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Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  12,195 Ratings  ·  727 Reviews
Pioneering research psychologist Roy F. Baumeister collaborates with "New York Times" science writer John Tierney to revolutionize our understanding of the most coveted human virtue: self-control. Drawing on cutting-edge research and the wisdom of real-life experts, "Willpower" shares lessons on how to focus our strength, resist temptation, and redirect our lives. It shows ...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published September 1st 2011 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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Lee Welter Along with influencing my own behaviors, I have recommended this book to my EMT and EMT-P (paramedic) students who must deal with the stress of…moreAlong with influencing my own behaviors, I have recommended this book to my EMT and EMT-P (paramedic) students who must deal with the stress of student life and exams, along with the challenges of shift-work scheduling and the emotional impact of patients' severe illness, injury, and death.(less)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nov 28, 2011 Lee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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:

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
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
Oct 17, 2011 Hdmsisk rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 22, 2012 Christopher rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 05, 2011 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 25, 2012 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sep 30, 2011 Lara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 11, 2013 Einar rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Josh Friedlander
Like most pop-psych books, a little too inspirational and feel-good for my taste. But this book has some extraordinary factual claims: willpower, long ignored by social scientists (who preferred to attribute achievements to environmental factors), is something like a muscle, which can be carefully managed or tired out, as well as trained. The authors survey people with great willpower (recovering addicts, endurance artists, Victorian explorers) and discuss ways to understand and improve your cha ...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
Aug 18, 2014 7jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book helped me see some of the ways willpower can run out, and how to keep that from happening too easily. The chapter about dieting was especially helpful to me, but the other chapters were also helpful. I liked how the conclusion gathered a lot the essence of the chapters (though I still gathered some from the chapter texts). The examples were interesting, and not just on what various tests showed (life examples were things like AA, living statues, Anthony Trollope's working method, and c ...more
Aug 17, 2011 Melody marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
The essay based on this book ( 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.
Daniel Ionson
Aug 30, 2015 Daniel Ionson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I'm combining the reviews for both the Baumeister/Tierney and McGonigal books into one because they are so similar (and both even reference each other).

These were both important books for me. I detest "self-help" books for their fluff, but (like the rest of us) need external help to evolve. So, these were the perfect mix of reliable, empirical data and practical application for the strengthening of my own willpower.

(I've pasted this from my website, which focuses on writers, but the principles a
Oct 16, 2015 Richard marked it as to-read-3rd  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Richard by:
Shelves: nonfiction, cognition
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
Jan 16, 2012 Barb rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-help
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
Jan 27, 2012 Stuardo Berti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
This is a very interesting and useful book, not just from a self-help point of view but also from a psychological point of view. I’ve never heard of ‘willpower’ being studied and viewed like this, and it’s always nice to read a different point of view. I read it as a book on psychology rather than a self-help book, but nevertheless I will be using some of the ideas expressed in this book. I skimmed through the chapter on dieting because I doubt that it’ll ever apply to me, but the rest of the bo ...more
Sep 12, 2014 Meredith rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
I thought I would really enjoy this book as I've read books by a scientist that gave this book a positive review. Unfortunately this book mostly frustrated me for its reliance on weak, anecdotal examples of "willpower" and "ego depletion". Instead of describing complex phenomena and scientific concepts in a way the layman could comprehend (which has been done numerous times by many talented authors), Tierney & Baumeister describe willpower using a seemingly random compilation of personal acc ...more
Feb 18, 2014 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 04, 2011 Jason rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 29, 2014 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, bum, nonfiction
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
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
Dec 09, 2011 Annie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 06, 2011 Clara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 02, 2013 Wade rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This has become one of those life defining books for me. I read it at a time when I was constantly on the edge of total burnout. This book helped me start to think strategically about the energy that I exert on various projects and tasks.

The writers demonstrate how the energy exerted to go to the gym is the same energy that we use to avoid fast food, to read a book, or go to work. They talk about very specific strategies for conserving your energy and willpower. They talk about ways to increase
Dec 03, 2011 laura marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
"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
Claudia Putnam
Would have benefitted from a stronger summary at the end...I'd like to have gone back and taken notes on each section, but I didn't have the discipline. I might end up buying this. I've always wondered why I have such strong drive but so little self control... turns out willpower is easily depleted. At any given time we are all using about a quarter of our willpower resisting temptation. Usually food and sex. One implication, not really stated here but easily inferred is that driven people--you ...more
Harlen Bains
“Willpower” is a book that provides insight into the latest research and the findings. Though I was very excited about the book initially, I was quickly bored by the endless references to experiments and and the methodology behind them. The best ideas from the book in my opinion are:

1.Willpower is limited
2. Willpower must be managed
3. When trying not to do something, like eating cake while on a diet, don't say that you can't have it; instead say that you can have it when the diet is over.
4. Will
May 13, 2015 Zoubir rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology, self-help

كتاب رائع, بعيدا عن الحشو الذي نجده في كتب التنمية البشرية, هو عبارة عن ملحصّ للأبحاث التي أجراها البروفيسور Roy F. Baumeister في علم النفس لمدة 40 سنة مع الاستشهاد بأبحاث أخرى عن الـWillPower أو قوّة الارادة. الكتاب يشرح أولا ما هي الإرادة و من أين تأتي قوة الارادة, و كيف تتأثر الإرادة بالمجهود العضلي و الذهني الذي نقوم به, و خاصة الانهاك الذي تسببه عملية اتخاذ القرارات.

يتناول الكتاب كيفية معالجة أهم المشاكل التي يواجهها الناس و التي تتطلب إرادة قوية, مثل الإدمان و الـتأجيل و التبذير , الخ. و ه
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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.” 12 likes
“For most of us, though, the problem is not a lack of goals but rather too many of them.” 8 likes
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