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Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength Paperback – August 28, 2012
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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 Timesscience 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."—Steven Pinker, The New York Times Book Review
"An accessible, empirically grounded guide to willpower and how best to deploy it to overcome temptation."—The Wall Street Journal
"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."—The Daily Beast
"Baumeister and Tierney use their appealingly upbeat voice to explain the intricate call-and-response between the failure of self-control and its problematical results."—Kirkus Reviews
"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 more than 450 scientific publications and consistently ranks among the world’s most frequently cited psychologists.
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.
Top customer reviews
There's an important takeaway I've been considering in other contexts: willpower is limited at any point in time, and every decision we make comes with a willpower price. It would probably be useful, after reading the book, to list things that can be automated and that won't require decision-making capacity. I'm going to experiment with decision rules related to food and clothes: same things as often as is practical.
The structure of the book was well done. I never felt like I was repeating information learned earlier; nor did I feel like they'd assumed knowledge and jumped ahead.
The end of the book had a nice review/summary of the key points which was nice, given said breadth covered.
I'm not usually one to re-read a book. This is one of the exceptions, however. Definitely worth the time/money if you're looking to improve or understand willpower.
I am a regular reader of works of popular science--physics, biology, psychology, etc. The writers' prose is accessible; I would judge an above average twelve-year-old wouldn't have any problem reading it. Those in later adolescence should probably read it to understand urges better and, maybe, as a result, find them easier to control. The authors explain their points well. Don't expect the analogies and metaphors that some writers use so eloquently to explain their subjects, but, then, the subject here is pretty easy to grasp anyway once the studies' hypotheses and results are explained--not the complexities of physics or micro-biology, for example.
My criticisms of this book are these: The authors sometimes seem to forget that there are females reading their work. It seems to me that they sometimes speak to females as if they are a subset of their audience that is mainly male. In one topical entry, readers are asked to imagine a scenario in which they have a choice of selecting A, B, C, D, and their corresponding choices are all female prostitutes vividly described with whom they should expect to have a sexual liaison. I was offended, and not because of the sexy descriptions, but because of the presumption. Why the authors set up the entry in this fashion I can only imagine. Where were their editors on this one!!
Another criticism is with their use of case studies to demonstrate their points, such as the use of the case of Eric Clapton to discuss the new research in self-control with regard to alcoholism, Oprah Winfrey in the case of dieting, and others. I thought these discussions lingered too long on the personalities at the expense of the topics, but, on the other hand, many readers will be pleased to read about celebrities' personal lives. They are the "pop" in this popular science read.
In the main, I found the research discussed in the book fascinating.