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Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  9,001 ratings  ·  601 reviews
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 co ...more
Hardcover, 291 pages
Published September 1st 2011 by Penguin Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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Community Reviews

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Lee
Over the summer I read an article about "decision fatigue" in The New York Times, easily one of the most "illuminating" science/behavior-related articles I'd ever read: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazi...

It turned out that my inability to refuse that piece of chocolate, the last slice of pizza, one more beer etc, didn't mean I had "no willpower" as I'd always thought. After reading the article, it was clear that my willpower (and related glucose supply) was consumed by waking up pretty e
...more
Parker F
This book has a few serious flaws. Almost all of the Willpower anecdotes involve B- and C-list actors and musicians. Are Drew Carey, the fat guy from HBO's Arli$$, and that British pop-star whom I've never heard of the best people to exemplify concepts of willpower management? The invocation of fMRI to provide a more solid biological grounding to some of the concepts in will power is trendy and useless. To all readers of pop-psychology books, take note that if an fMRI implicates a brain structur ...more
Christopher
This book is a lesson in bad science. The authors routinely mistake correlation with causality, and assert that "willpower" is the magic force responsible for the seemingly positive experimental results, when 95% of the time the data is flawed in some way--the experiments are either pure garbage from a design perspective, or have their results misconstrued by the authors, or the authors make a fallacy of generalizing from a very specific laboratory setting to real world conditions that do not su ...more
Hdmsisk
Fascinating book but the introduction is incredibly boring. Things that I learned:

Willpower is depleted as it is used even in decision making leaving one with lower willpower. To avoid this:
1. Feed the beast ie things won't go well, when low on energy
2. Sugar does not help since it causes surges and crashes
3. Eat food that burns slow ie nuts, protein, vegetables, good fats
4. When you are sick save your glucose for immune system
5. Replenish with sleep

Best sign to recognize when low on willpower
...more
Emily
Oct 05, 2011 Emily rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2011
This book reveals counterintuitive research results about willpower, and I'd probably give it five stars (for being "perspective changing") if I hadn't already been brought up with this perspective. This book explores self-control and willpower, as opposed to impulsiveness and the cult of self-esteem. It discusses how willpower is necessary for avoiding all sorts of damaging and distracting temptations that prevent people from being happy, and shows that that willpower can be strengthened. Most ...more
Megan
May 25, 2012 Megan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Megan by: James
I just re-read this book for our book group on May 22, 2012. It's still great. I was happy for the review--especially about Drew Carey's organizational tips. Also the reminders about not making important decisions when you're depleted. Here's my original review:

After a year of successful dieting and weight loss, I suddenly hit a wall where no amount of willpower could see me through. I went through a solid week of inability to control my eating. I had previously prided myself on my great reserve
...more
Nathan
I picked up this book hoping it would give me some science-based tips for honing my highly-variable willpower. I have learned a lot from this book, but mainly to be careful about what I hope for from a book. "Some science-based tips" is ridiculous. Science is, as a friend recently observed, what is not yet proven false. In particular, the science of the brain and cognition is still in its early days: we have some disconnected "that's interesting" results, some overarching hypotheses, but nothing ...more
Lara
After three weeks of my children being in school, it's clear that my willpower has been depleted.

I know this because I have forgotten about some important things, despite the many reminders and writing them in my new, awesome planner. Because I yelled at all three of my children last night while we were working on homework. Because I have no motivation. Oh, and because I haven't been to the gym since the second day of school.

In the book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy
...more
Richard
Sep 03, 2011 Richard marked it as to-read
Recommended to Richard by: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/04/boo...
Shelves: cognition, nonfiction
Quite a few months ago I learned the term “decision fatigue,” and then I noticed it in action a few days later. I play boardgames quite often, and prefer strategic games. I was in the middle of a tough game, playing in a coffee shop, and during a break I ordered a slice of cake for a snack. Which is strange, because I’m usually very, very good at not going for those sweet treats. It immediately occurred to me that this was an instance of this new-fangled cognate.

Even though I’ve read quite a few
...more
Barb
Having read Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty by Baumeister and Beck (1999) many years ago, I expected this book to be heavy on research. It is -- although Willpower is much more readable, using simple language and celebrity anecdotes to capture and hold the reader's attention. For those who want more science and less self-help-happy talk, there are plenty of references to check out. For those who want more step-by-step guidance, perhaps other self-help books in the workbook style should b ...more
Stuardo Berti
First thing first.
If you are reading this book ebook style, beware that the last 20% are bibliographies. The book is shorter than what it seems.

The book is an interesting read. I guess it can divided in three parts.
First glucose and its effect on willpower
Second self-control guides, tips, and examples
Third Conclusions and applications

Regarding the read. The first 25% where a fast read, the second 25% was a bit of a struggle, the third 25% was fast and the last was a breeze.

If you are looking
...more
Gail Schultz
For a girl who can easily chew through a book a week without breaking a sweat, this book was a marathon.

It took me 3 months to meander my way through all of this somewhat interesting book.

I enjoyed reading about the research studies and a few human prodigies (like the amazing David Blaine) but this book proves once again that just because you are a NYTimes bestseller does not mean it is worth the money.

After forcing myself through this book with the promise of a really fun book to follow to re
...more
Melody
Aug 17, 2011 Melody marked it as to-read
The essay based on this book (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/mag...) is SO interesting (says the woman who read the essay when she couldn't get up the willpower to keep writing her intro AP lecture). At least that essay, if not this book, is definitely worth a read.
Jason
Willpower was a great change from my normal reading. I have long had a fascination with the topics of motivation and self-control. I usually gravitate toward action-oriented self-help books. This work focuses on summarizing the psychological research related to willpower. It was refreshing to hear the research findings to try to glean my own motivation tactics rather than relying on the already-formulated tactics of gurus that don't work universally. It specifically details the work of Baumeiste ...more
Sarah
I saw the man who wrote this book in Youtube. I liked his talk. One day at a bookstore, I just saw this book. I didn't plan of buying it but I bought it right away (I'm an impulsive buyer of books and perhaps I need self-control.) This book is terrific. It's not like any of those inspirational and motivational books that get a little tiresome in the middle. This book is based on several research done in the past, in his laboratory, and in other parts of the world. He is a scientist and I like ho ...more
Annie
I picked up this book as a way to increase my willpower for training for a marathon. Indeed, it did help - in very specific ways - train my mind to overcome the "wall" that I would encounter on my long runs. More than this, it helped me become more productive and organized in my daily routines, specifically as a mother and a graduate student. I have taken the practical and very applicable advice from this book and put it to work in my life, and noticed results almost immediately. What we think w ...more
Clara
Baumeister & Tierney's take on willpower is insightful and compelling, particularly with regard to the mechanisms by which religion serves to improve self-control. An irony I failed to appreciate until recently is that while the discourse of some organized religion purports to promote a "good outcome" after death, religious individuals in fact experience greater satisfaction (on the whole, compared with non-religious individuals) while living, because of the benefits of continual self-monito ...more
Einar
This book is marred by the silly and flippant writing style - no doubt an attempt to be "humorous" and to make the material as broadly accessible as possible. In my mind, at least, that attempt is a spectacular failure - I found it to be occasionally embarrassing and painful to read. There's also plenty of what appears to be unsubstantiated conjectures with respect to the causes of some of the reported research findings. The authors seem content whenever they find *some* narrative that could exp ...more
laura gillespie
Dec 03, 2011 laura gillespie marked it as to-read
"This year, in their book “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength,” the social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and the New York Times science writer John Tierney survey a large body of scientific research to conclude that willpower is limited and depends on a continuous supply of the simple sugar glucose. When glucose is depleted, you fall prey to impulse shopping, affairs and cookies. The solution? “Try to get some glucose in you,” Mr. Tierney told NPR."

i cannot fucking wait to rea
...more
Leslie
This book contains a lot of really good information! I was pleased to learn that I already do many of the things the authors recommend, and I have started doing a few other things they recommend since having read this book. Not to toot my own horn or anything; this book helped me understand why I have great self-control in some areas and not so much in others, or why I can exercise a good deal of willpower at some times and not at others. It can help you understand this phenomenon, too!

Overall t
...more
Jenny
This book is fabulous. It was a pleasure to read, and changed my life for the better.

It's not at all a self help book, it's a intriguing and well researched work of non-fiction. But since I've long believed that if I had more self control I'd be able to better keep my house clean/be patient with my children/meet my exercise goals/write every day, et cetera, I loved learning more about this quality of willpower and how it can be depleted and strengthened.

In the week after I read it, I found mys
...more
Leo Polovets
This book was awesome. In recent years, there has been a lot of research on willpower. What is willpower? Can it be depleted? Can it be developed? If it can be developed, then how? The authors answer all of these questions while citing numerous scientific studies. One of the coauthors is a scientist while the other is a New York Times science journalist, and that’s a great mix for a book like this.

In practical terms, it seems like people have an exhaustible supply of willpower, and that everythi
...more
David
This is truly a book whose parts are worth more than their whole - and that's okay! It's kinda like reading a whole bunch of really interesting magazine articles in a row, or getting trapped into a late night of surfing Wikipedia.

Willpower offers a very interesting way to think about your capacity to do things - particularly things you don't want to do. The idea that there is a finite reserve of willpower actually explains a lot of my habits better than I would have expected. Best of all, merely
...more
Leslie
I rated this book highly because, like its jacket, it's simple and self-explanatory. The authors won't be winning any Nobel prizes in literature but the mountains of research presented in bite-sized chunks is impressive. I love a book that provides a promise and delivers. They are rare in all genres. I chose this book to gain a better understanding of what willpower is and how/why it is both strengthened and weakened. This information was provided in layman's terms along with much more. My hat i ...more
Maria
This was a great book about... (what else) willpower and self-control. Because I like these two things, a lot, I borrowed it from the library.
It's organized with ten chapters and a conclusion, which provides a summary of the book. If you're in a hurry, the conclusion is the thing to read.
The gist of the book, for both my own and others' use:
- You have a finite amount of willpower, and you use this same cache of willpower for everything you do.
- People in messy rooms exhibit less self-control tha
...more
Prashanth
A good but simple book on self control/willpower/successful self reliance. The book has its flaws. The majority of the chapters focus on explaining something with the help of experiments performed on a group of people in a lab, or college students, or experiments done on bigger groups. I found the experiments/statistics part of the book a little unsettling, as I'm of the opinion that you cant really put a finger on behavioral features in a lab and come to a strong conclusion based on the statist ...more
Book
Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney

"Willpower" is a mildly helpful book on how to harness willpower to make positive changes to ourselves and our society. According to social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and in collaboration with journalist John Tierney, the current research into willpower and self-control is psychology's best hope for contributing to human welfare. The authors provide many case studies of various degrees of interest that
...more
Jo Bennie
Nov 30, 2014 Jo Bennie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: b
There are thousands of books on self-help, but I am averse to the kind of unsubstantiated mantras about thinking yourself into success that so many of them espouse. Baumeister and Teirney's book is different, it is completely evidence based. It cites results that have confounded experimenters and forced them to rethink their current ways of thinking about willpower and self regulation, and so to find new clarity. It speaks about the genetic basis of willpower but also the ways in which we can he ...more
Alan Bevan
This is a book worth reading and revisiting. I used a bit of willpower and made some notes as I read. They are copied below. They give a summary of my take home messages from the book.


Willpower can fatigue. We have a finite amount of willpower which becomes depleted as we use it. Therefore if we focus on one project at a time we maximise outcomes as we are less depleted.

Personal organisation - getting things done techniques - can free us to focus

Our mental capacities are strongly influenced by b
...more
Matt
Much more of a pop-science slant than I would have preferred, but otherwise this book does a great job of digesting the field of self-regulation (the "willpower" of the title) into an easily-understood narrative and readily applicable tools to exploit the knowledge.

The essence of Roy Baumeister's research is that, contrary to beliefs that prevailed through much of the 20th century, willpower -- which is variously described as the ability to focus, apply one's cognitive abilities, and restrain e
...more
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Dr. Roy F. Baumeister is Social Psychology Area Director and Francis Eppes Eminent Scholar at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. He is a social psychologist who is known for his work on the self, social rejection, belongingness, sexuality, self-control, self-esteem, self-defeating behaviors, motivation, and aggression. And enduring theme of his work is "why people do stupid things." ...more
More about Roy F. Baumeister...
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“What stress really does, though, is deplete willpower, which diminishes your ability to control those emotions.” 2 likes
“For most of us, though, the problem is not a lack of goals but rather too many of them.” 1 likes
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