Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength

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.

Pioneering research psychologist Roy F. Baumeister collaborates with New York Times science writer John Tierney to revolutionize our understanding of the most coveted human virtue: self-control. Drawing on cutting-edge research and the wisdom of real-life experts, Willpower shares lessons on how to focus our strength, resist temptation, and redirect our lives. It shows readers how to be realistic when setting goals, monitor their progress, and how to keep faith when they falter. By blending practical wisdom with the best of recent research science, Willpower makes it clear that whatever we seek—from happiness to good health to financial security—we won’t reach our goals without first learning to harness self-control.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143122234
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/28/2012
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 92,743
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Roy F. Baumeister is one of the world’s most prolific and influential psychologists. He received his PhD from Princeton in 1978 and currently is Francis Eppes Eminent Scholar and head of the social psychology program at Florida State University.
John Tierney writes the “Findings” science column for the New York Times. He is the author of The Best-Case Scenario Handbook and the coauthor, with Christopher Buckley, of the comic novel God Is My Broker.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Is Willpower More than a Metaphor? 19

2 Where Does the Power in Willpower Come From? 40

3 A Brief History of the To-Do List, From God to Drew Carey 61

4 Decision Fatigue 88

5 Where Have All the Dollars Gone? The Quantified Self Knows 108

6 Can Willpower be Strengthened? (Preferably Without Feeling David Blaine's Pain) 124

7 Outsmarting Yourself in the Heart of Darkness 142

8 Did a Higher Power Help Eric Clapton and Mary Karr Stop Drinking? 167

9 Raising Strong Children: Self-Esteem Versus Self-Control 187

10 The Perfect Storm of Dieting 214

Conclusion: The Future of Willpower-More Gain, Less Strain (As Long as You Don't Procrastinate) 238

Acknowledgments 261

Notes 263

Index 279

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)

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Willpower 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 59 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.
jgrann on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Several ingenious studies and profiles weave together to create an entertaining and thought-provoking read. The big idea that interested me was that willpower is a limited and generic quantity that is dependent on glucose levels. Helps me make sense of my family's tendency to have a pre-dinner fuss. Contains several self-help tips. The writing is a little lite for my taste, especially considering the detail and thoroughness of Baumeister's other writings, especially on self-esteem. Would have liked to have read more about the mechanisms responsible for "increasing" willpower and boundary conditions for transference of willpower.
BookLeverage on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney make mention of two facts in the beginning of "Willpower": One, the two personal qualities that predict "positive outcomes" in our lives are intelligence and self-control. Two, researchers have concluded that we spend a quarter of our waking hours resisting desires. This book is meant to improve the first (self-control) while making the second (resisting desires) easier. They achieve their aim with the use of solid research, effective story telling and varied examples to drive their points home.After an early examination of the sense of willpower through time, the authors use interesting studies like the"marshmallow" and "radish" experiments to show how researchers have attempted to prove brilliant theories that helpus understand where willpower comes from and how to improve it. They give good, quick advice in recommending that we focus on one project at a time for the simple reason that ourwillpower can only go so far and it is better to give all our focus on changing one thing than a multitude. Hence,their specific instructions to never make New Years Resolutions. Showing the best ways to increase willpower - proper diet, setting clear goals and monitoring behavior - the authorsgive vivid examples as varied as Drew Carey getting organized, Eric Clapton getting dry or Lord Stanley shavingevery day to make it out of Africa to show the different tools we can all use to increase our willpower.They go on to show how making multiple decisions affects our willpower (why do they put the sweets near the checkout line?)to willpower workouts and Bright Lines and other tricks to strengthen our willpower muscle. Raising children & dieting chapters end the book and give further stories and research into bringing willpower to bearon these most important subject areas.In sum, "Willpower" is chock full of valuable advice based on scientific research and actionable material that the average reader will surely find useful in some area of their life they are trying to improve through the applicationof willpower. A definite must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good overall read. This book lends itself well to any student looking for proof of habit!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fascinating, illuminating, and enjoyable.
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