343: The Power of Your Environment

–ONE of my favorite philosophers, Jordan Peterson, wrote; You are neither your own master nor your own slave. You cannot easily tell yourself what to do and compel your own obedience.

This raises a question, if we are neither our own slave nor slavemaster, what can we do to modify our behavior? An intriguing answer came in an advanced readers copy of the book Willpower Doesn’t Work by Benjamin Hardy. According to Hardy’s premise, willpower isn’t what you need to succeed. In fact, efforts to be your own slavemaster can backfire and ultimately defeat you.

Instead, to change your nature Hardy recommends changing your environment. The basic premise is described in the first chapeter–Every Hero is the Product of a Situation: Understanding the Power of Surroundings. The title explains the basics and I found further explanation fascinating. The main idea is that our environment defeats us or propels us forward in powerful ways that few fully understand. 

Later chapters detail why willpower is overvalued, how to outsource motivation, and how High Stress/High Recovery environments promote success (among other topics). The last concept is so interesting I hope to devote an entire blog post to it shortly.

Some of the ideas are well known by artists, such as how designating a specific space to paint will help you succeed. But it is interesting to read exactly why such modifications to our environments have such a powerful effect.

One of the most practical chapters, about using Forcing Functions to achieve goals, helped me see how I intuitively used Forcing Functions in the past and how I can consciously use the concept with greater effectiveness in the future. A Forcing Function is a strategy that forces you to comply with a goal. For example, if you want to get more exercise you might rent a studio close to your home so you can walk every day. The distance is calculated to be long enough to give adequate exercise yet short enough you won’t be tempted to drive. I purposely have no internet connection nor cable TV in my studio–I can’t waste time with those endeavors even if I wanted to. Such deprivation, a type of Forcing Function, also ensures I have time to get bored–since boredom is a powerful catalyst for creativity.

At 225 pages of well-crafted, easy prose, the book is a quick read and one of the best I have read in its category. For those perhaps too acquainted with self-help literature (I count myself in that category), this book gives a refreshing and productive spin on a familiar subject.

Brad Teare –January 2018

Above: Trinchera Stream, 20″ x 20″, available at Anthony’s Fine Art

Buy Brad’s Art Online Today

Updated: 19th June 2024
etsy store