When you ask the enormously successful to what they attribute their success, they often say things like hard work, dedication, commitment, and sometimes whatever version of God they believe in. Though all of these are important, the vast majority of us ignore a key contributing factor to our success: our habitat. 

Your habitat refers to your environment; the place, people, and things around you. Resilience researchers often suggest that the most important aspect of a thriving life is an enabling or supportive environment. Hard work, dedication and willpower are only part of the story. You are much better off designing your environment for success. 

Where you should not start.

We live in a hyper-individualistic world where the individual is celebrated. Founders are celebrated as if they did it all alone. Lead singers are idolized even when they clearly have bands. Athletes are treated like royalty even when their teams contribute greatly to their success. 

The most insidious way that this individualistic culture plays out is that it encourages us to reach for self-control, discipline, and willpower whenever we wish to make changes to our lives. 

Start here instead. 

You are most likely to see the greatest results if you focus on your habitat. In one study by German researchers, participants were given a self-control quiz. Over a set period, participants reported when they were resisting desires. The researchers found that the students with the highest self-control scores rarely reported resisting desires. What these researchers found was that those with the highest self-control scores weren’t using self-control; they were avoiding temptation altogether. In fact, several studies have found that effortful self-denial leads to low self-control. 

We’re much better off designing our environment so that we don’t need to resist temptations. What we today know from the research is that habitat is a strong predictor of success. So, the next time you think about creating success patterns, think about how you might design your environment for success. 

I go into this in more detail in an e-book I have written, The Secret Sauce of High Performers. Hope you enjoy.