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If you know you have an addiction to anything, spending time around both the thing and the people who abuse it will increase your chance of relapse or abuse to near 100%. Sadly, what most people attempt is to continue to spend time around those people and use tremendous and exhausting amounts of willpower and discipline to protect themselves. This nearly guaranteed to end in failure.

Taking this down to a more “normal” topic (but just as dangerous), people who have bad food consumption habits. They’ll famously create new years resolutions, join fads, spend tons of money, or otherwise temporarily divert 100% of their willpower to “eating better” or “losing weight”. But then the rest of their life starts to fall apart because they just diverted all of their willpower to this new habit (which isn’t sustainable at all) so they revert to their previous habits which leads to zero increase in positive results.

Most people don’t realize the tremendous and respect-deserving power that habits have, and therefore don’t give the proper time needed to develop a solid battle plan to change them.

Back to the example of addiction. Instead of focusing all your willpower after the temptation is already present, it’s much more effective to go upstream and ask; “why is this a temptation” and “how do I get tempted most of the time?”. The answer would be immediate: because they’re spending time around a certain group of people. So the upstream decision is to decide whether or not to spend time with them, and then the downstream result is that you exert a small amount of willpower, and change the course of your life drastically.

What’s interesting is that this isn’t even the farthest upstream you can go. Instead of having to exert the amount of willpower it takes to turn people down when they ask to hang out, changing your phone number or email address is a great way to remove the opportunity for temptation completely, therefore saving the willpower it would have taken to say “no” over and over.

Whenever you’re struggling to change something because its a huge influence, or it’s something you’ve struggled with a long time: the most important response is to gain the “high ground” by going upstream, and figure out what willpower you can retain instead of wasting on bad leverage situations. Because that’s ultimately what we’re really talking about; leverage.

That’s why people can’t change their diet easily. Because they’re trying to fight the monster when it’s fully grown downstream where it takes all your power and you don’t have the endurance to fight the habit battle, instead of making small upstream decisions that are easier to make that you have staying power with. By doing this, you gain an interesting advantage. Since comparatively you’re spending so little power changing a habit, you have more reserves of control left to keep control in other areas of your life.

A great example of this applied is known as “environment modding”. Or manipulating your environment to change how it influences you. Instead of trying to eat healthy, simply don’t buy unhealthy food (or better yet; pay someone to shop for you to remove even more stress and temptation). Instead of resisting using your computer in the evening, change your wifi router settings to turn off at certain times of the day.

This principle; “consecutive power held” is an extremely crucial idea if you want to have success in more than one area in your life. Most people try and fight one area of their life at a time, and then like playing whack-a-mole they lose control as soon as they look away to go put out another fire. Because they aren’t going upstream. So when you make really high level upstream decisions, it only takes a small amount of your power by percentage. Which leaves a lot of it around for you to control other areas of your life. This is how you can be in great shape, physically, mentally, financially, relationally, etc at the same time. Because you’re not fighting at the same level as your problems, you have the higher ground.