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Willpower Doesn't Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success

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If you’re relying on willpower alone to help you lose weight, improve your relationships, or achieve more at work, you’re doomed to fail. The environment around us is far too powerful, stimulating, addicting, and stressful to overcome by white knuckling. The only way to stop just surviving and learn to truly thrive in today’s world is to proactively shape your environment.

That’s the premise of Willpower Doesn’t Work by Medium.com’s most-read writer, Benjamin Hardy. Building on copious existing research, as well as his own experience of growing up in a broken family afflicted by addiction and drug use, Hardy explains how people can change their lives on every level by making small, impactful changes in their environment like:

* Creating “enriched environments”–using tougher challenges and personal investment to force yourself to rise to the occasion.

* Growing into your goals-creating multiple layers of accountability to ensure you stay on track.

* Becoming the teacher-stepping into a leadership role (even before you think you’re ready) to accelerate your skill development and commitment.

* Rotating your environments-getting out of your rut by literally changing your physical surroundings throughout the day or week.

From simple steps like removing things that conflict with your values (like junk food, junk media, even junk people), to incorporating new tools (like fasting or embedding “positive triggers” to avoid self-sabotage), these strategies are how you proactively shape your surroundings so you can consciously evolve into the person you want to become.

256 pages, Hardcover

First published March 6, 2018

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About the author

Benjamin P. Hardy

14 books315 followers
Dr. Benjamin P Hardy is an organizational psychologist with a Ph.D. from Clemson University, and a father of six. He currently lives in Windermere, Florida

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5 stars
1,149 (38%)
4 stars
985 (33%)
3 stars
590 (19%)
2 stars
170 (5%)
1 star
65 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 375 reviews
Profile Image for Kelly.
4 reviews2 followers
December 3, 2018
Willpower is the only thing that got me through this book.
13 reviews5 followers
July 24, 2018
While this book conveys some useful piece of advice, it's also somewhat trivial and repetitive. The author keeps saying that "Willpower doesn't work" and that you should "offload it to your environment". What remains unclear is how exactly to do that (that is to create and sustain a proper environment) without exerting a lot of willpower and deliberate practice.

I don't think that the author fulfills his promise of "raising the bar", that is giving us the book that is substantially better than anything else in this area. I'd argue that classics like 7 Habits of Highly Effective People will have a much more profound impact on your life and personal management.

For me, this book is just a collection of quite random ideas. I do think that many of them are useful, but I lack deeper reasoning and critique. I think that some of those ideas can actually be dangerous when taken for granted. One example could be Dr. Bruce Linen and his Epigenetics. After doing a very quick research, you'll found that his ideas are highly controversial and you should be very wary about everything he says. I think the same applies to the content of this book.

To sum up: While I do think that many ideas expressed in the book are useful, you may be better of reading other higher-quality books or, at least, read with care.

One thing that I didn't really like was the "marketing" of this book. Hardy tried really hard to make it a bestseller and, for example, offered people discounts for his courses when they buy 10 copies. He also asked all participants of his course "52 Weeks of Momentum" to write a review. As a result, you'll find many five-star reviews on Amazon - I do think that it's misleading; please, try to read some negative reviews before you become too excited about this book!
* 1-star reviews: https://www.amazon.com/Willpower-Does...
* 2-star reviews: https://www.amazon.com/Willpower-Does...
- especially this one! https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-re...
Profile Image for Jenifer.
543 reviews25 followers
November 21, 2022
I’d recommend “Mindset” by Carol Dweck or “Change Anything” by Kerry Patterson as better alternatives. This book seemed to be an aggregate/repeat of the material presented in the other two books, but less “scholarly” and less compelling.
Irritated that he doesn’t site studies or research and quotes little-known and non-academic men who are not subject matter experts when an abundance of scholarly work is available on the subject. (See books mentioned above.)
Profile Image for Jo.
84 reviews2 followers
April 2, 2018
This book focuses on environmental design - you hack your environment to help you achieve goals and develop positive habits. Since your environment is crucial to success, you should have different environments for different work or purposes. In your sacred space, you should journal, visualize, pray, etc. In your work environment, you should have no distractions and only work. You get the idea.
I think this book is probably geared towards entrepreneurs. The ideas were on creating work spaces (which if you have a regular ol' job, you don't really do that), marketing, and creative entrepreneurial work.
Hardy skimmed the surface on some topics that could help you hack your space, like minimalism, Essentialism, Deep Work, the Kondo method. However, these topics have their own books with a great deal of success. Maybe that's why he only mentioned them in passing?
Hardy used mostly stories rather than concrete science to reinforce his thesis. He did mention some studies, but he didn't cite sources in footnotes or in a bibliography. One of the studies he mentioned, I decided to research a little more. Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene function that do not involve changes in the DNA sequence. This is a very controversial idea! I plan on reading Bruce Lipton's book, The Biology of Belief, and counter arguments to his theory. Hardy sells epigenetics like it is already well researched and proven in science.
I also went on to read the Amazon reviews because this book was doing so well. I didn't think it was all that and a bag of chips... Apparently, Hardy has marketed his book leveraging social media gimmicks I've seen used by novice/newer writers with a presence online. Like, being entered in a Tesla drawing if you took a pic with the book, shared on social media, and wrote an essay to post on Amazon about how the book changed your life. No lie, smart marketing, Hardy. I do not think this book is life-changing. Like I said, it only skims the surface of other topics. He does give a few concrete suggestions on hacking your environment. None of it is DEEP, the way other self-help books I have read in the past. I only got a little out of this investment.
I give this a three star because it is an interesting idea that I will have to explore on my own, the writing was not full of jargon, and it is just an average personal development book. I will not take off stars based on marketing schemes.
147 reviews
February 22, 2018
Excellent book outlining why willpower is insufficient to effect real change in yourself. Hardy's theme is that you need to change your environment to change yourself. He offers clear, doable ways to do this and alerts you to hidden pitfalls and how to avoid them. The writing is clear, the examples pertinent and inspiring. A valuable contribution to the personal development genre.
Profile Image for Romans Karpelcevs.
179 reviews47 followers
January 5, 2019
The book's premise is about changing your environment rather than yourself, and I firmly believe it is much more realistic to do so. It offers good advice and prompted me to have many ideas how I could apply them.

However, as it often happens, title is very overselling and distorting the book's content. First of all, it still relies heavily on similar concepts and research as "willpower instinct" and "power of habit" do, even when it said it doesn't. It takes willpower to change your environment too, and it takes willpower to follow on many other advice.
Second, author tried to only use "willpower" as a word which describes the moment when you're already looking at the cake with a fork in your hand and exerting willpower to not eat it. I believe it takes willpower to avoid seeing cakes too, or going outside and deliberately finding them (which I do even when my home is filled with nice and healthy options). Author probably realised that his premise only covers "avoid seeing a cake", so he tries to add more random techniques like deliberate willpower exercises towards the end of the book which don't fit the title, but could be useful nonetheless.

I'd still recommend the book to anyone who has willpower troubles. So I guess, to almost everyone in the world, right?
Profile Image for Mandy Horine.
8 reviews
July 7, 2018
I could not finish this book. I rarely leave a book unfinished, but 20% in to reading this book and all I’ve learned is that this writer loves to use examples that don’t always make sense, and he loves to repeat himself. In my opinion the writing is terrible. I don’t recommend this book.
Profile Image for Trevor Dayley.
19 reviews7 followers
February 23, 2019
Do yourself a favor and read this book

One of the best, most inspiring books I've ever read. I just finished and I'm excited to go back through all my highlights and even start reading it a second time. Life changing for sure!
Profile Image for Brittany.
567 reviews
April 21, 2018
I LOVED 90% of this book. The other 10% made me want to claw my eyes out. Wish Hardy had included citations for more credibility.
Profile Image for Lisa.
632 reviews
May 1, 2018
Meh. Fundamental principles delivered via label-heavy, derivative methods. Do with your life as you will, via soul power! Book will provide a lightning rod for insightful lively discussion among book clubs. Certain common sense methods always work - remove temptation, time and diet impacters - but really must you pay $25k to "mentors" for entry into an elitist community where you can call others "losers" if they're choosing a different path for their own soul work? Because you feel shame for at one time in your life you engaged in the same activities when you were "lost." Ah, then read Brene Brown to help you accept your shame, heal your soul wounds and move on. Name calling, superiority, feeding your ego are the challenges of humanity. This book flies in the face - and falls - against other more soulful guidance books. Timeless quotes from deep-thinking teachers get twisted in this missive - (paraphrasing Plutarch) yes, you learn to limp living with a lame man... it's called developing empathy for another's life situation/choices, not self-crippling, blame-pointing. Maybe it's your soul's calling to carve your friend a cane rather than limp alongside him because you are blessed with perfectly working legs. Already bought this book? Read it with an open mind, heart, and eyes and help others around you through kindness, compassion, empathy. Go create a schedule where you hold yourself and your "students" accountable in reaching their goals. Then cheer yourself & them on during the journey. Be mindful in your choices. Accept responsibility for those choices, including your environment and genetics - but never allow those choices and elements to define you, limit your dreams. Go write your own book. Hardy did, hooray for him! Now it's your time!
Profile Image for Greg Hickman.
2 reviews6 followers
August 23, 2018
Essential for business owners.

Do what the book says and audit your life and environment ASAP. You’ll find opportunities to make small changes that yield Big returns.
Profile Image for Hafiz M.
39 reviews2 followers
May 4, 2020
Buku yang sangat baik, selama ni aku anggap jika seseorang nak berubah dia perlukan kepada Willpower yang tinggi. Tapi selepas saja aku baca, environment lebih penting daripada willpower.
Profile Image for Rome.
35 reviews
March 31, 2018
I got to know of Ben’s writing from when I started writing on Medium in 2015. He was already a top-tier writer back then and I somehow resonated with his ideas so I began following him. He released a free book (Slipstream) in 2016, I read it and I liked what I read. So when he released this book about willpower, I didn’t hesitate to buy it.

Having read it in only about a month, I must say I was glued to the idea that everyone can change and that we don’t have to keep committing the mistake of attributing everything to ourselves. There’s just so many other factors that affect us and one that we must pay attention to right now is our environment.

I think this book is really helpful for making a change in one’s life be it in one’s studies, works, eating habits, etc. Being in control of your environment instead of being controlled by it is one skill we must all learn. And this book tells us of that and many more.

I also like the stories Ben shared about real people with real struggles in life.

It’s a very wholesome book, indeed.
Profile Image for Dianna Roberts.
2 reviews1 follower
February 26, 2018
Excellent book! Easy to read. Ben twisted my perception of “how to become successful.” Over the last couple weeks I’ve been employing his tactics as I read them. Wow! Already I’ve seen changes in my progression. Thank you, Ben Hardy, for your insightful advice.
Profile Image for إسلام جمال.
Author 8 books1,759 followers
May 11, 2021
In the past, people were more slimmer than today! They didn’t need to rely on willpower to stay slim. What’s changed since then is our environment. These days, rather than working outdoors, most of us work sedentary jobs and sit at our desks all day. And the nourishment we rely on is often unhealthy food from a package.

The idea is to design an environment that leaves you no choice but to “adapt” into your self-ideal.
Profile Image for Max Peters.
6 reviews8 followers
January 31, 2019
I really like Ben Hardy, so I expected more from this book.

Here are some interesting ideas though:

>> If you so choose, you can proactively place yourself into situations that demand ten times or a hundred times more than you’ve ever dealt with before.
you are either rising up or shrinking down from the demands of your situation.
>>The expectations of those around you establish your own personal rules and expectations.
Human beings evolved needing two key types of environments: high stress and high recovery.
Running marathons isn’t how you get healthy. Sprinting and recovering are.
>>You need to be tasked with projects beyond your current capacity.
>>You must first be a certain way, then act from that place, in order to have what you want. Be → Do → Have.
>>The richness of your environment can be measured by how regularly you are in a flow state while in that environment.
>>Learning involves a permanent change in how you see and act in the world.
>>When it comes to creative and mental work, rather than working according to arbitrary social norms, such as nine to five, it’s best to work according to your highest and best energy levels.
Profile Image for Katrusya.
125 reviews19 followers
August 19, 2019
Несподівано добра книжка.
Багато повторювання однієї і тієї самої ідеї, яку можна зловити ще зі вступу. Багато прикладів, які мігрують з книги в книгу, багато розповідей автора про себе, який він молодець. Але:

1. Інколи з криниці тиші та перезавантаження треба вилазити по драбинці підбадьорливих слів
2. Автор вкотре нагадує про всі ті корисні звички, які ти давно хотів втілити а значить - пора пора
3. Чудесна обкладинка Стронґа, через якого я й дізналася про книгу)

Всім любов, хай серпень завершується прочитано.
Profile Image for Dominic Robin.
84 reviews41 followers
December 19, 2019
Fine ideas, but cite your ideas, dude! I don't care if "so-or-so" anecdotal person does something; that has not holding power for me. I would rather have half the ideas and four times the evidence.
Profile Image for Jeremy Ray.
Author 6 books291 followers
August 10, 2022
I had heard about Willpower Doesn’t Work only once in a blog recommendation. In fact, I only ended up getting this because I was waiting on other audiobook loans from my library to arrive and I needed something to read while I waited. I’m so glad I read it when I did.

A lot of the self-improvement books emphasize willpower. And for a while, just reading a motivational book will give you some motivation to change. But once it fizzles out, so do the habits and goals I wanted to achieve. I thought there was something wrong with me because my willpower wasn’t strong enough. Hearing Dr. Benjamin Hardy break down studies on why willpower doesn’t work lifted a weight off my shoulders. It was healing hearing that it wasn’t just me. We might proudly talk about New Year’s resolutions, but talking about failure and why we failed is sort of taboo in our society.

In this book, Benjamin doesn’t just break down willpower, he explains how we are hard-wired to become the environment around us, and by knowing this, how to manipulate our environment to work in our favor.

Out of all the self-help books I’ve read, and I’ve read many, Willpower Doesn’t Work is one of the life-changing ones for me. If you, like me, have been hard on yourself or haven’t followed through on one of your goals, maybe this is also for you. 
Profile Image for Olya Didyk.
23 reviews1 follower
November 3, 2020
Мені книжка сподобалася! Автор пропонує досягати своїх цілей просто змінивши своє середовище. Сила волі тут виступає останнім варіантом.
Саме тому примушувати себе не є необхідним, варто лише змінити своє оточення і досягнення певної мети буде простішим.

У книжці є дійсно практичні і корисні поради для оптимальної організації середовища.
Profile Image for Keely.
695 reviews30 followers
October 7, 2021
Eh. Interesting thoughts at times, I'll be thinking about it. But it could've been so much more. I also think a lot of the ideas won't be useful for a huge number of people, including myself, with some of them.

Like some of them makes sense, e.g. To trigger my body to know to go to sleep, I do the same action that I only do before I go to sleep. I think of a certain image. I also feel mentally better in a cleaner environment. I also feel like personality is fluid and isn't unchangeable, but our brains are programmed throughout our life by certain things, especially childhood. But some of them were a bit like "hmmmm? I'd like to hear the science behind this"

I would've loved to have references aswell, because it was hard to figure out, what was fact vs opinion. And more talk of all the studies that would've been both for and against his points.

And I know we want things to be simple...nothing is simple. Eveything is complicated. Like if someone taking on more than they can handle (to level up), some people might thrive and soar like his examples but I could also find examples of people who didn't thrive and broke. A mental breakdown can take years to "get over" or get you back to the point before the breakdown. Sometimes taking on more than you can handle isn't the best option. Stress kills and living in a high stress environment can cause serious health problems. Lack of sleep can cause health and mental problems too.

Also, it becomes very easy to jump off the cliff if you know you have a safety net. Ben doesn't seem to realise that or doesn't care. It's easy to throw yourself into a writing career with all your might 100% when you know someone else will help with bills, therefore you can give 100% rather than 10% you can give after youve got home from the job that keeps you from being homeless. Ben made that jump because he had money coming in from his in laws. He is lucky. Most people I know would love to help others with money but barely have two pennies themselves.
Profile Image for Suzanne Noakes.
44 reviews
March 22, 2019
This book styles itself as breaking through stultifying myths and misinformation that is holding people back from real and meaningful change. The author is basically gnawing the bones of the old nature vs. nurture argument that every Psych 101 class discusses. While he did make a valid point that change is the operation of agency (one's will or self-determination) within the local environment--which lands on the conclusion that most psych students arrive at: it is a combination of both nature and nurture--his arguments are flawed.

He uses strawman arguments to refute nurture, attributing positions and perspectives that the nurture side doesn't argue, while omitting positions and arguments that the nurture side holds in common with the nature side. One example he uses is dieting, saying that one has to get rid of off-the-menu food in order to succeed in dieting. No! Really?? I've never heard dieting guru argue otherwise, but he implies that he has found the fatal flaw in their approach in this salient point.

Fortunately, this book was a freebie from Audible. I grew frustrated with his oversimplifications and decided to change my environment...I deleted the audiobook from my device. #environmentalwin
Profile Image for Stephen.
216 reviews6 followers
February 17, 2019
I decided to check out this book after listening to an interesting interview with the author on The Jordan Harbinger Show Podcast. However, I came away underwhelmed and disappointed.

Half the time, I can't fathom what the author is rambling about, and why. It doesn't help that the writing is bland and the author takes too darn long to drive home his points (if at all).

No amount of willpower will get you through this disorganised, directionless book without frustration. It doesn't befit its title by trying to scratch the surface of everything remotely related to success (and not succeeding).

You will possibly come across plenty of shallow 5-star reviews here and on Amazon, but do check out the 1-star reviews to understand what was going on, especially this one: https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-re....
Profile Image for Tauri Laane.
350 reviews82 followers
December 13, 2021
Funny story with this one. My friend complimented about a book recommendation, saying that it is truly great and that he clearly understands how I live my productive live by the core principles of that book. Well, as it turned out, I did NOT recommend this book to him, since I had not heard about that one :) But just finished it and indeed, I nod to all the ideas and live my life this way. Got some additional good notes and now I truly am recommending this book. The main concept: We don���t have to improve ourselves, we just have to improve our environment - and we will automatically change to fit that new environment.
Some thoughts from this book:
Willpower is for people who haven’t really decided what they want in life. They say they want one thing, while doing/wanting also the opposite. Want to be fit, but also want the cookie. They haven’t truly made up their mind.
Remove everything in your life that conflicts with your decisions. Remove the gravitational pull from the environment where you can not thrive in.
The abilities and productivity of any man could be doubled when the situation really demands it - so the key to productivity is not the person itself, but the situation and environment. The civilization is forged out of necessity and demanding situations - that bring out the best in men.
You are not what you eat - but what that (meat) was eating before ending on the table. In the same way we are not only the mixture of our 5 closest friends, but also who they are communicating with. So when the friends of a close friends are getting fatter, this will have an effect on You.
We judge ourselves by our actions so our actions end up defining us. So choose wisely what you are doing. Our Behavior doesn't come from our personality - but our personality comes from our behavior.
When a guy frugal with money buys an expensive Tesla, it will probably improve his business - because of who he seems himself, how others see him. More confident, more trustworthy image.
Every environment has an agenda!
Sooner or later every environment will change people to their level - so there is not much sense in fighting it with willpower. In our western culture there are so many subconscious norms existing (consumerism etc) so You will be drawn towards them anyway. Choose your environment and You will choose to what you will change to.
With some special people and the right environment you will achieve your life's purpose and goals - but among other people you will be lazy and without any direct agenda. Just existing.
In a chess game, the pieces do not have a fixed value - but it depends on what other pieces are left and what positions they have on the board. The same is with employees - they do not have a fixed value, but greatly depends how they are put into use, if the work they do brings out the best in them. In some teams and environments they will be thriving, in others not.
Self development field for decades has been massively focused on the individual - because we live in a culture of individualism. Author is predicting more and more books on the subject of environment, not the individual.
When you envision your future self, don’t just focus on you as the individual - but how the new environment will bring out the best in you.
Some high achievers have 2 environments: where they work (city), and where they chill (country or other city). While the first brings out the most productive side, the latter is pushing for leisure time and leisure feelings.
Have a sacred place for leisure, for relaxing, for envisioning. Do not do that in your productive environment. Push to have two environments in Your life.
Every person who wants a change, needs to have a morning ritual to set himself up for a different day than the default they would have otherwise.
Our confidence matches our current life - because if it were different, the life would be different.
Michael Jordan: “once I made a decision, I never thought about it again”. Most people make shallow commitments.
Make an effort to gather around You people who you want to become. For You will become like the people around you.
We will always fall down on our default choices. Work on Your defaults to be great. Effective life = effective defaults.
To break the old patterns, break the old environment. For smokers even choosing another entrance to the workplace will help stopping the need for smoking in front of the doorway.
When making changes in life, it's better to jump into the cold pool, not slowly tip one toe in. You will adjust to cold quite quickly jumping in - but slow anticipation hurts a lot.
Always train and practice with people far above your level. Keep surrounding yourself with steadily better competition and teachers.
When you pay much to a mentor, you also pay much attention.
A good mentor will leave you DISSATISFIED with your current level, work, life. In a good sense.
Performance improves when it is measured and REPORTED.
Having clarity doesn't mean knowing all the 50 steps to finish. It's knowing the next 3-4.
Setting 10x goals forces people to radically change the current path. By setting only 2x goals people do not aim for radical changes in their life.
Independence must not be the goal, but synergy. Don't be a lone ranger. When You are doing things alone, you are limited - but with other people it’s the first change to create something totally new. The same is with your organization (if You are a leader) - don’t keep it all to yourself, but mix with other organization for synergy and new ideas.
Profile Image for Sara Fisher.
8 reviews6 followers
September 20, 2018
I couldn't get through this book. I kept waiting for him to get to his point but he was just rambling about how awesome he is for adopting his kids and how amazing it is to have mega-rich friends so he can just up and go to their huge ranches to get away and reflect on what a neglectful spouse he's been. At that point, I quit. It was beginning to sound like an Evangelical marriage renewal testimony. Look, I agree with the premise. But the presentation left a lot to be desired. Maybe go back and cut out all the personal self-backslapping and it might be half-way decent.
Profile Image for Lauren.
108 reviews1 follower
March 22, 2018
This book is a paradigm shifter. Benjamin's message is not about easy fixes to change your life, it is about taking responsibility of what you can and outsourcing energy to a positive environment so that we don't need to spend as much time gritting out way to the life we desire. It is a truly inspired look at human choices and goal achievement. Benjamin says things how they are without sugar coating them. You can tell he walks the walk.
Profile Image for Hưng Hoàng.
4 reviews
June 21, 2018
This book's title is not a click bait and the book DOES contain keys to success. The advice and strategies here are no magic formula, no genie-in-the-bottle sort of thing, but they are simple, plausible and practical. This book means a lot to me. You can see a little bit of filler and recycled ideas but it's worth reading.
Profile Image for Marie.
212 reviews2 followers
June 20, 2018
It was a great book, but I feel like some important suggestions were just grazed over, and there could have been a lot more 'meat'. I would read a section and it would abruptly end before it really took off.
36 reviews2 followers
July 30, 2018
This is a different angle on being more productive: don’t rely on willpower alone. Remove bad stimuli, remove bad actors, remove anything negative from your environment and build an environment of accountability and one that helps you reach your goals.
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