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Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength [Hardcover]

Roy F. Baumeister , John Tierney
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 6 2011

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.

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Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength + The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It
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"The psychologist Roy F. Baumeister has shown that the force metaphor has a kernel of neurobiological reality. In Willpower, he has teamed up with the irreverent New York Times science columnist John Tierney to explain this ingenious research and show how it can enhance our lives. . . . Willpower is an immensely rewarding book, filled with ingenious research, wise advice and insightful reflections on the human condition."

"An accessible, empirically grounded guide to willpower and how best to deploy it to overcome temptation."

"Willpower is sure to inspire further groundbreaking research into the mechanics of willpower. One implication is already apparent. Since repeated behaviors eventually turn into habits, improving willpower long term requires a unique strategy-a habit of changing habits, of continually expanding our zones of comfort. One such practice, it seems, is the 'routine' of learning. That's a habit that this brilliant book will certainly nourish."

"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)

"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)

"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 WORK)

"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)

"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, former president of American Psychological Association)

"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 of THANK YOU FOR SMOKING)

"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)

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars GOOD BOOK BUT ANNOYED WITH CELEBRITY CASES Jan. 25 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The book contains alot of interesting research which readers will be able to use to improve willpower in their own lives. However, I sometimes had the impression that the author wanted to sensationalize the research by using celebrity examples. Examples are normally used to help the reader understand certain theories or principles but I think the celebrity examples were overdone. This I found annoying but overall I still enjoyed the book and I would recommend to anyone who wishes to have a better understanding of willpower. This book would also be useful for parents who have children who have trouble staying focused.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts... Oct. 17 2011
By Reader Writer Runner TOP 50 REVIEWER
When during the day do judges grant the most paroles? Who reports their eating habits more accurately, dieters or non-dieters? How does someone train to hold his breath for 17 minutes (and why would anyone want to)? What defines self-control? In the fascinating and relevant "Willpower," psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and New York Times science columnist John Tierney elucidate new research on fighting seemingly uncontrollable urges.

Together with intelligence, self-control emerges as the best predictor of a successful and satisfying life. But the authors neither advocate for resisting temptation by sheer force of will nor condemn those who give in as morally irresolute. Rather, they explain that willpower consists of circuitry in the brain that runs on glucose, has a limited capacity and operates by rules that scientists can reverse-engineer, thus compensating for its shortcomings. Examining case studies such as Eric Clapton, a former drug and alcohol abuser, and Oprah Winfrey, the quintessential yo-yo dieter, and citing numerous laboratory experiments, "Willpower" offers a plethora of advice: don't try to tame more than one bad habit at a time, watch for symptoms of "ego fatigue," don't diet, block out temptation as much as possible.

The authors largely appeal to evolutionary biology to explain their findings; neuroscience and economics take a back seat to human interest. Thus, the book contains no discussion of elements such as likelihood of success, temporality and evolutionary impact, which all affect goal-setting and the degree of gratification following achievement of said goals. Nevertheless, "Willpower" provides a rewarding read filled with insightful reflections on the human condition.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting - but not as tactical as I had hoped Oct. 26 2013
By Charles Dimov TOP 500 REVIEWER
Tierney & Baumeister do a good job on WillPower. It is definitely a very interesting read. There are various good empirical observations drawn from scientific psychology research. It is also written in an easy to read format. Despite good examples, I somehow still felt the book lacked more tactical, directives on how to strengthen your own willpower, or that of your children - through specific targeted exercises.

To improve WillPower - a strong, and very point formed summary in the last chapter is something I expected. In fact the book screams for a one sheet bulleted summary. Tierney and Baumeister discuss the importance of self control / Willpower with children. They discuss the importance of strengthening willpower amongst children, but then fall short on failing to provide express exercises which a parent could use to help strengthen their children's self-control. There are loose examples - but these really needed to be fleshed out in far more detail, being much more explicit.

It is a good initial read into the subject. WillPower treats the subject at a high overview level, but really missed on providing sufficient ground level tactical information. I was hopeful - but disappointed in this regard.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Academic Study June 13 2013
The premise of this book is that willpower, or self control as the authors alternatively describe it, correlates closely to what would be defined as success or positive outcomes in an individual's life. This style of this book is that it is written in a text book type presentation. Initially willpower is considered in a historical context and then following chapters consider various aspects such as the `to do' list and decision fatigue which could otherwise be described as decision overload.`

As befits what is really quite an academically inclined book, there is a lot of discussion of the various theories and studies which have taken place. These are validated with no less than 16 pages of references to the source material at the end of the book. The final chapter includes a summary of the main lessons learned which is a useful recap for the reader.

Anyone looking for a self help book is probably going to be disappointed. The presentation does not highlight key issues in an easily digestible list form, and there is little in the way of exercises or tests which you would normally find in a self help type manual. There are, however, plenty of examples to consider. Personally I found it the sort of book where I thought it was most useful to zero in on what I considered the most interesting parts rather than reading it cover to cover in the way one would with a novel.

So to summarise, I thought this was an interesting and thought provoking academic consideration of the issue of willpower. I do not find it surprising that at least one of the authors is an academic who has written a number of text books. Potential readers need to be aware that this is really a much drier presentation of the subject than perhaps is suggested by the title but none the less a worthy study.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good easy to read and good tips for everyday
Good easy to read and good tips for everyday usage
Published 11 days ago by pierre st-onge
5.0 out of 5 stars great insight
Very eye opening book , great insight
Published 2 months ago by kenn
5.0 out of 5 stars If you like to read awesome new stuff....
Then this is the book for you. The authors do an awesome job of helping bring attention and intrigue to a subject that could be considered boring and uninteresting. Read more
Published 17 months ago by MR DARIN GERMYN
4.0 out of 5 stars Great insights but last chapter was disappointing.
Some principles about willpower and how it can help one's life are presented along with easy-to-understand research evidence. Read more
Published 19 months ago by sandsburg
5.0 out of 5 stars so good
the best book,
I recommand it for people need help in thier lives.
willpower is the secret to success. Read more
Published 21 months ago by sami
5.0 out of 5 stars Will power; how to save and how to spend it.
This is the most interesting psychology book I have read in 10 years. It is a blend of anecdotal observations from high profile individuals and controlled observations from the... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Allan M. Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my top ten
Awesome book!! A lot of life changing ideas and insights. This book is definitely on my top ten list! I highly recommend it.
Published 22 months ago by Aws Amro
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, broad, but shallow
Interesting read, covering a large area of research, but perhaps a little less deep than I was hoping to see.
Published on Oct. 19 2011 by Matthew Guam
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