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. A great great book I highly recommend to realise why you may lack willpower when dealing with life and career is, Whats Stopping You by Robert Kelsey. This book addresses the faulty thinking that depletes your energy and willpower and is simply brilliant. I think that the authors have confused willpower with fatigue and or problems associated with fears of failure and low self esteem.....all of which can deplete energy.
This book is worth reading and has some good ideas on goal setting/attaining and checking your progress towards success. I think the discussion about willpower and what depletes it, needs some serious widening to encompass other areas of mind dynamics, which also deplete energy and willpower. I do not agree with some of the authors presumptions. It should therefore also be read in conjunction with books that offer a broader analysis of why some people have issues with willpower, such as the one mentioned.
I like some of the ideas, but it lacks a wider analysis of the subject. Interesting as far as it goes.
on 3 February 2012
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!)>>>
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.
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.
on 14 April 2012
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.
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.
I was intrugued with the title. It suggested a return to good old-fashioned Willpower. Further reading about the book revealed it would be revisiting will-power with a fresh perspective and some good experiments on people's willpower.
I finished the book in 4 days. Recently I've stuggled to find a book in the self-help field to grip me long enough to complete. This book was just what I needed.
I will say upfront this is not a spoon-feeding book. It lays out the experiments, the findings and some observations. Any inquisitive adult will be able to piece together the value of the findings.
One of the most important findings in the book is willpower requires energy. Its all very well writing out a book about change this, create to do lists, focus on one thing etc but if you've run out of willpower-fuel its just going to crash and burn.
Our fuel for our bodies is essential to keep going. Making some shifts that are not ingrained in us requires extra energy to make the shift. If we overload ourselves with too many changes we burn out and then no change is made at all.
The key is to manage our energy source. Its also to be very aware of how much it takes out of us to make changes. If we burn a lot of fuel in other areas of our lives, just from day to day living, we have to understand that progress is going to slow down.
Each chapter shows how we tick as humans and how our brains function. It shows when we are vunerable to weakness and how to avoid it. Most experiments show the optimum way to operate in a given situation. But also at times there is more of a combination that works.
I didn't find any chapter boring. I didn't find the book too long either. I totally enjoyed the book. I love it because it connected with my inner sense of logic and I feel the experiments shown in the book make the findings more accurate.
There is a very interesting chapter on how to develop your willpower. Although developing willpower in one area will give you the strength to develop in another area, without a goal in mind things won't happen by themselves. A chapter on David Blaine's Houdini-like discipline and willpower shows that even with superhuman willpower you won't send the necessary documentation to claim you world record unless you have the discipline of completing your paperwork... I found this very true really. All goals need to be clearly defined and agreed upon in the first place.
There is a great chapter on dieting. How most people have great willpower even when overweight. All they need to do is understand how to avoid temptation and stay on a good path of gaining results week by week.
Once new habits have bedded in, they require very little energy to maintain. So there is the initial graft to bed them, but after that they are running themselves.
I decided to make a list of habits I'd like to ingrain. One of them is to keep my whole interior of my car clean. My business and my personal training means I usually keep more stuff in my car than most. Nothing expensive, just stuff like cardboard for wrapping parcels, parcel tape, gym accessories, spare towel, a few car cleaning items, yoga mat etc but my boot has until recently been a complete jumble of stuff. The same was inside the main area. So my new goal after spending two hours cleaning it, was zero tolerance of leaving stuff on the car seats, organising proper boxes in the boot. Its a work in progress but it feels great knowing anyone can just jump in and sense the car owner takes a bit of self-pride.
But the book explains why this behaviour exists. Using a study on students and their limited energy resources. There is a limited resource of energy to do things that are very difficult, like study. So tidy rooms is regarded as a unnecessary drain on energy.
The way out of the behaviour is to bed in new routines, a few at a time and then they don't drain the energy. They run themselves effortlessly.
There are some review comments about the explorer Morgan Stanley from the 19th century. I felt it demonstrated the use of a lot of the techniques in this book to keep up the momentum of exploring a very treacherous Africa at that time for years.
on 29 October 2015
I bought this to help with my project at uni - I was writing about willpower in games. This book really gave me a good insight into willpower as a whole, to which I then applied using games as a means to measure willpower under different conditions.
I didn't intend to read the full thing, I initially intended to skim read and take out tid bits of information here and there, but it ended up being one of my main pieces of literature to refer to.
Excellent book, and such an easy read for anyone studying a similar topic. It definitely helps when your reference material is a joy to read.
Author's Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney have a wonderful way with words and can make 291 pages on one subject, Willpower, seem like a five minute read, at least, that's how it felt because I enjoyed it so much and read it very fast. Despite its 17 page introduction.
From the first chapter, "Is Willpower More than a Metaphor?" where we are encourged to think about lessons of perserverance and ego-depletion studies, we move to an interesting question, "Where does the Power in Willpower Come from?" a detailed look into what helps us to keep going to keep our self-control from weakening or making bad decisions. Is it in our genes? Or could it be the food we eat and the amount of sleep we get each night?
We also learn about the to-do list in "A Brief History of the To-Do List, from God to Dew Carey" , which explains how to-do lists are just another way to set clear guidelines if done correctly. We also meet the "Getting Things Done; The Art of Stress Free Productivity" guru, David Allen to find out what he would do to save time and energy. In the "Decision Fatigue" it's all about making the right decisions at the right time for the best results.
In chapter 5, "Where have all the Dollars Gone? The Quantified Self Knows" what is it in our brains that makes us a spendthrift or a penny-pinching tightwad?
This is followed by "Can willpower be strengthened? (Preferably without feeling David Baines's Pain)", is it a muscle that can be controlled and strengthened? and "Outsmarting Yourself in the Heart of Darkness" A reference to Joseph Conrad's book and the connections the authors make. What mental tricks to conserve willpower does David Blaine know that we don't?
In Chapter 8 we investigate " Did a Higher Power Help Eric Clapton and Mary Karr Stop Drinking?" or was willpower enough?
"Raising Strong Children; Self-Esteem versus Self-Control" is chapter nine's baby proving that despite claims, self-control is far more appropriate in raising strong children.
Finally, the chapter everyone was waiting for, "The Perfect Storm of Dieting". Exactly what is it that makes some people do well when losing weight, and others fail?
Closing with the conclusion "The Future of Willpower, More Gain, Less Strain, (as long as you don't procrastinate!) Saving time without missing out on fun, and the real affects of those with stronger willpower is brought to life. A treat for tired minds!
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.