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Willpower: Rediscovering Our Greatest Strength [Hardcover]

Roy F. Baumeister , John Tierney , Icm Inc
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
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Book Description

26 Jan 2012

Can you resist everything except temptation? In a hedonistic age full of distractions, it's hard to possess willpower - or in fact even understand why we should need it. Yet it's actually the most important factor in achieving success and a happy life, shown to be more significant than money, looks, background or intelligence. This book reveals the secrets of self-control.

For years the old-fashioned, even Victorian, value of willpower has been disparaged by psychologists who argued that we're largely driven by unconscious forces beyond our control. Here Roy Baumeister, one of the world's most esteemed and influential psychologists, and journalist John Tierney, turn this notion on its head. They show us that willpower is like a muscle that can be strengthened with practice and improved over time. The latest laboratory work shows that self-control has a physical basis to it and so is dramatically affected by simple things such as eating and sleeping - to the extent that a life-changing decision may go in different directions depending on whether it's made before or after lunch. You will discover how babies can be taught willpower, the joys of the to-don't list, the success of Alcoholics Anonymous, the pointlessness of diets and the secrets to David Blaine's stunts. There are also fascinating personal stories, from explorers, students, soldiers, ex-addicts and parents.

Based on years of psychological research and filled with practical advice, this book will teach you how to gain from self-control without pain, and discover the very real power in willpower. The results are nothing short of life-changing.

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Willpower: Rediscovering Our Greatest Strength + The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change + Thinking, Fast and Slow
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (26 Jan 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846143500
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846143502
  • Product Dimensions: 3.3 x 15.3 x 23 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 61,304 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


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' )

[An] instant classic...[Willpower shows how]...recent research can help people lead better lives - be better parents, stay organized, and lose weight more wisely...[A] brilliant book (Jamie Holmes Daily Beast )

An immensely rewarding book, filled with ingenious research, wise advice and insightful reflections on the human condition (Steven Pinker New York Times Book Review )

An accessible, empirically grounded guide to willpower and how best to deploy it to overcome temptation...Should one need a more practical sales pitch for the importance of willpower, Messrs. Baumeister and Tierney point to ... its over-riding importance for academic, personal, career and financial success... Willpower offers no shortage of helpful strategies to compensate for weakness of will (Cordelia Fine Wall Street Journal )

Willpower affects almost every aspect of our lives...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 (Daniel Gilbert, Harvard University, Author Of 'stumbling On Happiness' )

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' )

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' )

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 (Christopher Buckley, Author 'thank You For Smoking' And 'losing Mum And Pup' )

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 )

A Guardian 2012 Literary Highlight (Guardian )

Willpower rather than self-esteem is the essential ingredient for a successful life...The good news, according to the authors, is that willpower, unlike intelligence, is a muscle that can be exercised and encouraged to grow...The book's success in America underlines its timeliness...I suspect that all the politicians currently talking about "alarm-clock Britain" will be studying this book closely...people could benefit from reading this book (Daisy Goodwin Sunday Times )

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 psychology program at Florida State University. He has over 450 scientific publications, and this will be his 28th book.

John Tierney writes the Findings science column for the New York Times. His science writing has won awards from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute of Physics. He is the author of The Best-Case Scenario Handbook and the co-author, with Christopher Buckley, of the comic novel God Is My Broker. He is a frequent guest on US radio and television.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a test of willpower 15 Mar 2012
By J. Charlesworth VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I really wanted to like this book. It's a popular science book about research into the concept of will-power -apparently an idea which fell out of favour among psychologists for ages, but is now coming back into favour. I'd heard of Roy Bauermeister's research and know that he's a groundbreaking expert in the field. Similarly, I've read articles by James Tierney which I've enjoyed.

But somehow this collaborative effort fell flat for me. I think I'd read too many of the stories before, so it didn't hold my attention. Quite a few of Bauermeister's experiments are described in Steven Pinker's Better Angels of Our Nature, which I read immediately prior to this book. Pinker is hard to equal as a writer, so maybe I was spoiled.

Anyway, this book is short and probably quite interesting and gentle introduction to this topic - if you're a die-hard nerd who's already familiar with the research then the celebrity portraits grate a bit.
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good ideas, a really worthwhile read 7 Mar 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have read 1000's of books on the subject of success, law of attraction, motivation and wealth creation. I have been a business consultant, serial entrepreneur and motivational coach for a number of years. As such I have read many good and extremely poor books on motivation and willpower.

This book falls into the category of well worth reading and is a motivating read. It is 262 pages long with 10 chapters with content ranging from, defining willpower, decision fatigue, can willpower be strengthened, raising strong children and advice against dieting. This makes it a curious mix, looking at virtually all aspects and applications of willpower, within individual and family lives.

The book has three main aspects to it, it looks at why we may not stick to a task, why attractions can be distracting and how therefore to stick to your goals and get things done. From this point of view the book gives you some great tactics to do these things. Where I disagree with the two authors, is in their premise that the longer the day, the less willpower you will have, as your blood sugars are depleted. I am not saying this is wrong, but I have seen in my consultancy business, many many people work long days, in jobs they love and still have the energy to make great decisions.

For me the keys to success in this area of mind dynamics are, understanding what is holding you back....the emotional attachments from the past that deplete energy, identify faulty/victim thinking...which depletes energy, understand that willpower can be gained from mind training and that at the end of the day, if you are doing something you hate doing, your energy will be depleted anyway.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Give into temptation- read this book 24 Jan 2012
By Dr. Nicholas P. G. Davies TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a well written and useful book. It brings together many ideas and shows how they apply in specific examples, and the scientific experiments that back them up. It is well referenced, and generous in acknowledging the contributions of others.

It's main theme is how we get things done, and what helps us to stick to a task, and what attracts us into distractions. We each seem to have a certain finite capacity for making active decisions and choices each day. Once we are exahusted by the effort involved we easily succumb to temptation and distraction. I dread to think what quality my (medical)decisions have at the end of my day at work- there's a good story about judges and their parole decisions- and how these depend as much on the time of the day and the judge's physiological reserves for decision making, as they do on the facts of the case. As it says on p98, "Decision making depletes your willpower, and once your willpower is depleted, you're less able to make decisions. If your work requires you to make hard decisions all day long, at some point you're going to be depleted and start looking for ways to conserve energy."

The differences between those who go for immediate gratification and those who can hold out for delayed gratification are deep and significant. This book is very helpful at explaining these and showing how you can alter your habits towards longer term success- the first habit is to have a plan for the long term, and make sure your long term is over an hour ahead.

This book will be helpful to those of us who have long term plans- and want to increase our chances of achieving them. Order it now.

And for parents it has some smart hints about what kinds of rewards will motivate children well.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars distinctly interesting - but no masterpiece 3 Feb 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is coauthored by a scientist and a science writer and its content is corresponding hybrid. Some chapters major on 'what Baumeister learnd' through his experiments. Others focus more on 'what we can learn from the life of Eric Clapton, or as the case may be, Henry Stanley'. While the largely anecdotal material holds the attention, the real gems are the experimental findings.

The book starts on a high, with measurements of what Germans want to resist (desires to eat, sleep, for taking a break from work, sexual impulses etc) and succeed in resisting (sleep, sex and the urge to spend money). And moves on to questions such as 'is there such a thing as willpower?' (answer: yes and it is limited in quantity and can be depleted through use) and 'what does it feed on?' (answer: glucose - no glucose no willpower but best not to get the glucose through sugar).

Then the book becomes less focused with a study of 'to do lists' (that does make the interesting point that you have to complete an uncompleted experience through detailed planning, or else your mind won't let it alone), the use of external observation to boost willpower, the training of willpower (possible, say the authors - do things like practice sitting up straight and it will generally improve - but their argument that this is like stengthening a muscle seems odd - it's surely just a matter of something becoming habitual and ceasing to use willpower), what to do if you have the problems of Henry Stanley or Eric Clapton (just what they did), raising children (concentrate on willpower by promising rewards for effort; forget about self-esteem as the key to achievement) and dieting (this one's very difficult, they say).
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book opens your mind to things you have never realised !!
Published 7 days ago by Ruairi
5.0 out of 5 stars New standards
Willpower has been praticed for very many years in sports, but Baumeisters reflections, studies and argumentation is just unique. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Lars H. Nielsen
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
If you are into psychology/studying psychology as I am, you should definitely read this. It's written at a level for anyone to understand and sums up most of Baumeister's research... Read more
Published 6 months ago by becca larner
2.0 out of 5 stars Tedious trip round the same old schtick
Annoyed that I didn't have the willpower to wait and get this book from the library. Instead I sought instant gratification by paying for the darned thing! Read more
Published 8 months ago by James Lizard
5.0 out of 5 stars Now I know why goal setting doesn't always help!
I borrowed this from the library and was so interested, I bought it as I wanted to work through the information without time pressure. Read more
Published 8 months ago by alex
5.0 out of 5 stars Credible book about willpower
I am generally skeptical of self-help books, but this book is written by a psychologist who has researched the topic. The content of the book is credible and based on facts. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Ole Kristian
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational and habit changing
Reading this book was such a change for me, it sound simple or crazy, but after reading it I sorted out all my bad habits and rid of procrastination. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Christina Lewis
1.0 out of 5 stars Neither intellectual Nor entertaining = pretty awful
What is good about the book - 1. Roy Baumeister seems to be a respected academic with a track record in researching the subject matter. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Suzie Bennett
3.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting topic and introduction to the topic, but second half...
The authors did a great job linking psychological findings to success factors, and argued nicely that there is such a term as willpower, which can be measured and predicted. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Chrisitan Bentzen
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
An interesting book,with some good tips and tricks. I will definitely try them out to see how they work for me.
Published 11 months ago by hkg 15
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