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Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  18,570 ratings  ·  1,125 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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Joe Anglim Yes. I can not say enough good things about this material.

I have made improving my ability at self regulation a serious long term goal. There has bee…more
Yes. I can not say enough good things about this material.

I have made improving my ability at self regulation a serious long term goal. There has been a major change in the order of things that are most valuable to me. Physical and emotional comfort are now much less important than getting work (goals completed) done as I go through the day. This is life changing and I can't say that about too many other things in my life.

I have been making a serious effort to work with this information for about seven months and I can't see me slacking off.

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Lee Klein
Oct 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Parker F
Oct 09, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Krishna Chaitanya
It's a test to your willpower to get past through the first few chapters then the inspiration kicks in with experiments and factual analysis.

This book is too technical and a little complex to categorize this as self-help. Few chapters start with a question and makes the reader waiting for a concrete answer but in the end, it's open to interpretation, you need to derive your own answer based on the experiments conducted and the person's (mainly celebrities) characteristics mentioned in the chapte
Amir Tesla
Oct 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: productivity
The intelligent want self-control; children want candy. - Rumi
If there is only one principle for success, it would be doing the things that are right and doing them at the right time. That's not easy. But we can make it easy.

What we need is a cultivated willpower and the knowledge of how it works!

Read the Full Definite Guide On How You Can Increase Your Willpower and Discipline

In pursuit of excellence, motivation is an unreliable luxury that blossoms and withers on its own terms; but a cultivat
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fic
Willpower. Self-discipline. The power to make yourself do stuff when you don't want to.

What better a topic to read about when you’re stuck at home for weeks during a pandemic, with the fog of ennui settling upon everything?

This book took me weeks to get through, and believe me, the delicious irony of struggling to commit to finishing a book on willpower was not lost on this reader.

My slow progress had nothing to do with the quality of this book, or the style it is written in.

Like many, I’ve s
Oct 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
By the time people tried to set aside external orders and searched for internal motives to shape their own behaviors, willpower and self-control or self-regulation gently showed themselves in different theories and in different frames. A primary experiment which was not even intended for analyzing self-control, appeared to be the main feat in this realm:a marshmallow experiment to analyze self-resisting power of a set of children. Children of different self-resisting levels ended up having diffe ...more
Oct 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Jul 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Jun 27, 2014 rated it did not like it
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 account ...more
Gail Schultz
Mar 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: psychology
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
Sep 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
May 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Immensely rewarding! This book is filled with genius research, practical advice and insightful reflections on how willpower determines our actions.

Several books I recently read referred to Baumeisters "Willpower", which is why I wanted to read the original source and I wasn‘t disappointed! Despite the clickbait subheading, this is a brilliant collection of studies and examples of what willpower and self-control actually are and which role they play in our life‘s.

The main thesis evolves around u
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
Daniel Ionson
Nov 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Aug 17, 2011 marked it as to-read
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. ...more
Sep 03, 2011 marked it as to-read
Recommended to Richard by:
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
Jan 16, 2012 rated it liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this and took a lot of interesting notes. Can't wait to discuss with Con over Christmas! I think I'll include my notes in my next family letter. ...more
Shiny Choudhury
Jan 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
It’s almost romantic to think of ‘will power’ as this innate either-you-have-it-or-not reserve of power/energy that one uses in formidable situations. Instances worthy of heroics. However, Baumeister and Tierney show in a systematic and causal way what this ‘will’ we swoon over, really is. I specifically found the experiments informative. Planned or not, the specific scenarios chosen are situations one grapples on an everyday basis in the modern world. I refrain from feel good self help books, b ...more
Apr 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
For a psychology book this is more readable and easier to enjoy than most (more like Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard and The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business than more academic works). The parts from the book relating to the Stanford marshmallow experiments have permeated our culture, and I read it in part because I find it fascinating that self-discipline is the ONLY measurable childhood quality that has ANY correlation with how people turn out as adult ...more
Sep 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
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-monitoring ...more
Henrik Haapala
• Know your limits. All decisions and exertions deplete willpower so use your limited willpower to do the most important things.

• Watch for symptoms. Are you getting depleted last hours? Beware making binding decisions when depleted. Hungry? Make sure you eat first.

• Pick your battles. Focus on one thing during periods of otherwise low demand. Example: David Blaine has periods of intense focus and training followed by relaxing. Check annually at least once how you spend your time. Have monthly
Oct 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Sharina  MS
Dec 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is packed with experiments on human behaviour concerning self control and it's effects to human will power. what is interesting is some of the experiments conducted by the authors are continuation from experiments conducted in 1950s or earlier; to validate or challenge old theories. some of the theories, despite concluded in 1950s, are still valid, while some are challenged and improvised. The authors also tracked the progress of the previous experiment subjects to conclude their curre ...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

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“What stress really does, though, is deplete willpower, which diminishes your ability to control those emotions.” 27 likes
“For most of us, though, the problem is not a lack of goals but rather too many of them.” 23 likes
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