Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength

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by Roy F. Baumeister, John Tierney
     
 

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One of the world's most esteemed and influential psychologists, Roy F. Baumeister, teams with New York Times science writer John Tierney to reveal the secrets of self-control and how to master it.

In Willpower, the pioneering researcher Roy F. Baumeister collaborates with renowned New York Times science writer John Tierney to

Overview

One of the world's most esteemed and influential psychologists, Roy F. Baumeister, teams with New York Times science writer John Tierney to reveal the secrets of self-control and how to master it.

In Willpower, the pioneering researcher Roy F. Baumeister collaborates with renowned New York Times science writer John Tierney to revolutionize our understanding of the most coveted human virtue: self-control.

In what became one of the most cited papers in social science literature, Baumeister discovered that willpower actually operates like a muscle: it can be strengthened with practice and fatigued by overuse. Willpower is fueled by glucose, and it can be bolstered simply by replenishing the brain's store of fuel. That's why eating and sleeping- and especially failing to do either of those-have such dramatic effects on self-control (and why dieters have such a hard time resisting temptation).

Baumeister's latest research shows that we typically spend four hours every day resisting temptation. No wonder people around the world rank a lack of self-control as their biggest weakness. Willpower looks to the lives of entrepreneurs, parents, entertainers, and artists-including David Blaine, Eric Clapton, and others-who have flourished by improving their self-control.

The lessons from their stories and psychologists' experiments can help anyone. You learn not only how to build willpower but also how to conserve it for crucial moments by setting the right goals and using the best new techniques for monitoring your progress. Once you master these techniques and establish the right habits, willpower gets easier: you'll need less conscious mental energy to avoid temptation. That's neither magic nor empty self-help sloganeering, but rather a solid path to a better life.

Combining the best of modern social science with practical wisdom, Baumeister and Tierney here share the definitive compendium of modern lessons in willpower. As our society has moved away from the virtues of thrift and self-denial, it often feels helpless because we face more temptations than ever. But we also have more knowledge and better tools for taking control of our lives. However we define happiness-a close- knit family, a satisfying career, financial security-we won't reach it without mastering self-control.

Editorial Reviews

WALL STREET JOURNAL
“An accessible, empirically grounded guide to willpower and how best to deploy it to overcome temptation. ‘Willpower’ offers no shortage of helpful strategies to compensate for weakness of will”
THE NEW YORK TIMES (Steven Pinker)
“An immensely rewarding book, filled with ingenious research, wise advice and insightful reflections on the human condition.”
The New York Times
An immensely rewarding book, filled with ingenious research, wise advice and insightful reflections on the human condition.
Wall Street Journal
“An accessible, empirically grounded guide to willpower and how best to deploy it to overcome temptation. ‘Willpower’ offers no shortage of helpful strategies to compensate for weakness of will”
The Daily Beast
"Brilliant."
THE NEW YORK TIMES
“An immensely rewarding book, filled with ingenious research, wise advice and insightful reflections on the human condition.”
Stephen J Dubner
 “Willpower (the thing) lies at the curious intersection of science and behavior. Willpower (the book) lies at the intersection of Roy Baumeister, an extraordinarily creative scientist, and John Tierney, a phenomenally perceptive journalist. Ignore it at your peril.”-
Steven Pinker
Willpower is an immensely rewarding book, filled with ingenious research, wise advice and insightful reflections on the human condition.
—The New York Times
Sarah Halzack
Whatever your vices—and, face it, we've all got them—this book offers insights grounded in sound, careful research that can help you understand why your will power is battling you and how you can turn it your way.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Willpower, or self-control, is one of the keys to success, says Baumeister (director of Florida State University's social psychology program) and New York Times science writer Tierney. They review the latest research to report key findings on willpower: for instance, each of us has a finite supply of it and deplete it whenever we draw on it, whether at work or at home, but it can be developed and strengthened. Further, decision making in particular saps that supply, but it's possible to do willpower exercises to gain self-control over all sorts of bad behavior, from overeating to physical violence; willpower exercises have been shown to work with domestic abusers, for example. At several points throughout the book, and in a concluding chapter, the authors offer practical advice for increasing willpower, not much of which is new (for instance, setting realistic goals in dieting), but all of which bears repeating. Baumeister and Tierney have produced a very fine work—clear and succinct, based on solid research, and with good anecdotal material about magician/performance artist David Blaine, singer Eric Clapton, and writers Anthony Trollope and Raymond Chandler, among others. This should prove helpful for those who are trying to make and keep resolutions. (Sept.)
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
"An accessible, empirically grounded guide to willpower and how best to deploy it to overcome temptation."
THE DAILY BEAST
"Willpower is sure to inspire further groundbreaking research into the mechanics of willpower. One implication is already apparent. Since repeated behaviors eventually turn into habits, improving willpower long term requires a unique strategy-a habit of changing habits, of continually expanding our zones of comfort. One such practice, it seems, is the 'routine' of learning. That's a habit that this brilliant book will certainly nourish."
From the Publisher
"The psychologist Roy F. Baumeister has shown that the force metaphor has a kernel of neurobiological reality. In Willpower, he has teamed up with the irreverent New York Times science columnist John Tierney to explain this ingenious research and show how it can enhance our lives. . . . Willpower is an immensely rewarding book, filled with ingenious research, wise advice and insightful reflections on the human condition." — Steven Pinker, THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

"An accessible, empirically grounded guide to willpower and how best to deploy it to overcome temptation." — THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

"Willpower is sure to inspire further groundbreaking research into the mechanics of willpower. One implication is already apparent. Since repeated behaviors eventually turn into habits, improving willpower long term requires a unique strategy-a habit of changing habits, of continually expanding our zones of comfort. One such practice, it seems, is the 'routine' of learning. That's a habit that this brilliant book will certainly nourish." — THE DAILY BEAST

"Willpower affects almost every aspect of our lives. From procrastination, to saving for retirement to exercising, Tierney and Baumeister have given us a wonderful book in which they not only share fascinating research on the subject but also provide simple tricks to help us tap into this important quality." — Dan Ariely, Duke University, author of PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL

"Willpower is sinfully delicious - once you start reading, you won't be able to stop. A fascinating account of the exciting new science of self-control, told by the scientist who made it happen and the journalist who made it news." — Daniel Gilbert, Harvard University, author of STUMBLING ON HAPPINESS

"Who knew that a book about such a daunting topic could be as wonderfully entertaining as it is enlightening! Tierney and Baumeister have produced a highly intelligent work full of fascinating information (and great advice) about a core element of modern living. Bravo." — David Allen, author of GETTING THINGS DONE and MAKING IT WORK

"Willpower (the thing) lies at the curious intersection of science and behavior. Willpower (the book) lies at the intersection of Roy Baumeister, an extraordinarily creative scientist, and John Tierney, a phenomenally perceptive journalist. Ignore it at your peril." — Stephen J. Dubner, coauthor of FREAKONOMICS and SUPERFREAKONOMICS

"Will, willpower, and mental energy have been shunned by modern psychology. Roy Baumeister, the most distinguished experimental social psychologist in the world, and John Tierney, a renowned journalist, have teamed up to put Will back into its rightful center stage place. This little masterpiece is a must read for all of us who want to exercise, diet, manage our time, be thrifty, and resist temptation." — Martin Seligman, former president of American Psychological Association

"This is a manual from heaven for anyone who has ever wanted to lose weight, stop smoking, drink less, work more efficiently and more intelligently. An astonishingly good - and accessible - inquiry into one of the more elusive areas of human psychology: why we go on thwarting ourselves when we really know better. On top of that, Willpower is a vastly entertaining book, full of fascinating stories about the complexities of our evolutionarily-wired brains. A brilliant accomplishment, at every level." — Christopher Buckley, author of THANK YOU FOR SMOKING

"Deep and provocative analysis of people's battle with temptation and masterful insights into understanding willpower: why we have it, why we don't, and how to build it. A terrific read." — Ravi Dhar, Yale School of Management, Director of Center for Customer Insights

Dan Ariely
"Willpower affects almost every aspect of our lives. From procrastination, to saving for retirement to exercising, Tierney and Baumeister have given us a wonderful book in which they not only share fascinating research on the subject but also provide simple tricks to help us tap into this important quality."
Daniel Gilbert
"Willpower is sinfully delicious - once you start reading, you won't be able to stop. A fascinating account of the exciting new science of self-control, told by the scientist who made it happen and the journalist who made it news."
David Allen
"Who knew that a book about such a daunting topic could be as wonderfully entertaining as it is enlightening! Tierney and Baumeister have produced a highly intelligent work full of fascinating information (and great advice) about a core element of modern living. Bravo."
Stephen J. Dubner
"Willpower (the thing) lies at the curious intersection of science and behavior. Willpower (the book) lies at the intersection of Roy Baumeister, an extraordinarily creative scientist, and John Tierney, a phenomenally perceptive journalist. Ignore it at your peril."
Martin Seligman
"Will, willpower, and mental energy have been shunned by modern psychology. Roy Baumeister, the most distinguished experimental social psychologist in the world, and John Tierney, a renowned journalist, have teamed up to put Will back into its rightful center stage place. This little masterpiece is a must read for all of us who want to exercise, diet, manage our time, be thrifty, and resist temptation."
Christopher Buckley
"This is a manual from heaven for anyone who has ever wanted to lose weight, stop smoking, drink less, work more efficiently and more intelligently. An astonishingly good - and accessible - inquiry into one of the more elusive areas of human psychology: why we go on thwarting ourselves when we really know better. On top of that, Willpower is a vastly entertaining book, full of fascinating stories about the complexities of our evolutionarily-wired brains. A brilliant accomplishment, at every level."
Ravi Dhar
"Deep and provocative analysis of people's battle with temptation and masterful insights into understanding willpower: why we have it, why we don't, and how to build it. A terrific read."
Kirkus Reviews

Baumeister (Social Psychology/Florida State Univ.; Is There Anything Good About Men?: How Cultures Flourish by Exploiting Men, 2010, etc.) and New York Times science journalist Tierney extol the practical wisdom, as buttressed by the findings of modern social science, of willpower.

It wasn't long ago that the mantra "wretched excess is just barely enough" was on many American lips; but, write the authors, there is an old-fashioned virtue on revival: self-control. Without it, we are often prey to "compulsive spending and borrowing, impulsive violence, underachievement in school, procrastination at work, alcohol and drug abuse, unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, chronic anxiety, explosive anger." Baumeister and Tierney use their appealingly upbeat voice to explain the intricate call-and-response between the failure of self-control and its problematical results, each feeding upon and reinforcing the other. Willpower is what we use to ward off disadvantageous temptations and desires, what allows us to monitor our behavior as social beings. It is also like a muscle in that it becomes fatigued through use and has to be replenished, most easily through sleep and healthy diet. However, even "if self-control is partly a hereditary trait—which seems likely," it can be nurtured, and the authors submit a variety of tools to revivify self-control, such as setting standards and realistic goals, laying down "bright lines" and behaving consistently through establishing rules and regulations. There is an instructive chapter on the role of glucose in maintaining a vigorous self-control, commonsensical explorations into how self-awareness helps in self-regulation via self-consciousness—"that crucial task for a social animal: comparing our behavior with the standards set by ourselves and our neighbors"—and tricks to conserve the energy that willpower demands: precommitment (what Odysseus used to thwart the Sirens' song), orderliness and lofty thoughts. Sewn into the social science are a number of engaging stories, from Eric Clapton to David Blaine to Mary Karr, that provide local color if not necessarily helpful roadmaps.

Baumeister and Tierney afford readers numerous paths to put their feet on the higher ground of self-control, for "inner discipline leads to outer kindness."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143122234
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/28/2012
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
100,396
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Ravi Dhar
Deep and provocative analysis of people's battle with temptation and masterful insights into understanding willpower: why we have it, why we don't, and how to build it. A terrific read. (Ravi Dhar, Yale School of Management, Director of Center for Customer Insights)
Martin Seligman
Will, willpower, and mental energy have been shunned by modern psychology. Roy Baumeister, the most distinguished experimental social psychologist in the world, and John Tierney, a renowned journalist, have teamed up to put Will back into its rightful center stage place. This little masterpiece is a must read for all of us who want to exercise, diet, manage our time, be thrifty, and resist temptation. (Martin Seligman, University of Pennsylvania, former president of American Psychological Association, author of Authentic Happiness and Flourish)
Stephen J. Dubner
Willpower (the thing) lies at the curious intersection of science and behavior. Willpower (the book) lies at the intersection of Roy Baumeister, an extraordinarily creative scientist, and John Tierney, a phenomenally perceptive journalist. Ignore it at your peril. (Stephen J. Dubner, coauthor of Freakonomics and SuperFreakonomics)
Dan Ariely
Willpower affects almost every aspect of our lives. From procrastination, to saving for retirement to exercising, Tierney and Baumeister have given us a wonderful book in which they not only share fascinating research on the subject but also provide simple tricks to help us tap into this important quality. (Dan Ariely, Duke University, author of Predictably Irrational)
Daniel Gilbert
WILLPOWER is sinfully delicious — once you start reading, you won't be able to stop. A fascinating account of the exciting new science of self-control, told by the scientist who made it happen and the journalist who made it news. (Daniel Gilbert, Harvard University, author of Stumbling On Happiness, Host of the PBS television series, This Emotional Life)
David Allen
Who knew that a book about such a daunting topic could be as wonderfully entertaining as it is enlightening! Tierney and Baumeister have produced a highly intelligent work full of fascinating information (and great advice) about a core element of modern living. Bravo. (David Allen, author of Getting Things Done and Making It All Work)
Stephen J Dubner
 “Willpower (the thing) lies at the curious intersection of science and behavior. Willpower (the book) lies at the intersection of Roy Baumeister, an extraordinarily creative scientist, and John Tierney, a phenomenally perceptive journalist. Ignore it at your peril.”-
Christopher Buckley
This is a manual from heaven for anyone who has ever wanted to lose weight, stop smoking, drink less, work more efficiently and more intelligently. An astonishingly good — and accessible — inquiry into one of the more elusive areas of human psychology: why we go on thwarting ourselves when we really know better. On top of that, Willpower is a vastly entertaining book, full of fascinating stories about the complexities of our evolutionarily-wired brains. A brilliant accomplishment, at every level. (Christopher Buckley, author Thank You for Smoking and Losing Mum and Pup)

Meet the Author

Roy F. Baumeister directs the social psychology program at Florida State University. He has written for more than 450 scientific publications and consistently ranks among the world's most frequently cited psychologists. This is his twenty-eighth book.
John Tierney writes the "Findings" science column for the New York Times. His writing has won awards from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute of Physics. This is his third book.

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Willpower 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 56 reviews.
jakm42 More than 1 year ago
I'm not sure if I discovered the greatest human strength, but I found this to be a fascinating read, presented in a way the average person can read and enjoy. I found it fascinating enough that the book will be read again. I'd have given it 5 stars except that sometimes he'd explain the results to an experiment and I would still wonder why he told me this information at the end of the chapter. I frequently felt like there was tidbit I was supposed to glean from the story rather than just telling me outright. There is a nice recap of the important things learned that can be applied to one's everyday life at the end the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Most books in this category present ideas absent empirical evidence. The author constructs his case for how to improve will power with a well grounded position steeped in research.
aragornTX More than 1 year ago
As the author is a columnist, the book reads like a serialized Time Magazine article. I thought it contained a lot of good information, but thought it kind of flitted from one anectdote to another, so I would say broad, but not as deep as it could have been. Well worth the read, though, if the subject interests you.
bookleverage More than 1 year ago
I found this book to have interesting stories that not only supported the author's premise that willpower can be strengthened like any muscle through specific "exercises," but also a virtual treasure trove of experiments and studies that psychologists have performed to help us better understand willpower and how to make it stronger day by day.
molliechristine More than 1 year ago
Great book, with each chapter covering a different application of willpower. I'd read again, and have already recommended it to a few friends.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fascinating, illuminating, and enjoyable.
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A masterpiece of a nonfiction book.