Dr. Benjamin Hardy is an organizational psychologist and bestselling author of Willpower Doesn’t Work. His blog is read by millions of people monthly.

Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?

I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah at the base of a canyon leading to epic snowboarding and many missed days of high school. I’m the oldest of three boys but my parents got divorced when I was 11. Mom was deep in her work and dad was deep in his addiction. It was difficult to feel “at home” either place so I spent most of my days snowboarding or carrying my desktop computer to friend’s basements for World of Warcraft marathons.

Through it all, my biggest fan was my grandpa who believed I could grow up and make better choices. His urging led me to create a radical new environment for myself when I was 19, He loved to share his ideas through writing which probably had a bigger impact on me than I know.

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

I’ve had my dark times, like everyone. When I was 16 I was the driver in a car accident that almost killed my mom. My hair fell out from the stress as we were taken to different hospitals. But a more internal dark time was right after my wife and I got married.

We had been married about 8 months and had both just graduated from our undergrad programs with the intent to continue into graduate school. She convinced me that we should take the summer off to do an organic farming work program nicknamed WWOOF.

She organized a three month trip to Ireland working on two different farms. The sabbatical was to celebrate our graduation and transition to graduate school. But, in the meantime, I hadn’t been accepted by any of the schools I had applied to. I didn’t want a sabbatical, I wanted to work harder, longer, and smarter. She convinced me I could do all of that in Ireland. Yeah, that was not the case. Our first farm was on a remote island off the southern tip of Ireland where internet was a hot commodity. We milked goats, cleaned cow pens, and listened to several books in the Ender’s Game Series.

It was idyllic except that I could not let go of the drive I had to keep pursuing my educational goals. I felt helpless watching watching my work in the states go on without me. Instead of finding rejuvenation in Ireland, I became very depressed and resentful of my new wife. The experience was very difficult.

Eventually, I began to enjoy the experience and let go of my former drive. But it was not until we were home and I began jumping back in that I became truly grateful for the trip. Out of the pool, I could see I had been swimming in the wrong direction. It was in getting away that I came home and saw how far I was off my deepest desires.

I had been running a rat race and making little progress, after the time out of the race, after letting all that go, I could see what I really wanted to accomplish and how to accomplish it.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

My kids. They have been a forcing function. In the beginning of my second semester in graduate school, and my wife’s first, our application to be foster parents in the state of SC was approved and we had two amazing children in our care. It was a very difficult transition for us all, but within that first year, we managed to have their older brother move in with us from a group home. Within my first year of grad school, we were the foster parents of three siblings ages 3-7. I couldn’t live the typical graduate student culture with a wife and three kids depending on me. I quit my minimally paying graduate assistantship and began writing full time. Now, my PhD is still in the works (slower than I would like) but I’ve been able to build my writing and in February we adopted our three kids.

What is your morning routine?

  • Wake up between 5 and 6 without an alarm
  • Throw on my gym clothes
  • Drive to the gym parking lot
  • Say a prayer for inspiration
  • Open my journal
  • Write in my journal for 10-15 mins about my goals and the day
  • Put on my headphones and listen to an audiobook while I workout for 40 mins
  • Go home and do my most important work for the day
  • Eat breakfast and check my phone about 3 hours after waking up

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

Journal writing. I began writing my journal when I was 20. One day, I started writing in a journal and I never stopped. That habit has formed the foundation of my past, present, and future.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

Taking the time, first thing in the morning, to put myself in the right mental and emotional state. This is the purpose of my entire morning routine.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?

I say a prayer, write in my journal, and exercise. If all these fail to refocus me, I’ll occasionally just abandon my work day and refocus the day on my family. I’ll get my kids from school, take them to a park, and spend some genuine time with them.

Thanks again for this opportunity and please keep me posted on when you think this might run!

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

As a Man Thinketh by James Allen: In real estate it is all about location, location, location. For books, it is about timing, timing, timing. The books with the greatest impact on me and the ones I read at times when I was most receptive to change. As a Man Thinketh was a gift to me from someone who really cared about me. I was 19 years old and my life was at a pivoting point. This book pivoted me to making huge changes from my snowboarding, video game playing environment to one focused on mastery and service.

The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin: This is just a cool book. I love the language and the style. It is a really high level intelligence book where I feel like I am in the mind of a genius. It inspired me as I began my writing to write the best work that I can. In the book, Josh talks about learning martial arts. While most students would spend their practice time fighting people on similar or lower levels to themselves, Josh sought out the best competitors who would completely floor him. He learned quickly how to rise to higher levels. Reading this book is like confronting a very intelligent competitor and it inspires me to rise to a higher level.

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

  • “Good timber does not grow with ease: The stronger wind, the stronger trees; The further sky, the greater length; The more the storm, the more the strength. By sun and cold, by rain and snow, In trees and men good timbers grow.”—Douglas Malloch
  • “Lose an hour in the morning, and you will spend all day looking for it.” — Richard Whately
  • “No other success can compensate for failure in the home” – David O McKay