflect on my life. I was living at my cousin's house, you know, playing world of warcraft, just super board, had no ambition and which is very sad. And I started doing a little bit of running just to kind of mix things up. My cousin invited me to go running with them, a different cousin and the one I was living with and I just started running a little bit here and there and uh, didn't really change anything about my life.
Benjamin Hardy: 03:21 Just ran intermittently, just like a few times a week. Didn't really have a job to still play video games almost all day. And it was while I was running that I started to allow myself to think about my life. And it's kind of interesting. Looking back now, kind of what the psychological understanding that positive behavior is really what shapes your thinking and your emotions. What a lot of people think is that you have to first have like thought, you know, like positive thoughts that lead to positive behaviors, but it's generally the opposite. It's easily positive behaviors that change your identity and change your psychology. And so I was doing a positive behavior. I was running, you know, even if it was just for like 30 minutes and I was kind of away from all the noise of like my cousin's house, all the distractions, all the energy that's there and you just kind of in an open free space where you can think in the book, willpower doesn't work.
Benjamin Hardy: 04:07 I talk about places like that being what's called like a sacred environment basically just somewhere where you can actually sit, be like, think, meditate, ponder, pray for me. That was running for awhile and just doing that for awhile led me to deciding to leave where I grew up in and I ended up serving a two year humanitarian sound mission. And what was really interesting about the experience was like, you get like a name tag, you get like this new name badge, you know, and you're basically like this new person and you're totally doing different things than you did before in a different environment. And you know, reading books, just serving other people, doing community service 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 didn't have a lot of things.
Benjamin Hardy: 04:57 And one of the things that my leader in that experience told me after two years, he said, Ben, you know the worst thing that could happen to you after everything you've done. Because I had read dozens of books, you know, 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 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 and I could feel that like if I had stayed in that environment out quickly revert back. And so I ended up changing peer groups, continuing to study psychology, got married and then we, we did a lot of other things, but that was kind of how it started. That was kind of 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 experience, just been studying, learning ever since. And taking on new challenges.
Hala Taha: 05:47 Yeah. So, so why did you become interested in helping people achieve their goals and what motivated you to write your book? Willpower doesn't work.
Benjamin Hardy: 05:54 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, we're a little overly simplified. Like, you know, I'm a huge believer in obviously having a positive attitude, having positive thoughts and things like that, but my experience being a 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 principle's perspective. Like where does the positive mindset come from? You know, 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 them for going on four years, but they came from a really bad environment, you know, obviously because they had to become foster kids.
Benjamin Hardy: 06:40 They, they didn't have access to a lot of opportunity in their parents were very neglectful and on drugs. And so, you know, when we get these kids and we put them on our environment, they all of a sudden have to adapt to something totally different. You know, there's these two pretty highly educated people in a pretty affluent neighborhood who were super invested in them and who are giving them energy and attention. Giving them good food, like wanting to get them extra curricular activities like all of a sudden, you know, you can imagine that I can't actually totally comprehend what that shift would be like for them, but I know it. It was like for me because we had never been parents before and all of a sudden we're dealing with challenges, problems, things like that that we had never had to deal with before. And so when 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.
Benjamin Hardy: 07:30 Like my kids for example, if they had stayed in their prior environment, you know they might've had a lot of grit and willpower, but they just lacked options. 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 opened up to them where change becomes a lot more organic. It's kind of like fruits and vegetables, like you can't grow certain fruits and vegetables in bad terrain. You have to have the right soil, the right sunlight, things like that, and so I started just thinking about like what about the circumstances that allow growth to happen? And then I started studying addiction and things like that because obviously as you know, I had mentioned before in my past there was a lot of addiction in my environment growing up and you know, 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 try and overcome addiction and if you really study addiction, you realize that you really can't overcome an addiction to willpower.
Benjamin Hardy: 08:16 It's, 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 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. And so those are a lot of the reasons why I wrote the book was because 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.
Hala Taha: 08:43 Cool. Well, I really look forward to picking your brain on this. 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 bit about that?
Benjamin Hardy: 08:56 Yeah, totally. I mean, willpower, traditionally it is a muscle. It's viewed as something that the more you use it, the more it goes away. Like another definition of willpower is decision fatigue. So you know, some people who have like, you know, there's lots of blog posts and things that were popular for a while talking about Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg and the fact that they were like the same clothes every day. They did that because of this concept of decision fatigue, which is basically willpower and it's 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 want to wear their mind down with menial things such as like where they're going to 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, make bigger decisions. So that's kind of like where the traditional perspective, and I actually agree with it, view of willpower is,
Hala Taha: 09:56 you know, in your bookie state that willpower is nothing more than a dangerous fact that's bound to lead to failure. Or maybe it was a medium post. So in your opinion, why does willpower sucks so much and why do you think people resort to using willpower to achieve their goals?
Benjamin Hardy: 10:10 The willpower. Willpower sucks for a lot of reasons. First off, willpower is clearly unsustainable. It runs out, you know, 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 be a first approach. There should be better ways of doing things, 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 kind of like an old model like because things are changing so fast because we have so many options and choices now are quote unquote decision fatigue wears out very fast. 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 like there's a really good quote from Dr Marshall Goldsmith and he wrote the book triggers in the book.
Benjamin Hardy: 11:04 He said, if we do not create and control our environment, our environment creating controls us 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 not necessary. I'm unhealthy. Food technology work like there's just in general and 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, you know, everything's changing so fast and these things are benefits. I mean 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 distractions. You know, like in a very simple example is just if you don't want to subconsciously and out of habit dopamine and seeking that your body is craving open up your cell phone and just mindlessly go through social media.
Benjamin Hardy: 12:06 Like just delete the APP. Like basically it's making one decision so that you don't have to think about it again. Like that's, that's like the new model is make one decision rather than rely on willpower. So they 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 is x. it's just, it's, it just burns too fast and it environments is stimulating. Is this another reason that willpower is. It's kind of, you know, if you really like 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. Like I'll just give an example. I myself, you know, and I have no judgment towards anyone who does this, but I don't drink alcohol.
Benjamin Hardy: 12:49 Like it's just not interesting to me and it literally takes 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 like, 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 has zero interest in me. Therefore it takes zero willpower and I know that some people, obviously there are 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, but the actual Greek definition or root of the word decision is to cut off alternatives and so if a person is relying on willpower, it's because they actually haven't truly made a decision about what they want.
Benjamin Hardy: 13:30 Like they're still unclear or like I kind of want to be in really good shape, but I also really want to eat ice cream everyday. Like intellect. 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 then your job is to create the environment that facilitates that decision. They 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.
Hala Taha: 14:01 Okay? So if I have this straight, if you required to use willpower, you really don't know what you want and you know, because once you actually make a decision, your internal debate is over. Is that correct?
Benjamin Hardy: 14:13 Yeah, I mean if you truly do make a decision, you know, absolutely.
Hala Taha: 14:17 Okay. So if willpower doesn't work at all, what does work and what, what do we need to do to bypass the need for willpower and truly commit to something?
Benjamin Hardy: 14:27 Yeah, absolutely. I would say there's, there's two core things you have to make decisions and you have to create environments that facilitate those decisions. So like as Marshall Goldsmith said, he said, no, he did not create and control your environment. Then it will create and control you. So the first step you know, is changing what's coming in Zig Ziglar, who's a famous pop psychologist and a lot of ways a motivational. He said, your input shapes your outlook and your outlook shapes your output. Basically what he's saying is your input, that 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 and so I think that a really key initial step for people is mindfulness.
Benjamin Hardy: 15:17 Mindfulness is really an awareness of what's going on around you and how it impacts you, so like 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 being implements and so then you have to ask yourself like, is this really influencing me in the way that I want to? I might be coming the person I want to be in my behaving. Is My environment reflective of who I really want to be? And if not, then you've got to start making different decisions and then changing those inputs to to determine what you actually want to get out of life. 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, I mean, and I can give you obviously a lot of strategies if you want happy to do it, there's lots in the book, but really what it comes down to is it's making real decisions and then creating an environment that actually allows those decisions could be real, not just something that's in your head and not something that you say you want to do. It's like, no, if he will do it, you have to actually go out in the world and make it happen.
Hala Taha: 16:23 So. So let's talk about the 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.
Benjamin Hardy: 16:35 Yeah, totally. So in the book I talk about John Burke and he's, he's a really good friend. He's a fun guy. He's a piano player in Atlanta, Georgia and he's a super creative guy. Twenty nine years old, he's pumped out lots of different albums. I think he's got like eight or nine albums that he's composed and recorded. One of them was nominated for an emmy, um, 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. But how he uses social pressure is whenever he creates a new album, he tells his fans, you know, that he's working on it and that it's going to be out on a specific date. He says that it really matters to him what his beans.
Benjamin Hardy: 17:23 I 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. And he does that on purpose. He publicly commit to the audience, whether that be on social media or facebook or through email or at concerts, that he's got a new project coming out and that it's going to be out and he tells them when it's going to be out, even though he hadn't even completed it or finished it or maybe even started working on it. He does that so that it will actually force himself to do in a lot of ways because now people are expecting it.
Hala Taha: 17:51 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 to make sure that I had the fire under me to to get it done
Benjamin Hardy: 18:05 quote. That is really good. It's just pressure can bust pipes or can make a diamond, you know, but I, in my opinion, creating a little bit of social pressure just to get yourself to do what you really want to do internally anyways. Why wouldn't you do it? You know? I mean, it's something that you already want to do with. Why not just add a little bit of motivational buyer
Hala Taha: 18:23 and how about investing upfront and the importance of investing in your goals?
Benjamin Hardy: 18:28 Yeah. This is a huge one. This is one of, in my opinion, this brings the two worlds together as far as making decisions and changing your environment because investing financially into your goals, it changes your psychology. Like when you become invested in something, you have ownership over it and when you have ownership over something, you become very committed to it. That's a concept called sunk cost bias and a lot of people look at it from the negative. They say, you know, if you're too invested in something, you're going to stay committed to it long after you should, but for someone who has a hard time committing in general or who you know had a hard time making decisions in the first place, starting to invest your money into something, let's just say it's a podcast, you know, like buying a microphone or you know, getting some form of mentoring or joining a gym and getting a personal trainer, like actually paying money and investing it in a lot of ways.
Benjamin Hardy: 19:18 Solidifies the decision and I, I spent a lot of time studying this in my phd research. I studied entrepreneurs and wannabe entrepreneurs and I want to know the difference and I interviewed a ton of them, you know, 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. They didn't see themselves truly as an entrepreneurial or their identity hadn't gone through a shift. 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 want to be. Whereas you know, actual people who are entrepreneurs, they saw that as their identity and I asked, well, how did you make that shift? What was that transition in? The transition almost always involves some form of financial investment where they started investing money into their goals.
Benjamin Hardy: 20:02 They started actually taking on risk and then having to kind of rise to the risks that they created. You know, having to rise and producing and become. And they started behaving in ways towards that goal. And when you start behaving towards a goal, your identity starts to change because your personality and your, 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 going to start to see yourself in a different way. And so that was kind of the big shift. And you can apply this idea in, in amazing ways. You know, when I first started blogging, it started really small. It started by obviously like buying a domain name Benjamin That was an $800 investment.
Benjamin Hardy: 20:46 And my wife, we had to actually ask ourselves like, is this something I'm actually going to do or is this just some pipe dream, you know, or am I just like, am I actually going to do this or am I wasting $800? And so I convinced her that this is something I really want to 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, you know, people who had successfully written blogs like paying for 30 minutes of their time, maybe like 100 or $200 just to like have a conversation like those investments, although not huge. When you watch yourself perform those types of behaviors, you have these Aha moments where you're like, wow, I'm actually doing this thing. Like wow, like this is actually, you know, in your case, for example, like at some point, you know, you started telling people you were gonna do a podcast.
Benjamin Hardy: 21:29 Like now you're actually witnessing yourself having a conversation. You've got a recorder, you know you're putting step 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 know, you can stretch the idea really far where it's like, you know, there are certain environments that are very exclusive, you know, whether they be like mastermind groups, which I talk about in the book. You know, I talked 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 because my aunt Jane, who is an awesome business owners, she joined Genius Network which costs $25,000 a year to be a part of. It's a very exclusive entrepreneurial mastermind group run by Joe Polish and what was interesting is she was freaked out obviously because $25,000 is an enormous investment for a one year.
Benjamin Hardy: 22:15 Basically opportunity to be in a group, 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. I mean, when you invest that big into your dreams, you're pretty much telling yourself like that. I'm worth it, but I really believe in it. Like 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. So like he said, if you believe you deserve poverty, then that's what you're going to have, you know? 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 you're telling your subconscious mind that you deserve more or you're telling your subconscious mind you, you know, you can have more.
Benjamin Hardy: 23:07 And so that's what I saw in my aunt is when she made this huge investment and then she was surrounded by these people who are succeeding at a level way higher than she was used to succeeding. You know, 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 ago. And so I was like, I made the kind of initial commitment in my mind. You know, I made the decision that I'm going to learn how to get into environments like that. I'm going to learn how to invest in myself that big and I'm going to learn how to be able to contribute in groups like that and that's. That's what I've learned how to do on multiple levels and I can definitely attest, you know, like Dan Sullivan, 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.
Benjamin Hardy: 23:54 You start to learn new things. You know, 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 going to do anymore. I call it the point of no return. And at that level, all of a sudden your motivation shifts. So you're no longer pushing. You're no longer using willpower. You're actually being pulled forward and all of a sudden he just unblock the roadblocks and all of a sudden all the ideas and inspirations are coming and you start thinking bigger. And so that's some of why investment is Silky.
Hala Taha: 24:24 So let's focus on environment because I feel like that's really one of your big tenants in your book is to remove an alter anything in your environment that opposes your commitments. Can you talk about how we should do that and, and how we should kind of set limiting options to make sure that we accomplish our goals?
Benjamin Hardy: 24:43 Yeah, I mean you got to be aware of what influences you. Jason Fried, he's the founder of base camp, which is a multibillion dollar company. He said that he really limits what influences him because he doesn't really want to be influenced by that much. So basically what he's saying is he realizes that most of the stuff out there is garbage. You know, Greg mckeown in the book essentialism said that almost everything is irrelevant. And so I think first step is just realizing that almost everything in the world on the Internet is a distraction. And so you want to, you want to limit all host that stuff. You know, 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 for moving even good options so that you can save time for the best and you know, what does that look like?
Benjamin Hardy: 25:29 It includes food, you know, books, uh, information, I mean just actually raising your standards for, for what's actually in your life. Like rather than trying to exert willpower to not eat the crap in your fridge, like just get it, get rid of it, you know, just like literally remove it, make one decision so that you don't have to drag your feet and think about it all day. I mean 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, you know, even places, places that trigger you into, you know, reverting back to perhaps unhealthy behaviors. I mean that's just like one on one is just remove the negative and then being strategic about what's gonna happen when you're in an environment where you may be triggered. You know.
Benjamin Hardy: 26:17 So there's an, there's an idea in psychology called implementation intentions. And basically what it is is, you know, you want to pre plan for the worst case scenarios because they're going to come up, you want to 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, 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. It's like if this happens then I'm going to do this, you know? 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 sweet, you know? And a lot of it was just, that was just our environment was set up. That's where I was. And this was years ago.
Benjamin Hardy: 26:59 But what I did just using this strategy was whenever I walked into 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 know, you feel a certain way based on the places you'd go. But every time I would walk in and if I had the thought like that, I wanted to eat something sweet out of habit, I would just drop and do like 20 pushups. That's like 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. 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 into the kitchen now, rather than being triggered, eat chocolate chips, I'm triggered to drink water and do pushups like you.
Benjamin Hardy: 27:43 You basically just shift the pattern subconsciously and it gives you enough time, especially in the beginning to distract yourself. Because in a lot of ways when you get triggered to do something, whether it's check your smartphone, whether it's, you know, for some people who had heavy addictions to go get drunk or whatever, and 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. That's why they talk in Aa, alcoholics anonymous about having like a sponsor, so like if you get triggered in like a person's like having this intense craving, they call someone who just helps distract them and helps them think about something else where you focus on their goals. You can get good at that. So I mean those are a couple strategies.
Hala Taha: 28:30 It seems relatively straightforward to removes 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. And in your book you mentioned that the people your 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?
Benjamin Hardy: 28:56 Yeah. The quote is very popular by Jim Roan. You know, you're the average of the five people you spend the most time with, which is true. But yeah, that's like that would be considered a primary connection to secondary connection is who are your friends, friends, because you know, you may be influenced by your friends, but who are your friends influenced by because your friends aren't always with you clearly and they're being influenced by other people. And so you want to think about not only who are your friends, but where are your friends going, you know, what, what are your friends being influenced by? Like, you know, what's cool about this is that you think about the idea that, you know, I think it's like, I think they said I, I'm not, I'm not coming up with the word in my head, but the idea is, is that you're connected to everyone in the world through like seven degrees of connection.
Benjamin Hardy: 29:41 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 want to get in touch with someone and this is actually really a strategy in business. If you want to get to someone who's really hard to get access to, you know, but they may have friends or someone who's not very hard to get access to. Well, how do you become friends with that person? You know, and obviously this is like a very strategic approach, but you know, in real simple terms, it's like you want your friends to be powerful and to have a positive impact. And I think generally, you know, there's a quote that basically says like attracts like, but generally if you're around positive people, they're probably around positive people, but sometimes they're not, you know, sometimes you're the only positive influence in their life, which heck, that's amazing.
Hala Taha: 30:28 So something else I just wanted to touch on is in your book you mentioned 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?
Benjamin Hardy: 30:40 Yeah, definitely. Um, 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 stress on yourself, you know, 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. The same is true with your brain, you know, 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 in. And so yeah, it is just simple as that you need to really stress your system and you need to really recover your system. And the problem in today's world is that that rarely happens. The situation hasn't been set up for such.
Benjamin Hardy: 31:27 So most people are not really, you know, on a regular basis rising to really hard challenges and difficulties at work. You know, like for the most part they're not paid based on performance. They're paid based on just time and effort, you know. And so because of that, there's a lot of room for being distracted. 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 and going farther and farther and a lot of ways they're just repeating the routine that they did yesterday. And so you know, the idea of recovery, like very few people truly allowed themselves to recover in recovery should be a daily thing.
Benjamin Hardy: 32:14 But it also should be a regular thing where you go a lot deeper into the recovery. So there's a lot of really good ideas around the concept of sabbaticals nowadays where like there's a really good ted talk about a guy and if you just googled ted talks about sabbaticals, 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, doesn't work. He closes his studio and just totally blissed out, you know, just travels and just relaxes, doesn't do any work during that one year he gets all of his best creative ideas because he's 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 is like most good creative ideas happen in a state of recovery and relaxation.
Benjamin Hardy: 33:04 And so you know, there's an idea in psychology called psychological detachment from work and basically what it means is, is that if you don't turn off mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally from work, you'll have a really hard time attaching to 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. In Dan Sullivan has a good quote, but basically it's wherever you are, that's where you should be. So the idea is, well, how do you set up environments? How do you set up the situation so that you're under high pressure and and actually growing and stretching and then how do you set up environments where you can totally unplug and just be where you are and actually recover and just be present with your loved ones. I think that that's kind of, that's kind of key in figuring out how to set those things up and in the book I explained, you know, the flow triggers or the situational factors, but basically in order to have a high stress environment, there needs to be difficulty.
Benjamin Hardy: 33:59 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. You know, having a short timeline is really good. You know, 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, you know, being paid based on performance for example, rather than just time punch on the clock, like where your, where your behavior actually matters. 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 in 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 you. Like actually just trusting that everything's gonna. Be Okay. The university's going to 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 and it's so good for creativity and so good for work.
Hala Taha: 35:05 Something else, I want to 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.
Benjamin Hardy: 35:22 So obviously we all play roles in the various situations or in, you know, you can go in one situation from sitting in class and being a student going into a different class and being the teacher or you know, in my case, for example, that she has in my phd program, I would go from sitting in class and we get a student to going home and being dad, you know, 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 because it's actually the relationship between things that is the reality. So for example, the relationship between me and my teacher creates the roles and that relationship between us. It defines us, you know. So in that situation, you know, there's a relationship between us, uh, on the student, he's the teacher.
Benjamin Hardy: 36:11 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, you know, and all of a sudden, you know, the relationship between me and my child is that they see me as dad. And from that role I then act in a different place. 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, they're not proactive about choosing their roles in life, you know. So some people are like a victim to the situations they've been in. They don't proactively decide what role they will play. 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.
Benjamin Hardy: 36:55 You know, it's just like acting and Improv, you know, like you get to decide what role do I actually want to play in this situation? Is the role that I've been ineffective or is it been limiting? And you can start to design the roles that you're in. I think it's very freeing to realize like 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 define, you know, 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. You can change the role and when you do, you can act in a different way. You know, you've got a lot more freedom to act if you decide you want to play a different part in this situation, it's just taking a lot more control and responsibility over your life.
Hala Taha: 37:36 So moving onto other gems that you put out there in the world, something really popular you have is a morning ritual and getting into peak state. Can you describe that to our listeners?
Benjamin Hardy: 37:47 Yeah, absolutely. So basically the idea is really simple. You know, first thing in the morning, you don't want to be distracted in reactive to the addictions in the environment such as smartphones and things like that. You actually want to give yourself space to think about what you want to do that day, who you want to be, what you want to do, big picture in longterm, and so most people, their day is a repeat of the past and they wake up. They get caught into their subconscious loops, whether that be through smartphones or through just the foods aid or through their schedule and their routine 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, do 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.
Benjamin Hardy: 38:32 Obviously in the morning routine, you can actually start behaving towards that as well and then you can start creating it. 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 is really connected to this idea in self improvement called be then do than 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 and so you want to give yourself space and then in the book I talk a lot about journaling. You know, 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.
Benjamin Hardy: 39:19 That's what true being feels like. You actually want to assume is a really good quote from, 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 know you want to ponder, meditate, write about what you're trying to accomplish and you want to feel, feel gratitude, feel powerful emotions about what, what it would actually be like to have that and then believe it. 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. And so when you give yourself space in the morning to write about your goals, you know, and you can obviously work out and you put yourself into the emotional place of the future you want to create.
Benjamin Hardy: 40:13 Then you act from that future you be and then you do. You start acting from the future you want to have versus acting the same way you did yesterday. That creates what I would call a 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 had been done. And obviously there's a lot of, a lot that comes with acting with intention, 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. You know, 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.
Benjamin Hardy: 41:00 You've stepped out of the realm of like, oh, I know exactly how this is going to turn out and it feels different. But what that feeling is, even though it's uncertainty 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 and that is really good for the brain and it's really good for the body and it's. It's. It's just a great way to live in. It's. It's better to live that way with intention even though you don't exactly know how it's going to turn out than being reactive and just doing the same thing you did before.
Hala Taha: 41:31 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,
Benjamin Hardy: 41:40 I would say I'm probably take a hard look at what's going on around you and if it really matches with the person you kind of see yourself as or see yourself wanting to be and then just owning the fact that your environment is, is a vehicle and it's taking you a direction 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 going to work in that situation because the environment's just stronger than you. You know, you're in the environment. You know, it's like you're inside the jar and so rather than trying to fight against the jar, you know, change it and you know, you can deploy a lot of the strategies we talked about in this book, making decisions, changing to having more positive influence that investing in yourself. I'm seeking mentorship. I would just say hyper awareness of what's going on around you and the fact that it's taking you somewhere and then if you want to do something about it, making strong, powerful decisions
Hala Taha: 42:42 and where can we find more about you and everything that you do?
Speaker 2: 42:46 Yeah, just You can Google Benjamin Hardy. We had Benjamin has all my top articles, my favorite quotes, some of the online courses I provide. So.
Speaker 1: 42:56 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 today.
Benjamin Hardy: 43:05 Absolutely. It's fine.
Hala Taha: 43:07 So you heard it folks. Willpower sucks. It's just not enough. You've got to change your environment to change your life. So think about all the changes you need to make. Think about the things or people you need to 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, people that will push you to the next level, whether that 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 taking on commitments that will force you to make more money and live up to that life you've always dreamed of. You will adapt to the environment you put yourself in. So sometimes to take that next step in life, you've just got to 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 and ensure you follow through.
Hala Taha: 44:11 Thanks for listening to young and profiting podcast. Follow on Instagram at YoungAndProfiting and check us out at Kuddos to our fabulous producers, Timothy Tan and Daniel McPhatter, and much thanks to the entire Yap team, AK, Kayla, Baba and John Sparks and please, if you enjoyed the show, write a review and tell how you liked it and don't forget to subscribe on your 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 want to put it out there that I'm really thankful to have the resources and the opportunity to be able to do this. Thanks for listening. This is Hala signing off.

Reach out:

Reach out to Hala directly at
Follow Hala on Linkedin:
Follow Hala on Instagram:

Join the discussion One Comment

Leave a Reply

Become a Yapper by subscribing to our email list
We will share resources and further information about episodes for our special listeners