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
"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."—Kirkus Reviews
"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
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."