Episode 64: Willpower doesn’t work...you need to improve your environments

Let’s discuss why willpower doesn’t work...

 Welcome to the SPS Podcast

"If you remain stuck in the same roles and patterns, it doesn’t matter how much willpower you exert; your efforts will continue to be confined within the limiting context of your role. You’ll remain hostage to a context that you mistakenly believe to be fixed identity."

- Dr Benjamin Hardy



Willpower doesn't work...

And shallow hacks won't fix your focus.

Boom...off to a big start this week.

For years I was on a mission to improve my willpower to help me improve my focus.

Building my willpower muscle was an important part of my early successes.

I'm sure if you're like me you've walked this path.


You've thought...

"Only if I could improve my willpower...I could do more?"


While I was on this willpower journey...I used as many systems and hacks as I could to get my sh*t done.


The sheer number of systems you can use is endless...

But...I still struggled to improve my willpower.


I began to wonder why. I even thought...is improving willpower a red herring...are you treating the symptoms of bad focus...not the cause?


This line of thinking led me to improve my energy and environments.


With willpower... you're asking a tired or distracted version of yourself to work harder or get focused.


With energy management...you're removing low energy from the equation.


I started to ignore willpower and energy management became a core focus of building my focus muscle...with better...


Sleep... diet...exercise...


I noticed I could focus for longer...did this solve my issues...had I found a replacement for willpower?


Yes and no.


Here's the thing...


While improving your sleep...diet...exercise...will improve your focus...


There's a deeper level that proves willpower doesn't work.


There's a deeper level that most people ignore...one I ignored for years...and one I'm sure you don't think about often.


What is it?


Your environments.


It's how you set your life up with your inner and external mental...emotional...and physical environments.


It took a deep rut in life to learn this lesson.

Let's take a look at it...


The shift in how I approached willpower and focus happened in 2016.


It was a crazy year...I worked in 3 different places and had 3 months off... all before the start of September.


As I've told you already...For years I was fighting myself to improve my willpower and focus...I got some wins with energy management.


But...I was not happy where I worked...I was angry at myself for waiting until my 30s to get my sh*t together...I was chasing job titles and income figures.


I knew I needed a new approach.


First I changed jobs...but I brought my mental and emotional BS with me.


I moved from a general manager in luxury clothes to a sales guy in a luxury car dealership in February 2016.


While I made decent money...I was still not happy...I got frustrated and annoyed.


I was not drinking...I was going to bed early...I was eating well...I had goals...I was doing everything I thought I was supposed to be doing.


But yet here I was still in a rut.


It hit me hard....willpower is f**king useless against the weight of mental... emotional...and physical barriers.


I needed a break and quit the car sales job in June 2016.


I was burnt out...willpower...brute force...or let's say discipline doesn't work if you don't have the right foundations.


Let me explain...


While energy management and good habits can cover the cracks for a while...if you're not improving your core mental... emotional...physical worlds...you will hit a brick wall.


I know I did.


During the summer of 2016...I spent 3 months doing work on those 3 pillars.


Did I need to take 3 months to do this...no


But...I knew...whatever job I went back into I wanted to ensure I didn't fall into the same trap of relying on willpower to cover deeper barriers.


It took me until the end of August to find a new role...I transitioned from retail sales to work in insurance.


With the right inner and external mental... emotional...physical foundations built...I was promoted 3 times in 5 years while working in 7 different roles or projects.


In 2021 I left to start my coaching business.


This approach of ignoring willpower for improving focus is a core principle of my coaching.


Often...the business owners I work with are in the willpower trap.


Their energy management is off and their mental... emotional...physical foundations need repairing.


Frustrated and overwhelmed...they push themselves to get their sh*t done but never make a BIG dent in their work.


Days...weeks...months of stagnation go by in a flash.


It happens to the best of us.

It happened to me for a few years.

It might even be happening to you right now.


That's why we need to fix our environments.




Your internal and external environments are more important than willpower.


Let’s look at how you can start to fix your mental...emotional...physical pillars in more depth:


1) Mental Environment:


It’s a cliche but it all starts with your mindset.


How you show up mentally will determine your results.


If you think you can you will

If you think you can’t you won’t

If you think negatively your world will be


But what type of mental environment are you in right now?


Ask yourself what you are paying attention to:

• Are you focusing on the positive mentally?

• What ideas...goals...targets are you focused on?

• What books...podcasts...programs are you consuming?


Your inputs and thinking will impact you.


The biggest shift I had in this area...was becoming aware of the negative voice in my head.


90% of the time...it's not a useful voice to listen to.


2) Physical Environment:


If you want to succeed the physical world you live in needs to support you.


If you want to succeed you must treat your body in a way that supports you.


Living in a mess...never eating well...or never working out limits your success.


How can you change your physical world to support your success?


• Do you like your job...home...car?

• Do you exercise daily...weekly...never?

• How tidy are your working and living areas?

• What physical friction is there stopping you from achieving your goals?


Once I understood this to my core...I knew I had to leave certain jobs and walk away from certain relationships.


3) Emotional Environment:


Often overlooked or ignored by productivity gurus.


But it’s one of the most crucial elements of a successful life.


You must overcome the emotional junk holding you back from reaching your potential.


Shallow hacks and systems don't go this deep...and trying to use willpower while carrying a bunch of emotional junk is hard work.


How can you create positive emotional environments?


• Are you in any toxic relationships?

• Do your friends and family support your goals?

• What negative emotions are you holding on to?

• Are you journaling...meditating...or creating alone time?

• Are you chasing or desiring external markers of success?


If you want to improve your focus.... knowing your emotions matters.


Out of all the pillars...this was the one I did the most work with.


I was chasing. I was trying to catch up. I wanted success too much.


Because of this period I know...to grow we must let go.


Working these 3 pillars is vital...imo


You can complain about your lack of focus...you can try and build your willpower or...


You can fix your environments.


• Find the right people who support you.

• Be around bigger ideas and rewarding content.

• Create a frictionless and aesthetic world to live in.


Healthier inner and external environments make it easier to succeed.


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Big love,
Fan of sorting out your environments