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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Fascinated with all things to do with the brain, and knowing that in general I have very little willpower, I was looking forward to reading this, if only to try and discover a few tips for life, no matter how vague.

What I have learnt, is to treat any scientific study I am ever asked to take part in with a full dose of scepticism because it's probably trying to identify something entirely different to the professed purpose.

That aside, what I read in "Willpower" is as morbidly fascinating as finding out my chiropractor isn't talking twoddle when he says that if I sit a certain way I'll be inhibiting the overall way I can move. Apparently if I spend all morning avoiding the sweets someone's put out on a desk, it's only natural that by lunchtime, I'll have expended all my willpower on the sweeties and end up at the Golden Arches for dinner.

Willpower was an eye-opener of a book and a fascinating read. You can easily relate to each and every aspect of this book, whether your a self-professed armchair procrastinator with not a single ounce of willpower, or a get-up-and-go high flier (that is probably burnt out by the weekend with very little tolerance for anything after expending all your willpower energy during the week).

Not particularly self-help in its orientation, this is nevertheless an accomplished, well-written and easily read book.
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on 14 April 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I felt let down by this book. It was marketed as a scientifically rigorous examination of an important part of our make-up. Instead, it comes across as firmly in the pop science/self help genre, complete with chirpy style and second hand anecdotes (Eliot Spitzer, H.M. Stanley, Oprah). Many people enjoy and even benefit from such books; but it does well to know what one is buying into.

Baumeister and Tierney argue that will power - the definition is vague but we know it when we see it, or perhaps more relevantly, when we fail to exercise it - is like a muscle. It depletes through over use and it may be strengthened through exercise. Within any depletion cycle, it is zero sum: if one uses it up being too effective at work, then one is more likely to be nasty to one's spouse or to take that second scoop of ice-cream after dinner.

There is a catalogue of things that enhance will-power: being Asian American (some evidence for genetics but mainly cultural), being part of a religious organization, being tidy and having good posture, being monitored, committing oneself publicly to a goal, keeping up one's blood sugar level etc. There is also a list of things that erode will power: sparing the rod (or its PC equivalent), alcohol, being hungry, PMS, being stressed or tired etc. In fact, just the things that Grandma told us about.

The authors draw on scientific evidence to back up Granny. There is relatively little discussion of genes and just a bit more on data drawn from brain scans. Most comes from the type of experiment in which a group of student volunteers is sealed in a room with a bowl of M & Ms, shown a depressing Continental movie and asked to stick their hands in ice-water or squeeze a handgrip. Not much chance of cloning a sheep or finding the Higgs Boson here. I often think that there is more to be learned about human psychology in reading the 37 plays of Shakespeare than in the entire library of the Psych faculty.

Towards the end of the book, the authors provide some suggestions as to how to improve one's exercise of willpower- pretty thin soup compared to the shelves of self-help books to be found in airport bookstores.

I was annoyed at myself for finishing the book rather than spending the time more fruitfully, but somehow I just couldn't get around to abandoning it.
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VINE VOICEon 5 October 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I really enjoyed this book for the interesting content and deluge of groundbreaking knowledge that it imparts to you.

Willpower has a lot to do with your glucose and the efficiency that your body is able to convert it into brain energy. Those that have difficulty converting glucose for muscle and brain use are diabetics. Why are experts able to predict criminal behaviour based upon the effects of glucose and peoples ability for self-control?

We discover that no glucose = no willpower. So "Feed the Beast" - a good day starts with a healthy breakfast. To be able to keep your self control and work without losing your temper when under pressure or in stressful times, you need to be refuelled. The best foods for maintaining a steady self-control: nuts, raw fruit, cheese, fish, meat, and other good fats.

Learn why you should prioritise your goals, yet leave room for flexibility in your plans.

Sit up straight! We should all be sitting up straight. Why? This helps by overriding a slouching habit, strengthening willpower, so creating a desire to do better. Physical discipline leads to mental discipline and focus, which leads to sharper attention and more willpower. The strong get stronger.

One chapter is about the perfect storm of dieting.

I could go on. This book is a mine of golden nuggets. Brilliant. And for all those without willpower to read the whole book from the start there is a useful conclusion that summarises how to create and maintain your willpower.
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VINE VOICEon 8 July 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I first heard about 'Willpower: Rediscovering our Greatest Strength' during a brief segment on Radio 4 whilst driving into work one morning and thought it sounded worth reading. When the opportunity to read it came up I jumped at the chance.

The basic premise of the book is that we've all got a limited amount of willpower which can be depleted when trying to resist that chocolate bar or dredging up the enthusiasm to go the gym. In the scientific studies the book discusses they found that test subjects willpower is given a quick boost by sugar drinks as the body is craving glucose. This helps to explain the allure of the mid-afternoon chocolate bar!

This is not really a 'self help' kind of book, although there are things you can look out for and suggestions on what you can do in different situations. The sections on dieting (don't!) and raising children are fascinating and well worth reading in their own right.

These sort of books can sometimes be a tough read and tricky to get all the way through I find, but I really enjoyed the readable writing style of 'Willpower' and the mixture of anecdotal stories and scientific studies made it an informative read.
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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).

A final chapter sets out some conclusions - not least, try to avoid needing to use willpower, as that's what the most self-controlled people do...Why do things look better in the morning, by the way - it's because the ego is less depleted in the morning (you haven't started exhausting your stock of willpower for the day!)>>>
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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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VINE VOICEon 8 February 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a book that really grabbed my attention, and I breezed eagerly through it in a couple of days. It's packed full of fascinating and useful information, and in the few days since reading it feels like some of what I learnt from it is already changing my life.

I have some major reservations about it though. Firstly, the writing style is overbearingly - there's no nice way to put this - American. (Actually, that's very unfair: I've just read another American science book - Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer - which demonstrates all of the skepticism, humility and humanity which this book lacks). It reads like a slightly bombastic self-help or business mentoring book; it never wavers in the certainty that it is right; and it never passes up an opportunity to demonstrate just how right it knows it is.

These reservations were only strengthened when I did some secondary research around some of the topics covered by the book and discovered that there are several people in the scientific community who have their doubts about theories such as Ego Depletion, or the link between glucose and self-control - theories which are presented in this book as fact, as backed up by an unchallengeable body of scientific evidence (the book details each supporting experiment's methodology in increasingly tedious detail, just in case you have any doubts as to how reliable this evidence is; however, again some independent research reveals that these experiments' findings are not always as rock-solid as they may appear).

The overwhelming impression is of a book dictated by the godfather of all Willpower theorising, Roy F. Baumeister, to his sycophantic amanuensis, Roy Tierney, who was unwilling or unable to ever question his master's voice.

Despite all of this, I'm happy to give the book four stars: it would feel mean-spirited of me not to, given that the book did hold my attention so strongly (despite its numerous digressions into experimental methodology), and that for all that some of its findings may be disputed, there are many which will not be and with those alone I have managed in a very short time to enrich my life.
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VINE VOICEon 15 April 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The authors know what they are talking about. Baumeister is head of the psychology program at Florida State University and Tierney has won awards for his science writing. And yes, this is very well researched and readable book about gaining some self control.

The authors claim this book can be life changing. And they quote numerous practical examples of how people have got control over their lives. It is entertaining; for example, chapter three is a brief history of the "to-do" list, and starts off with that forerunner of virtue and self-help, Benjamin Franklin. Chapter eight is entitled "did a higher power help Eric Clapton and Mary Karr stop drinking". You need to read it to find out, its a good an fair discussion about alcohol and AA.

But can this book change your life? Not unless you put whats set forth into practice. Will power is like a muscle, say the authors, and can be improved.

Its definitely worth reading.
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on 26 August 2013
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. Further, the authors identified a few strategies for having enough willpower (you need to read the book to understand my last sentence), but that part of the book needs improvement. The second half of the book comes down to various examples, which is in the logical sense is not a valid method of argumentation. It is unfortunate that they chose this path, as the first half was really worth reading - and enough for me to recommend the book as an introduction to the field.

The language is very nice and the topic was easy to understand for an amateur like me. The order of presentation was also very well crafted, and I found the first half to be a one of those book where you can't wait to read the next page.
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on 22 September 2013
What is good about the book - 1. Roy Baumeister seems to be a respected academic with a track record in researching the subject matter. However, judging by the style, my impression is that the book was penned by the journalist co-author and Baumeister merely signed off on the text. 2. The book does refer to the results of several interesting experiments in psychology - so this is not just anecdotes and one does learn something about recent research on self-control

What is terrible about the book - 1. Poor sense of structure. The authors (Tierney, I suspect - the book annoyingly keeps talking about Baumeister in the third person, which leaves a slight taste of hagiography) have done an awful job at drawing the the reader into the subject. There is no flow and only a weak sense of how the various sub-topics hang together. Some digressions seem long and not really relevant (for example - fairly long but pointless discussion of PMS syndrome in women - but beyond the simple fact that PMS is associated with weakened self-control, this adds absolutely nothing). 2. The book is aimed at a popular reader - don't buy this if you prefer something more rigorous and intellectually stimulating. 3. The bland writing style, regurgitation of results of studies, jumping from topic to topic (PMS, dieting, parenting) make it quite a boring read. So it is not just substandard intellectually but also not really entertaining.

Please don't get me wrong - the subject itself is fascinating. But in my view it is handled very poorly here, despite the credentials of Roy Baumeister.
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