Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength


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Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister, John Tierney

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781594203077
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/01/2011
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About 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.

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. 57 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
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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