Good Intentions Aren’t Enough. (Here’s How to Really Change Your Life)

Photo by Kal Visuals on Unsplash

Most people are well intentioned; they have big dreams and ambitions they want to achieve.

They want to start a podcast, develop a mourning journaling habit, or even just get up earlier.

Yet day after day, they find themselves stuck in the same routines to the remark of, ‘I’ll do it tomorrow.’

You’ve been there. You know it can feel impossible to change your life when momentum is working against you.

It can feel like you’re treading upstream and getting nowhere. Said Benjamin P. Hardy,

“Most people’s environment is like a rushing river, going the opposite direction of where they want to go. It takes a lot of willpower to tread upstream. It’s exhausting. Instead, you want your environment to literally be pulling you the direction you want to go.”

Here’s what needs to be understood.

Free Will is Contextual

“Choosing and shaping your environment is at the center of what “free will” really means, because your choice of environment and external influences will directly reflect in the person you become.” -Benjamin P. Hardy

Studies have shown, that roughly 45 percent of our daily behaviors are automated by habits; you get up, take a shower, brush your teeth and then head off to work all without too much conscious thinking.

Although, this also a bad thing. For example, it has been found that most people look at their smartphones around 100 times per day. Yet, most people believe they only look at their phones about 30–40 times per day.

Thus, at least half of those times are mindless and unintentional; they didn’t actively decide to pull out their phone and get sucked into a stream of distraction and entertainment but just found themselves doing it.

As Cal Newport wrote in his book, Digital Minimalism,

“Few want to spend so much time online, but these tools have a way of cultivating behavioral addictions. The urge to check Twitter or refresh Reddit becomes a nervous twitch that shatters uninterrupted time into shards too small to support the presence necessary for an intentional life.”

So, where is “free will” now?

The truth is, that unless you actively decide how you’re going to act in each situation, you will not have free will. Rather, you will unwittingly act out your bodies learned subconscious patterns or succumb to the social expectations of your environment.

The alternative is to decide how you’re going to act and then shape your environment to make your desired behavior inevitable.

The remainder of this article will break it down.

Photo by Raj Eiamworakul on Unsplash

Vowing, Even Intense Vowing Doesn’t Work. Make a Commitment Instead

“If you’re interested, you come up with stories, excuses, reasons, and circumstances about why you can’t or why you won’t. If you’re committed, those go out the window. You just do whatever it takes.” -John Assaraf

Until you’re committed, you haven’t actually decided what you want. You’re still emotional unsure and thus indecisive.

As a result, whenever the going gets tough, you’re going to have to actively decide what you’re going to do; you’ll have to rely on willpower to act in your desired ways.

And as you’ve probably learned by now, willpower doesn’t work — willpower isn’t actually enough. Said Benjamin P. Hardy,

“If you’re serious about the changes you want to make, willpower won’t be enough. Quite the opposite. Willpower is what’s holding you back.”

Good intentions aren’t going to save you.

Vowing, even intense vowing, is often useless. What works is making an unwavering commitment to the person you want to become and then immediately shaping your environment to reflect that commitment.

Change Your Defaults, Change Your Life

“You live in an addiction culture. Your environment is laden with trigger after trigger after trigger, such that if you don’t take command of your environment, your default will be a wrecked life.” -Benjamin P. Hardy

We all have defaults — behavior that seem easier or natural, the difference in how we lead our lives is in the quality of those defaults.

When your alarm sounds, do you hit the snooze button or do jump immediately out of bed?

When you reach into the kitchen cupboard do you crap a healthy snack or a bag chips?

What if there were no chips? What if your alarm was on the other side of the room? I bet your behavior would change and in turn your life.

Disrupt your environment and make the right choice the easy choice. We’re already inclined to favor a life of ease, don’t make acting out your desired behavior any harder on yourself.

In Conclusion

Good intentions aren’t enough.

Your free will is fleeting and eluding depending upon the environments in which you find yourself.

For the most part, your actions are not going to be a result of conscious thought, but rather, learned subconscious patterns and environmental expectations.

Vowing, even intense vowing doesn’t work. You need to make a commitment instead. Said Carol Dweck,

“Vowing, even intense vowing, is often useless. What works is making a vivid, concrete plan.”

Until you’re committed, you’ll always be emotionally unsure; you won’t really know what you want.

The alternative is to change your defaults and make the right choice the easy choice.

You get to design your environment and in turn your life. Who will you become?