Willpower Doesn’t Work Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: Willpower Doesn’t Work shows you how to change your life in a more efficient way than relying on sheer grit alone by identifying the importance of your environment and other factors that affect your productivity so you can become your best self.

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Do you remember the last goal you accomplished and how good it felt? Perhaps you were proud of shedding some weight. Or it could have been simply waking up early to exercise. Whatever it was you accomplished, it likely involved a lot of willpower.

But getting enough self-discipline to get stuff done is tough. What if there was a way you could become ultra-productive and reach your dreams without having to just push through in misery each time?

Benjamin Hardy is here to teach us how in his book Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success.

Here are just 3 of the many awesome lessons from this one:

  1. Intentionally design your environment for success instead of worrying about willpower.
  2. Optimize separate spaces for work and play for maximum productivity and fulfillment.
  3. Quickly and firmly get rid of anything and everything that makes reaching your goals harder and requires willpower to resist. 

Are you pumped up to learn why Willpower Doesn’t Work and what to do instead? Let’s go!

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Lesson 1: Stop worrying about self-discipline if you want to change your life, instead, intentionally design your environment.

If you’ve read any of the books on willpower, you know that it’s like a muscle. In the same way that you can lift weights to improve your strength, you can grow this muscle with exercise. 

Improving yourself shouldn’t be that hard then, right? It’s as easy as just pushing a little harder each day to make reaching your goals easier tomorrow! 

Unfortunately, however, willpower isn’t a very strong muscle. There are many outside forces that quickly exhaust it, making it hard to stay afloat. But the good news is that it’s not your fault.

The obesity epidemic is a good example. You might have caught yourself thinking that if we all just ate healthier we wouldn’t be so fat. If only we had more willpower, right? 

Actually, it’s not our problem but the environment of sedentary work and fast-food that has made us all overweight. If we can intentionally design this and any other environment, we’ll make improving ourselves almost inevitable.

Consider the difference between the two types of evolution:

  • Natural Evolution, which is where organisms evolve based on their situations. 
  • Domesticated Evolution, that involves controlling the environment of an organism to make it evolve as you want it to. 

Most often we just let ourselves evolve naturally, succumbing to the negative effects of a world that tries to make us fat, depressed, and in debt. 

But when we intentionally design our environment, like in domesticated evolution, everything changes. Let’s get into how to do this in our next lesson.


Lesson 2: If you want to be happy, productive, and successful, designate specific, separate places for work and play.

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely altered our world. Hidden in all of the restrictions it’s brought with it are some benefits, like you being able to work from home. But, as you’re well aware, that added time with your family comes at a cost. 

Productivity isn’t easy when you work and play in the same location. And if you’ve got kids, as I do, that adds a whole other struggle to this dilemma. It’s not easy to get in some deep work when you’ve got a 4-year-old and 2-year-old asking for breakfast!

“Work hard, play hard” is a good mantra to live by but it needs some adjusting for this day and age. We need to add the idea that we must do each in a different place if we want to be the most efficient! 

Not having any stress might sound nice, but it robs you of the benefits of healthy stress, or eustress, which can help you reach your full potential. Having the right amount of pressure is the perfect way to avoid distraction and laziness.

When you intentionally designate one space for work and one for play, you optimize your body’s ability to work hard and recover. Set aside a room as your office where you only work, and another for relaxation, where you only spend time relaxing.

Lesson 3: If you have something in your life that requires willpower to resist, quickly and firmly choose to eliminate it.

You need to get rid of the things that make it hard to reach your goals. That’s not an easy thing to do, but if you go into it with the right mentality, it gets much easier. 

One successful CEO had an experience taking some Boy Scouts camping that shows how not to look at this. They hiked into their spot, set up their tents, and went to bed like usual. 

But when this leader woke up in the morning he was surprised to see one young man looking exhausted and ruffled. After questioning what was going on the boy reported that he didn’t use his sleeping bag because he didn’t want to have to re-pack it in the morning!

This sounds ridiculous but sometimes you do this same thing when it comes to big decisions in life. You hem and haw over what the right choice is when if you just bit the bullet and decided you could save yourself from a lot of long-term regrets.

When designing your environment for success, take this no-nonsense attitude into your efforts. Start by clearing up your phone from distractions. Get rid of the time-waster apps that are your go-to’s when you’re tired or bored from working.

If you’re trying to eat healthier and lose weight, go to your closet and throw away all sugary foods immediately. Don’t hesitate! 

You’ll be grateful you did when, instead of having to use willpower to make a good choice, your intentionally designed environment makes it easy to be your best self!

Willpower Doesn’t Work Review

I’ve liked everything I’ve read from Ben Hardy since I first started reading his stuff back in 2018. Willpower Doesn’t Work has been on my list to check out for a while and my only regret is that I wish I’d read it sooner! This is an excellent book that’s sure to boost your productivity immediately after reading it.

Who would I recommend the Willpower Doesn’t Work summary to?

The 31-year-old that’s trying to lose weight but wonders why it’s so difficult, the 48-year-old entrepreneur that wants to reach their full potential, and anyone that struggles to be consistently productive.

Last Updated on July 23, 2023

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Luke Rowley

With over 450 summaries that he contributed to Four Minute Books, first as a part-time writer, then as our full-time Managing Editor until late 2021, Luke is our second-most prolific writer. He's also a professional, licensed engineer, working in the solar industry. Next to his day job, he also runs Goal Engineering, a website dedicated to achieving your goals with a unique, 4-4-4 system. Luke is also a husband, father, 75 Hard finisher, and lover of the outdoors. He lives in Utah with his wife and 3 kids.