Willpower doesn’t work. On some level, we all know this. We've all tried to use willpower to change our lives, only to drop our New Year’s resolutions as soon as Girl Scout cookie season rolls around in February. (Ahh, Thin Mints, my childhood love, and my annual diet nemesis, we meet again!)
We’ve been told that if we’re not buckling down and just doing the damn thing already then we just don’t want it bad enough and we simply don’t have what it takes.
And while having a sense of necessity is an important ingredient to success, we can’t JUST want it and know WHY, we should also be creating conditions that make success inevitable rather than a heroic effort that’s neither easily repeatable nor sustainable.
This is where environmental design comes in to save the day. The idea is to outsource the need for willpower to our environment to set ourselves up for success.
When I say environment here, I am referring to your physical environment, but also to the people you surround yourself with, the information you fill your head with, as well as the food you’re consuming that fuels your body.
Willpower doesn’t work, and that’s a good thing because that means that the weight of our challenges doesn’t fall only on our shoulders. We don’t have to carry it all – we can share the load with our environment. Ahhh, doesn’t that feel better?
We need to push ourselves and take on challenges that force us to grow AND we need to set ourselves up for success by cultivating environments that help us not just survive but thrive. New information, new experiences, and new relationships help us grow, evolve, and adapt.
Our environments shape us, so it’s our job to cultivate the ideal environment for growth.
How to Set Yourself Up To Win
Forcing functions are a simple but powerful way to help you achieve your goals by making it easier to take action. They work by removing the option to make certain mistakes (whoops, I’m on Facebook again!), freeing up your brainpower to focus on what matters most.
Instead of relying on willpower or constantly reminding yourself to stay on track, you create an environment that naturally supports the behaviors you want to see.
By creating an environment that outsources desired behaviors, forcing functions allow you to make one decision that makes all other decisions either easier or irrelevant.
Examples of forcing functions include: deleting phone apps you compulsively use, putting your phone out of reach, or leaving your charger at home so that you have only a limited amount of time to work on your laptop when working at the coffee shop in the afternoon.
Forcing functions can be a game-changer when it comes to productivity, as they help you stay on task without having to constantly battle your own impulses.
Other types of forcing functions include: High consequences for poor performance, high upfront investments, social pressure (accountability and sharing publicly), and real deadlines.
To sum up, willpower alone is not enough to achieve our goals, but by outsourcing the need for willpower to our environment through strategic design and forcing functions, we can make the journey to success much smoother and more sustainable.
When we create an environment that naturally supports the behaviors we want to see and removes the option to make certain mistakes, we free up our brainpower to focus on what matters most.
So, the next time you're struggling to achieve your goals, remember that success is not just about willpower but also about creating the right environment for growth and progress.