Episode 92 – Dr. Benjamin Hardy, Finding Our Future Self

It is fitting that we wrap-up our 2020 New Year’s series with Dr. Benjamin Hardy. Dr. Hardy is an organizational psychologist who specializes in helping people achieve their desires by breaking free of self-limiting goals. Today, Jessica and Dr. Hardy get deep into some very practical ways you can reframe past memories and become the author of your identity.


Jessica: Hey everyone! Welcome back to the Going Scared podcast. This is your host Jessica Honegger, founder of the social impact fashion brand Noonday Collection. Join me here every week for conversations on living lives of purpose by leaving comfort and going scared.

Well, today we are wrapping up our series, our 2020 series that’s been all about rediscovering and recommitting to our intentions around health, wellness, happiness, homes. We’ve heard from my architect and designer about how we can make our house a home. We’ve heard from Bozoma Saint John about how we can have health in the workplace, Dr. Laurie Santos about happiness, Cassy Joy Garcia about health and wellness and efficient cooking in our homes, Jia Jiang about rejecting fear, Tonya Dalton all about how we can time manage using our priorities.

I have grown so much through all of these conversations, and I would love to hear your feedback. I know it’s hard because you’re probably in the middle of washing the dishes, or you’re on a run, or you’re maybe, I don’t know, at work, and it’s hard to remember to go back and do this. But if you could leave a review about this series, I would love to know what have been some of your key takeaways, And then, if you just want to hop over to Instagram, that is where I hang out, DM me. I want to learn more about what you’re learning from Going Scared.

Our next series is all about resilience. And I am excited to do a deep dive around that topic. OK, so today’s episode is the perfect wrap-up because it is with Ben Hardy. Ben Hardy is an organizational psychologist, and he’s the bestselling author of Willpower Doesn’t Work. OK, I know we’re all feeling it by now. This time in the year, if we were to look back at some of our intentions at the beginning of January, maybe even the beginning of the week, we haven’t stayed true to some of those intentions. We often can blame ourselves and think, “I just didn’t have enough willpower.” Our conversation today debunks all of that. What do you really need to put in place to achieve your goals? I think you’re going to be really surprised and delighted by today’s conversation with Dr. Benjamin Hardy. Give it a listen.


From Design to Decision

Jessica: So, we are actually in the final episode of our New Year series, which has been all about renewing and recommitting to our intentions around health, happiness, time management, yadda, yadda. All the new year stuff. So, I thought, "How much more appropriate would it be to have a conversation with you at the end of all of this," because you wrote a book that says Willpower Doesn’t Work. So, first, I wanted to hear, what is your definition of willpower?

Benjamin: How I describe it or, or how I view it, I mean it has a lot to do with your energy. So, there’s different terms for it in psychology. One could be ego depletion, which is essentially just energy, it’s the … One way of looking at it is you’ve got energy in the morning, but by the end of the day your energy is pretty fried. And with low energy you’re going to probably make bad decisions, such as binge watch TV or binge eat bad food.

So, part of it’s energy, the other part is decisions. And so, that concept is called decision fatigue. And basically, decision fatigue is making decisions requires a lot of willpower. When you have to think things through, even small things like, "Am I going to get out of bed?" If you have to make that decision, it taxes you.

And so, how I look … So, that’s kind of a way of looking at it, is just that we have limited resources … The general view is that there are limited resources on these things. And so, Willpower Doesn’t Work was kind of a way to say, "All right, so there’s limited resources on this thing and we know that it fails us more than not.” And so, what are the ways that we can avoid dealing with this inconsistent, limited resource and how can we make better decisions or put ourselves in better situations so that this isn’t the thing that is kind of what we’re using?

And there’s lots of … a lot of good psychology behind everything I’m saying. I mean even B.J. Fogg, who just came out with a book called Tiny Habits, he’s kind of … he’s a Stanford psychologist, very famous, probably the most famous psychologist on habit development. And really it was his research that inspired James Clear’s, or much of James Clear’s book Atomic Habits. But B.J.’s very clear that willpower is not the way to change. And he even has the term "design beats willpower," which is really an easy way to explain my book. Design is the setup, or how you orchestrate things or set them up.

But there’s a lot more. And we can talk about whatever way you want to go with this. But one of the big, big things that I didn’t communicate in Willpower Doesn’t Work well enough, which I’ve communicated a lot better since is that, aside from design, and design … being intentional about how you design your life, and even design your environment, such as, "I’m not going to have these types of foods or these types of … or these types of people in my life or these types of apps on my phone." Intentionally removing things is one aspect of design, but also how you set up a situation rather than fighting against a bad situation is one aspect of it. But the other kind of major one is intentionality in decision-making.

So, decision is actually the opposite of decision fatigue. So, what decision fatigue really means is that you’re still not totally decided on what’s going to happen, so you still have to make a decision. So, just as an example, let’s just say you’re not totally committed to a specific diet, but you want to be healthy. There’s a quote from the Harvard Business Professor Clayton Christensen, he says, "98% commitment is a lot harder." Actually, he says, "100% commitment is a lot easier than 98%." Because 98% means that you’re still not fully decided. And if you’re not decided, then what that means is that in every situation you’re in you have to make a decision.

So, it’s like, all right, you’re at a party, "Is this one of those situations where I’m going to eat the dessert?" You got to go through this mental back-and-forth, that’s decision fatigue. You’re literally wearing yourself out trying to make a decision, and you have to do that in every situation because you’re only 98% committed and you’re not really sure. And so, that’s where situation beats willpower.


Strategic Ignorance

Jessica: What are some of the hacks then? Because then it leads me to ask how do we get to that point of commitment?

Benjamin: Yeah. I mean, decision is key. I mean, I would even just start by saying make small decisions first. Start small. Just being able to make decisions requires some degree of confidence and some degree of, "What do you want?" You have to start to decide what you want, and that even requires a little bit of confidence. But starting small is helpful, even just getting small wins, making the bed in the morning, waking up when you said you were, you can do design things with that.

“Start small. Just being able to make decisions requires some degree of confidence … You have to start to decide what you want, and that even requires a little bit of confidence. But starting small is helpful, even just getting small wins.” Dr. Benjamin Hardy

So, just as an easy one, if you say you’re going to wake up at 5:00, you should probably have some … you could … you should have some form of design there. So, make it easy, have your alarm clock in the other room or across the room so you have to get up. That’s one step, but also, you got to know what you’re going to do. So, it’s a lot easier to wake up in the morning if you’ve already decided the night before the one thing you were going to do when you first wake up so that you don’t have to wake up and decide, "What am I going to do when I get up?" Because if you don’t know what you’re going to do first thing in the morning, then there’s not really a reason to get up, you’re sitting in bed having to think about what you’re going to have to do. And again, that’s like … being in a situation where you’re tired in bed and having to make a decision, that’s decision fatigue in action.

Jessica: Not a good combination.

Benjamin: No, that’s why willpower doesn’t work, is because you’re in bad situations that you … needlessly.

Jessica: But if we’re in those all the time, especially if we are a mom and we’re working and life.

Benjamin: Yeah, moms, working, life. It’s nuts, it’s crazy. And so, there are small, simple things that can alleviate that. One of the big ones is eliminating options, eliminating a lot of the options. One of the things I talk about in personality is strategic ignorance. So, there’s strategic ignorance and there’s strategic remembering, but strategic ignorance is literally removing all of the inputs or things that are coming at you that you already know you don’t want. But maybe you indulge in just for some reason or another or you leave various doors or relationships open for one reason or another, but you ultimately and intuitively know that they’re not healthy for you.

So, for me strategic ignorance is saying "no" to a lot of things, but it’s also knowing my own weaknesses. Knowing that if I go to certain places or if I’m aware of certain things, I can get sucked in. And just owning that it’s better to be ignorant about this thing, it’s better to not know. It’s better to just be uninformed or to be … And so, blocking things out. And that may require … I mean for me, I have an assistant.

Jessica: That means I don’t have to read the news.

Benjamin: Well, for me … Well, I would actually encourage you, if it’s not necessarily supporting your future self and supporting your goals, that it would be essential for you to be strategically ignorant of practically everything. There’s a really good book called The Paradox of Choice, and it talks about how we’re in the world of choice overload right now.

Jessica: Yeah.

Benjamin: Which leads to FOMO and really a lot of decision fatigue and a lot of low willpower. But you want to eliminate most options. I think this is how you build confidence. And it doesn’t mean that you can’t reopen some doors but I have five kids, there’s only so much me as one person can do.

“We’re in the world of choice overload right now. … which leads to FOMO and really a lot of decision fatigue and a lot of low willpower. But you want to eliminate most options. I think this is how you build confidence.” Dr. Benjamin Hardy

And so, you got to get better and better at saying, "This is what I’m going to go for, and this is what I’m going to be about." And this is … And there’s a lot of things that I wish I could do but I honestly just … I’m one human being. And so, I’m not going to be totally in the know. For me, I mean, I have … I love watching … I love watching sports commentary, personally.

Jessica: Libsyn, hello, of course.

Benjamin: Yeah. I mean yeah, totally, 100%. And I love watching NBA commentary and things like that, and just listening to these talking heads. But you get sucked from one thing to the next and … and after a while you just realize, I could have been totally unaware of all of this and my life would have been probably better.


Strategic Remembering

The other one is strategic remembering, which is kind of putting daily reminders all around your environment of your future self, of the person you plan to be. So, there’s a story of this painter named James Whistler, and he painted this little painting of roses that was just gorgeous. And I guess everyone … I don’t remember when Whistler lived, it must have been like in the early 1900s, it could have been 18. I really don’t know. It’s embarrassing to not know. But anyways, everyone wanted this painting and he wouldn’t sell it. And he just left it next to his desk because it reminded him of what was possible. And when he was having a down day or when he was not his best self or when he was not motivated and when he was not showing up, he said all he’d have to do is look at that and it was a trigger.

“Strategic remembering … is kind of putting daily reminders all around your environment of your future self, of the person you plan to be.” Dr. Benjamin Hardy

So, a lot of … we all have triggers and a lot of our triggers kind of pull us unfortunately negatively into unhealthy subconscious cycles. But you can create triggers that are more intentional, triggers that just remind you of what’s so easy to forget in the busyness of life. And that was that for him. When he just couldn’t get himself in the right frame of mind, he’d look at that and that would help him. He’d see that and it would remind him of not only what’s possible, but what he wanted to be about, who he wanted to be. And so, I have that … you do your best to design an environment that reminds you of your goals, not your past.

“You do your best to design an environment that reminds you of your goals, not your past.” Dr. Benjamin Hardy

Jessica: OK, so I wanted to ask you about achieving goals. Because isn’t that why we’re talking about willpower anyway? I run a direct sales company, we’re a social impact brand. So, we empower artisan communities in really vulnerable, typically exploited places, and we create jobs for them by creating a marketplace here in America for their handmade goods. And we do that through a network of independent contractors, social selling women, called Noonday Collection Ambassadors. So, we have about 2,000 women around the country and these women often join because it’s an enticing community, it’s the chance to be part of a global purpose, it’s the chance to make a little bit of money on the side. So, often it is a bit of a side hustle, though of course the … it’s the Pareto rule where 20% are making it a full-time gig.

So, last year we did not meet our sales goals. And as we kept digging and digging and digging, we realized we didn’t have a commitment to consistent practices from our Ambassadors. And we as a company and our impact is entire reliant upon our Ambassadors being committed to their goals and achieving their goals. And as I was reading about … you say that making committed decisions, it involves investing up front. So, we’ve got that covered because you have to pay for the starter collection at the beginning and make your goals public. So, we have some public commitment there of goals. We have a conference, we have some goal-setting guidelines, we’ve got timelines because we have different reward incentives out there. We, for the first time, have installed several forms of feedback and accountability with a program that we launched a few weeks ago that’s been really successful.

But your last point is removing or altering everything in your environment that opposes your commitment. And it’s just a very extreme … everything in your environment. I’m like yes, there are days when I wouldn’t mind if my kids were removed from my environment. But I’m wondering, as … when you think about all of these independent contractors out there, these women that we are fighting for their attention, we want them to give more attention to their businesses because then they’ll sell more, and then we’ll be able to build the flourishing world that we want to build in these artisan communities. So, let’s camp on this last piece a little bit. When it comes to the achievement of goals, what does it look like to set up an environment that doesn’t oppose your commitments? And then I’m wondering how I, as the leader of this company, can influence their environments? That seems like a harder thing for me to be able to influence.


How Commitments Become Achievements

Benjamin: Well, let’s break this down a little bit. So, one thing I would do, so it’s difficult to achieve goals that are counter to your perceived identity. So, if you don’t see someone who is doing this, selling stuff, if it just doesn’t feel like it’s you, then there’s going to be some willpower involved rather than just intrinsic motivation.

And so, I would think that a good place to start would be to actually define your desired future self, literally take some time to define what does your future self look like, it could be in 90 days from now. I do believe in 90-day cycles where every 90 days you look back on the last 90 days. I learned this from Dan Sullivan, but it’s like every 90 days, look back on the last 90, review progress, tally the wins, and then redesign the next 90.

I think 90 is really great, obviously a future self could and should also be one year, three years out. You could obviously have a really big picture version of one, as well. But I like defining out a future self somewhere between one and three years out. This is the person with the characteristics, the attributes, the situation, the income. They’re in a place where you’re ultimately trying to get, but you need to define that person, who is that person, what are they like. They’re not you.

There’s a really good quote from Alain de Botton, he’s the British philosopher. He said, "Anyone who’s not embarrassed by who they were 12 months ago didn’t learn very much." And from a psychology perspective and an identity perspective it’s actually really good for decision-making to distinguish your … even your former self, but your future self specifically from you. It’s not you, they’re a different person, they’re in a different situation, they’ve got different mindsets, different … They’re in a different situation, and hopefully it’s better because of how you’ve set them up.

But if you take some time to define your future self, then you’re starting to develop an identity. Is this person killer at sells? Are they networked? What’s their situation, what’s their confidence like? How do they dress, how do they talk? How much money are they making? What’s their relationship with their kids if they have those kids? This is essentially just getting intentional about your identity. But it’s really nice because then you can start to identify with that person, and then you can start to…

So, I would say that’s probably a first place to start, is define your future self. Then the big thing that I’ve really gotten big on is what is one goal, what’s one outcome that would most likely enable your future self to become true? This has happened to me many, many times. When I was in graduate school, I wanted to be a professional writer, I wanted to be making a full-time living as a writer, I wanted to be professional. I wanted to be with one of the major publishers and I wanted to essentially be doing what I’m doing now, but I had to come up with a single clear outcome, "What’s the one outcome that would actually make this possible?"

And after kind of digging around and asking around, I came to the conclusion that I wanted a six-figure book deal, a six-figure book deal from one of the big five majors. And, this was before I’d ever written a blog post, but I was asking around, I was asking agents, writers, bloggers, I was just trying to define a goal and trying to figure out how do I get there, how do I become … "If my future self is this writer who can live off my writing and etc., how do I get there?" And I clarified a specific single goal, "I want a six-figure book contract."

When you can quantify a single outcome, then you can start to develop a path to getting to that single outcome, you can reverse engineer, "OK, well, how do you get a six-figure book deal? Oh, well, you need at least 100,000 e-mail subscribers," I find out after asking lots of people, "How do you get a six-figure book deal?" "Oh, well, how do you get 100,000 e-mail subscribers?" "Oh, you got to get really, really good at blogging, and here are the ways to do that." You start to create a path and the path creates motivation and confidence. And you can’t…

So, from a motivation perspective, you need three things for motivation. You need a clear and compelling outcome, you need a path to getting to that outcome, and you need the confidence that you can actually get there. And clarifying the path and taking steps and failing towards that path are how you would develop the confidence to get there. Because wherever your future self is, whoever your future self is, you’re not that person right now. You don’t have that confidence, you’re not in that situation, you haven’t paid the price, you haven’t done what that person … Your future self, whatever you want, that’s normal life for them, it’s the new norm. You can relate to that, you’ve become your future self many times and I’m sure that much of our listeners have. And it becomes your new norm, and it becomes your subconscious, just, situation. It’s just where you’re at, it becomes autopilot after a while. And then obviously you got to redefine that future self.

“From a motivation perspective, you need three things for motivation. You need a clear and compelling outcome, you need a path to getting to that outcome, and you need the confidence that you can actually get there.” Dr. Benjamin Hardy

But I think thinking about one goal. For your listeners, what’s one tangible outcome in 2020, if we’re talking 2020, that if that happened it would most likely … it would open up all their goals and everything else that they’re trying to do? And, being really specific about what’s the one thing that I should target most of my focus on. Because the more clear your path forward, the more motivated you’ll be. Complexity kills motivation. Complexity, ambiguity.

And that’s why you really want to define your identity, because without a clear identity it’s really hard to make powerful choices and value judgments about what you would remove from your environment or what you would say "no" to. It’s hard to have discernment if you’re not clear on who you are and who you want to be. And it’s hard also to have … it’s easy to say "yes" or to overextend yourself in the 80% of those things that aren’t going to actually get you anywhere if you haven’t clearly articulated an intentional goal that will get you there.

And so, I think that that’s … I think that those are some first steps. Other aspects, unless you want to ask or go deeper into that, but I’m happy to just keep going and drilling down a little bit more.

Jessica: Yeah, let’s keep going, because I have a…

Benjamin: We’ll keep drilling. OK, we’ll keep drilling.

Jessica: We’re going to get a little heated later when I bring up the Enneagram, so let’s keep going here.

Benjamin: Oh gosh. I’m excited for that, jeez.

Jessica: OK, OK.

Benjamin: You’re talking to the wrong guy.

Jessica: I know, I know.


Rest, Routines, and Relationships

Benjamin: But obviously there’s much to be said about morning and evening routines. I explained a little bit about why evening routines are so important earlier with decision fatigue. Even just … I mean obviously we all have different situations, everyone here who’s listening has a different situation. Some of your lives are so crazy that the only time you can imagine doing any form of work is pulling all-nighters or etc. And I understand that sometimes situations require different things, I’ve … different situations in my life have required different things of me as well. But obviously rest and recovery is essential.

My body actually recently rejected … I actually recently had a really hard stomach flu because my body just literally was sending me a powerful message. I mean your body is your subconscious, and my body was like, "Nope, you’re not doing it right." And I’ve had to reset myself, and I’m thankful for that. And so sometimes you got to have those wake-up calls.

But so, rest and recovery is key, and focusing on the few things that matter is key, and I think an evening and morning routine can really help you to define that. And so, from what I’ve found, an evening routine doesn’t have to be complex. I think generally if you can, depending on your schedule, get some quality rest and recovery, some quality focus, wherever you are, that’s where you should be. Make a few thoughts or decisions about what you’re going to do tomorrow so that you don’t have to make that decision first thing in the morning.

“Rest and recovery is key, and focusing on the few things that matter is key, and I think an evening and morning routine can really help you to define that.” Dr. Benjamin Hardy

And then if you can, again, if this is what you want, I find that this is incredibly powerful for confidence, if you can wake up and if you can give yourself a morning routine where you get yourself into the mindset of your future self. Write in your journal, write about your goals, write about who you want to be, write about what you need to do, and then start taking action towards your goal, whatever that one major goal is, even if it’s just to set things up. If you can make a few calls, it might be a little too early for that. But if you’re taking steps every single day before the busyness.

This is the whole idea of the important should proceed the urgent. If you’re taking some steps forward, and maybe even some courageous steps, that’s how you begin to have what are called peak experiences. And peak experiences are … they can be big, or they could be small, but they require intentionality and they usually require courage, but they require moving forward in a specific direction. And I find that too, too much on a daily basis people aren’t doing that. Too much on a daily basis they’re just on autopilot from what they were doing yesterday. But if you’re taking steps in a direction on a daily basis, and sometimes those are courageous or emotional actions that could require failure, or risk, or looking dumb, or not knowing the answer, but that’s how you begin having aha moments, those peak experiences.

And there’s the quote, "A mind stretched by a new experience can never go back." And so, those are how you build confidence and flexibility. And as you become more confident and more flexible, your view of your future will continue to improve. And that confidence is key for going from wherever it is you want to go to wherever … from wherever you are to wherever you want to go.

One last thought, and this kind of re-pulls it all together with the willpower stuff, public commitment, etc. You need encouragement to act courageously. You need good people around you. You need people to encourage you, to encourage your goals, to support what you’re doing, to hear you when you’re falling flat. There’s a quote that says, "Trauma isn’t what happens to you, it’s what you hold inside in the absence of an empathetic witness." So, trauma is what you hold inside when there’s no one there to help you through a down day. It’s what you hold inside, and then you internalize, and then you cope with in unhealthy ways.

So, you need people to encourage you, you need support. And what I would suggest in order to do that, aside from obviously improving your peer group, is being very open and honest about your one goal, and even your future self. We all have an identity, and that identity is shaped through our stories of how we explain ourselves. And that’s something you can get better and better and better at, is defining your story. You past and your future both are fictional, by the way. Both are perspectives. We don’t see the world as it is, we see the world as we are. And that includes our past and our future.


Stepping into New Stories—Past, Present, and Future

Jessica: Well, and what’s crazy, when you remember your story differently, you actually remember your future differently.

Benjamin: Yes, 100%. Yeah, your future and your past are always changing, and you could be the designer of both. But the thing I think that if you started telling people … Which would take courage in the beginning, but eventually it’s just going to be who you are and everyone’s going to not only believe it but see it. The story you use to tell who you are if anyone asked you who are you is your future self. Talk about where you’re going, talk about what you’re committed to.

“Your future and your past are always changing, and you could be the designer of both.” Dr. Benjamin Hardy

There’s people who say you shouldn’t share your goals with others because you’ll get negative scrutiny and that could be traumatic and lead you to … But in my opinion, it’s a lot more powerful just to … and a lot more authentic, I find, that people are a little … they hold it too tight to their chest, what they really want. They’re not fully honest or transparent or authentic about, "This is what I would genuinely want and love and this is what I’m actually going for."

So, I think if you start telling everyone, or even anyone, that "This is what I’m doing and this is what I’m committed to, this is my commitment, that I’m going to do this," you start to create that environment of feedback and accountability and encouragement. And that’s a powerful place to be.

Jessica: I want to camp out just a little bit on this whole idea of environment because I am thinking about all of our … the women who are out there who have their own Noonday Collection businesses and they are waking up every day and a lot of your job is to make phone calls, to cultivate connections, to reach out to other women to ask them to open their homes, to host a Trunk Show, ask them … other women if they would also to launch their Noonday Collection business, it’s database management, it’s identifying warm prospects, thinking about places they could go that day, where they could basically develop new relationships with new people that could also enter their pipeline as customers.


Making Goals Matter

What are some environmental … Because I feel like we’ve covered a lot of successfully making it public, timeline, installing feedback. What are some physical environmental factors that you think could help someone who they might wake up with every intention of their future self, but they also have three foster kids and a part-time job? And, oh, by the way, they have this Noonday thing that brings them a lot of purpose and gives them a really meaningful community to be a part of. But when it comes to actually delivering on the sales, that could be a real challenge. What are some things I can do to alleviate what could be opposing their commitment?

Benjamin: One thing I would do is, and I’ve got it right here, so have a visual cue of your current progress. So, if it’s five sales this month, every time you get one put an X. It’s nice to just have that next to your desk. Every time I … to be honest with you, every time I do a podcast, I stick a sticker on this sticker chart. And it’s fun to see progress.

Jessica: That’s awesome.

Benjamin: Yeah, I know. It’s fun to see progress, it’s also just staring you in the face, “Oh, I’ve got zero stickers on my articles, paper that’s been sitting there for a month.” So, daily accountability is also very helpful. So, daily accountability doesn’t have to be too hard, it could and should take one to two minutes a day. Find one person who you could either text, there’s actually also an app, I think it’s called Three Wins or something like that. But I find text is great, text helped me.

Every morning, write the one to three things, your outcomes. Not things you’re going to do, the outcomes you’re going to get. The one to three things you’re going to do. And outcomes, sometimes you won’t get an outcome on that day. But if it’s 50 sales calls, for an example, or if it’s meet five women, say the three things you’re going to do and at the end of every day is all you have to do is just say one out of three, how many did you get. It should be very short texts. But getting … texting someone every day, someone outside of yourself and outside of your journal about, "These are the three things I’m going to nail out today." And I wouldn’t do more than three because there’s just only too many things you can do in a single day that matter and it’s nice to focus on that 80-20.

So, having a daily accountability partner, someone you text the big three things you’re going to do and report back every day, is big. I would also ask who … So, if we’re talking about … Again, I’m learning quite a bit about your business just listening to this. So, if these women need to meet other women, it sounds like…

Jessica: Yes.

Benjamin: …where are the environments that are most likely to happen? I mean obviously a lot is going to happen online. Is the big challenge here the actual making of phone calls, is it finding where these women are, or is it just anything and everything that’s stopping them from producing a result? What is the actual obstacle?

Jessica: Well, what we discovered is the obstacle is their own sentiment around they don’t want to come off as pushy because they don’t identify as salespeople. And so, they don’t want to offend anyone, and they’ve been nervous to even get committed responses from other people. So, we’ve done a program for the first time that’s focused on practices, weekly practices, and we’ve identified, "Hey, here’s the practices you’re going to do this week," we all have done them collectively, we have a Facebook group with 600 women on there that are cheering each other on. I mean it’s been exhilarating, there’s been a lot of momentum. But we’re on our last week, it’s been six weeks long, and for the first time we created this program, and it incentivized behavior, not outcome.

So, it was all about if you can complete these practices in six weeks, you are going to earn this new collection that we’re launching in June. And that is radical for a sales team to decide, I mean as a company, that we’re not investing in outcomes, we are going to invest in these practices because we’re trying to create habits that have not been there. But we’re at the end of the 6 weeks, and so the 600 women that started, there’s still a lot of momentum, but a lot of people decided the pace was a little intense, which it’s intentionally intense. It’s like a boot camp where people went from zero to, "No, you’re going to call 40 women this week." So, I think about 100 women, or 150 maybe, are going to end up actually earning the reward at the end.

Benjamin: There is something special about having an outcome. It might even be, in this case, a practice, you’re going to do 40, etc., in the next 6 weeks. And doing whatever it takes to get it. So, I would obviously start with the … with the things, get the accountability partner, make it public. But as far as the environment, every situation is going to be different. It sounds like this one’s more … this situation’s more about fear and anxiety. I mean, it would be worth the investment. I always view coaching and mentoring, etc., as an investment and never a cost because it always overly pays back whatever I invest. And so, if you’ve got a six-week goal and if you invest in a sales coach to help you build that confidence, because you can change your identity.


Enneagram vs. Evolution

Jessica: OK, so I wanted to ask. Your newest book, which is available for preorder right now, Personality Isn’t Permanent: Break Free from Self-Limiting Beliefs and Rewrite Your Story. So, OK, OK, Ben, now listen. The Enneagram really did some transformative work for my marriage, it’s been helpful at our home office, it’s really helped me understand my own, I don’t know, my weaknesses, and then where I can actually overcome my weaknesses. So, tell me about why you say that tests like Myers-Briggs and Enneagram are not only psychologically destructive, but are no more scientific than horoscopes?

Benjamin: Well, I mean the truth is they’re not scientific. From a…

Jessica: That is the truth, right.

Benjamin: From a truly psychological perspective, when I got my PhD in organizational psychology, we were taught over and over and over again these types of tests, particularly type-based tests, tests that put you in types and categories, are not a truly psychological perspective of people. One reason is because it assumes that whatever score you get is who you truly are in every situation. Yes, it’s a nice snapshot. I think the reason people love the tests, as you just described, is because it … First off, you were the one who answered the tests, and so of course the score back is going to resonate, they’re self-reported.

And so, of course the score back is going to give you something that reflects back who you think you are because you’re the one who put the information in. But what they do for people is they allow an identity … they allow you words to describe what’s going on. And for a lot of people that’s really helpful, that’s really helpful to be able to conceptualize or define yourself. It’s a great … unfortunately the labels can become something you defend. But yeah, I think because we really don’t like ambiguity and we don’t like complexity, it’s really nice to have a box. It’s really nice to say, "Oh, this works for me, this makes a lot of sense," and it gives you comfort because you can define yourself now in specific ways.

“What [personality tests] do for people is they allow an identity … they allow you words to describe what’s going on. And for a lot of people that’s really helpful, that’s really helpful to be able to conceptualize or define yourself.” Dr. Benjamin Hardy

There’s a lot of problems to that, as well. Obviously, we come to defend our labels, we become mindless. Tunnels … I mean labels do become tunnel vision and you begin to only see things … again, we see the world not as it is, but as we are, or even as we see ourselves. So, there’s a lot of research on mindfulness that talks about, if you’ve overly defined yourself a specific way, you actually don’t notice all of the times when the label is not true. If someone believes they’re depressed, they’re not going to notice all of the times when they actually were happy because we selectively attend to the things that we identify with. And so, we have tunnel vision, we miss all of the many, many opportunities when we don’t fit that category, that label, and we just assume that this is who we truly and always are, when the truth is that in different contexts you’re actually going to show up quite different. You’re not always going to be as the label depicts.

Another problem with … in my opinion, with these things, aside from the fact that they totally ignore context, and they just assume that the score is always true in every situation, which is not true, the label becomes the driving force for your goals. The goals you set are to support your current label or your current identification. And in my opinion, the reason for setting goals is to transform yourself. And so, I would set goals that would support … or I would have labels that support my goals versus goals that support my labels.

“The label becomes the driving force for your goals. The goals you set are to support your current label or your current identification. And in my opinion, the reason for setting goals is to transform yourself. … I would have labels that support my goals versus goals that support my labels.” Dr. Benjamin Hardy

I’ll give you it as an example. You have a podcast, at some point or another you had to start calling yourself a podcaster, or maybe you don’t call yourself a podcaster. But that may have helped before you started podcasting, to start calling yourself a podcaster and to identify as that and to explain that to get yourself to get up to this level. I know that Jeff Goins and other writers have done that, they couldn’t get themselves to write until they started calling themselves a writer. To me that’s a healthier form of label, is to choose labels that support your goals.

Jessica: Or choose a label that is based on your future self. I mean I’ve…


Labels That Limit

Benjamin: That’s actually 100% it, is that the test is going to be a reflection of your former self, you’re answering questions about how you’ve been. And in my opinion your personality should be based on the future, not the past.

Jessica: But if you’re using it as a data input in order to become aware, I’m aware that I actually … decision fatigue is an easy trap for me to fall into because I love options, I love optionality, and I like keeping things open-ended. And I learned that through the Enneagram. And, but I don’t want to do that.

Benjamin: I think that they can give some good information. I think that they can give some good information. I think you probably could have known that without the Enneagram. I’m guessing you, maybe with therapy or even just a lot of journaling or even just thought, like introspection, you probably could have come to the conclusion that you love giving yourself a lot of options and often you overload yourself. My guess is that insight wasn’t … didn’t require a test. The test gave you that answer though, and I think that they can…

Jessica: But it gave me words.

Benjamin: Yeah, they can be helpful. They can be helpful, but for me, type-based tests, they create … There’s no such thing as a personality type, from a psychological perspective. I would say if you want to choose one, let’s go for Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, etc. But there’s no actual…

Jessica: But that’s very empowering, I love that. You know? Knowing that.

Benjamin: Well, it’s just true, as well. Carl Jung, the guy who actually is the guy who’s the basis of Myers and Briggs, he said, "There’s no such thing as a pure introvert or extravert, such a person would be in a lunatic asylum." If there was a pure … There is no pure types, personality is a lot more contextual.

Jessica: I agree with you, that there is this danger that when we start typing ourselves or, even worse, when we start typing other people, that we create new stories based on these myths.

“There is this danger that when we start typing ourselves or, even worse, when we start typing other people, that we create new stories based on these myths.” Jessica Honegger

Benjamin: And, I mean, it is a story, let’s just say that. Whatever you’ve typed … however you’ve typed yourself, you’ve now created a narrative and that narrative is now your identity. And that identity is now how you view the world and how you act in the world, and you will miss and ignore everything else, and so it creates tunnel vision. So, yeah, I … And it limits you, it limits the goals you will set and the things you will do because now you have this thing you’ve put on yourself.

So, I definitely have challenge to it. Not only from a scientific perspective, but from a psychological perspective, I think that it can be quite damaging, and it leads to rigid thought processes. I think we can be a lot more flexible, just as an example. I think psychological flexibility is key to imagination and imagination is key to describing a future, or defining a future and a vision, which is key for entrepreneurship, it’s key for goal setting, it’s key for defining a future self. You’ve got to have imagination.

And a big problem with overly typing yourself is that it automatically makes you rigid in black and white in your thinking, both in how you view yourself and others, which is the opposite of flexibility. And what you do with these tests is ultimately you categorize yourself and say, "OK, this is what I’m going to be good or bad about, this is going to make me…" It’s a pleasure-pain perspective of personality rather than a purposeful perspective of personality.

But it then leads you to avoiding things and being inflexible towards things that maybe aren’t within your profile. You’ll start to avoid things that you could have and maybe would have done. But instead, you’re way less flexible. You’re way less willing to try things because you’re like, "That’s not really who I am," or, "That’s my weakness, and so I’m not going to pursue that," when that maybe doesn’t have to be the case. So, I think it leads you to being incredibly limited in what you could pursue and maybe what you would pursue, and instead you try to only look for those things that seem comfortable.

Jessica: Well, I think it’s empowering. And I think especially for those of us that maybe have gone a little extreme on these personality tests, it’s nice to hold them up loosely and realize that you’re not bound by your personality because personality isn’t set. And that’s a very empowering thought because it does mean that all of these things that maybe we perhaps thought defined us actually don’t, and that we can achieve our goals. I mean, I’m not going to become an Olympic swimmer or anything like that.

Benjamin: Your personality is not your physical body, they’re two different things.

Jessica: That’s true, that’s true, that’s true.

Benjamin: I’m not telling you you’re going to become LeBron James.


Dr. Benjamin Hardy Going Scared

Jessica: OK, all right, all right. Well, listen, this was so insightful, so, so, so many takeaways. We like to wrap up and ask our guests how they are going scared right now.

Benjamin: Yeah, I love it. And I love the whole premise of everything you do, by the way. And also, you’re very good at what you do, I’ve enjoyed this so much.

Jessica: Well, thanks.

Benjamin: No, it’s been fun and you’re … it’s obvious the work you’re doing in your community is so cool.

Jessica: They are.

Benjamin: Yeah, it’s great. So, I love the idea of going scared because to me that’s actually the opposite of personality. If you’re going scared, it means you’re going above and beyond your current self towards someone different. If you were living within the realm of your personality, you probably wouldn’t be going scared, just so you know. But the things that are freaking me out right now, so I’ve got Personality coming out in June of 2020, I’ve got a book called Who, Not How coming out in October.

Jessica: Oh gosh.

Benjamin: Which is a book I’m … that’s a book I’m coauthoring with Dan Sullivan, who’s The Strategic Coach guy. I’m in the middle of writing that book and I am dead. I actually, again, got really sick because I am totally having a hard time writing this and I’m freaked out by my ability, by my capability. I don’t have the confidence right now or the capability to produce in this book what I believe it needs to be, given that it’s not just my book. And actually, they’re more Dan’s ideas than mine. And there’s a lot going on in this book.

But I think when you take on goals that are above your capability and your confidence, obviously that requires a lot of courage. And that’s where you need that support of an encouraging environment, you need people to help you, you need more whos. I mean that book’s called Who, Not How. You need whos to support you, you need people not only to take care of the things in your life that are predictable, the things in your life that you can outsource or delegate, that would be really great, but you also need just specific and important people to get you through the lows. And I’ve had great people get me through the lows.

But yeah, that’s the … I mean I’m freaked out by my future in a really good way, and I’m struggling through it. It’s not easy. Even after writing, multiple books, I feel like I don’t even know what I’m doing trying to write this book and it’s gotten me quite scared. But at the same time, one thing that I’m getting better at, not only as coping mechanisms such as emotional development and just getting support and help and breaking free and taking many days off if I need to and allowing myself to recover, actually good health practices, and also just communicating my needs better, communicating my situation better, letting it go if I have to, being willing to just drop this and say, "You know what? This isn’t more important than my five kids, this isn’t more important than my health. I can let this go, and I’m going to be fine, my future’s going to be great either way."

Jessica: Willpower is for people who haven’t decided what they actually want in their lives. If you find that you are exerting willpower in some area of your life, it’s because you actually haven’t fully committed yet. I love this idea of 100 percent commitment because, frankly, I don’t want to keep spending my energy making up my mind all day long. I don’t want to have decision fatigue.

I absolutely loved this episode, and it’s been a great way to wrap up our New Year series. We’re going to take a couple weeks’ break, and then we are going to be back. We are coming in hot with our series on resilience. We are interviewing Dr. Edith Eva Eger, survivor of Auschwitz, we are going to be talking to someone who has survived chronic pain, someone who has survived human trafficking, someone who has survived a failed business, and we don’t want to camp out on how these past failures define us. In fact, what we want to do is understand how we can learn from our past in order to generate and create a new resilient future. It is going to be such a hopeful series.

So, I cannot wait for you to tune in. If you are struggling in some area of your life, you feel stuck, you feel defined by your past, you feel defined by a failure, reach out to me on Instagram, let me know. What are some of the questions and what are some of the answers that you need to get unstuck? I’d love to take to my guests about it.

I so appreciate each one of you who listens to the Going Scared podcast. We wouldn’t be a podcast if we didn’t have listeners. And I love my Going Scared listeners. We wouldn’t be a podcast if you didn’t spread the word. So, however you can spread the word about this podcast … if you can put us up in an Insta Story and tag #GoingScared, if you can forward an email to a friend. I put these out because I learn so much, and I truly, truly want to serve you with this content. I want it to help you on your journey to becoming a more courageous person. So, I just wanted to say thanks because I have a lot of fun doing this, and I couldn’t justify doing it if I did not have listeners like you.

Our wonderful music for today’s show is by my good friend, Ellie Holcomb. Going Scared is produced by Eddie Kaufholz. And I’m Jessica Honegger. Until next time, let’s take each other by the hand and keep going scared.