For years, our concept of the self and well-being has been dominated by the notion of self-esteem, while the old fashioned value of willpower has been disparaged by psychologists who argued that we’re largely driven by unconscious forces beyond our control. In Willpower Baumeister and Tierney turn this misinformation on its head to reveal self-control as arguably the single most powerful indicator of success.
Baumeister discovered that willpower actually has a physical basis to it: it is like a muscle that can be strengthened with practice, and fatigued from overuse. That’s why eating and sleeping - and especially failing to do either of those - have such dramatic effects on self-control.
Yet, while self-control is biologically rooted, we have the capacity to manipulate our nature. Willpower features personal stories from entrepreneurs, executives, parents and children who have managed to do just that. The characters range from Victorian explorers to modern homemakers, from college students pulling all nighters to entertainers. The practical lessons in self-control conditioning they provide are nothing short of life changing.
Combining the best of modern social science with the practical wisdom of David Allen, Ben Franklin, and others, Baumeister and Tierney here share the definitive compendium of modern lessons in willpower.
©2011 Roy Bauemeister and John Tierney. (P)2011 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.
I listened to this book because of a positive review I read, and I am glad I did. I am always skeptical of the "7 Habits" kind of stuff about making improvements, so I was a little concerned about where this book might be going. But the authors aren't really pretending to change your life with extravagant claims. They lay out some of the science behind how self-control works in human beings in an accessible but not fluffy way, and they make a few practical suggestions about how you might make use of that knowledge. You could change your life considerably, but it is mostly up to you. This was an entertaining, practical look at something we all have experience with but about which most of us (until now) haven't understood very much.
Okay, there is no Holy Grail!
I know that I find value in an audiobook when I have listened to it several times. This is one of a couple that fall in that category.
I've had a recent explosion in my life. I'm happier, more positive, I'm doing better, I'm getting things done, I'm more confident, and as I alluded to in a previous review, I kid you not, I've had more smiles thrown my way than in my lifetime! Yes, I've shed a few pounds, but I think there is a little positive aura following me instead of that dark cloud.
In fairness, It's not just one book. In fact, the initial spark was me needing change. I was at one of those points in life where I needed to be more productive, happier, etc. Point is, I needed to go somewhere - I just didn't know where or how, and a few books are helping me pave a path.
I got sick of listening to "rah, rah" books, instead searching for books that provide scientific proof of why I act in certain manners, many times contrary to my goals. This is one of several books that are relevant in my recent successes: Positive Intelligence, Positivity, Getting Things Done and The Power of Habit are others. These books have provided me with serious fuel, instead of just a momentary spike in motivation.
The nice thing about enjoying a book is that the author often turns you on to one or two books - Willpower made reference to Getting Things Done - that book as been good for me as well. It works for me, and that's important.
Willpower led me to change a few bad habits. It has taught me, as has The Power of Habit, that I can replace bad habits - and do so with baby steps - something that had a negative connotation in my life before for whatever reason. By performing what seem like insignificant good little habits, we start tweaking our brains and then, intelligently, ask ourselves after spotting a not-so-good habit, "Gee, why do I do this?" I've just never made this kind of progress and I feel great about it. I dislike reviewing books after just reading it because it will be more positive than the results. I'm cautious, but I've turned a corner boys and girls, and these books are helping. I plan on making some serious dents to my saboteurs. Trust me, I've had an army of them, and they've been disguised very well.
As a side note, I have found that listening to the audiobooks repeatedly helps not only my comprehension, but it's kind of like a mental workout - I'll show up where I need to with a stronger, active, positive, curious brain instead of the ol' reptile brain.
It was an inspiration to me as I took my walks in the morning. It compelled me to walk longer. As I listened I felt an increased desire to learn how to train my mind and continued walking.
It was easy to listen to Denis read. It felt like he was sitting next to me telling me what he knows.
He talks about planning ahead in developing willpower. The chapter where he addresses procrastination was also very useful.
None of the ideas in this book were new to me. I have studied practices that are designed to train the mind for 8 years now. What was unique about this book was all of the research that supports what has been known by sages for thousands of years. As a teacher it also supported the work being done to increase stamina for reading in children as outlined by the book
It looks like just another book in the behavioral economics genre, but the authors really do rise above the pack.
If you're turned off of the shallowness of Gladwell and Ariely, don't be too quick to dismiss this one. It's very good.
Fictional characters in narrative
I give my Sansa Fuze 5 stars for performance here as I used it on fast speed which is about 20 percent faster. It added some pep to the reading as the material is not complex or convoluted, and with some familiarity with psychology ideas was easy going. At normal speed it went a tad slow for my liking.
It took all my willpower to stay with this book to the end. I did so in the hope that it would culminate in some sort of wisdom or impart some tips that would help. I did have to skip forward about 1/2 way through the wholly unnecessary Stanley chapter replete with murders and cannibalism.
The book blurb indicated this would be a useful book but it was really just a recounting of dozens upon dozens of behavioral experiments. O'Hare's narration of ultra-boring text made me think I was listening to Ben Stein (who can actually be funny). Baumeister was always referred to in the third person, so it seemed like Tierney must have done the bulk of the writing. Hopefully they will not all collaborate on a sequel.
In the end, I suppose there were a few semi-precious gems that made me think about my willpower issues and what to do about them but these could have been summed up in an hour or so - no need for eight hours of Baumeister patting himself on the back for being smarter than the average behavioral scientist, which is what he seems to be telling himself.
Although the book seems a little "disorganized", the content is nonetheless extremely interesting. I can't say I knew much about willpower prior to reading this book, so I felt that I have truly benefited from the information that I managed to absorb.
The content is not difficult to grasp, but just like reading a text book, I feel that it is crammed with information. The fact that the authors include backup for their findings and discuss the research they base their theories on, helps with the credibility. One criticism stuck out: even though motivation is a very large topic in and of itself, I was surprised that it was not mentioned at all in the book. Willpower and motivation seem to me to go hand-in-hand...
I had high hopes for this book, since lack of willpower is one of the banes of my existence. And there ARE many interesting descriptions of this trait and some useful information about how to build up your self-control muscle.
But there are also some disappointingly bland recommendations. Need a to-do list? Try Dave Allen's GTD. Have problems with alcohol? Go to an AA meeting. Kids giving you trouble? Tell them to sit up straight. Not feeling much purpose in life? Go to church. Have trouble sticking to a diet? As I read the book, the message is: you're out of luck. Self-control is maintained by glucose, so to cut down on eating, you have to eat.
More troubling to me is the chapter that trumpets Henry Stanley, explorer of Africa and finder of Dr Livingstone, as a hero of self-control. Maybe he was, but even on the evidence given in the book itself, there wasn't much else to admire about him. He was a liar and a deserter, and his expeditions to Africa were responsible for countless atrocities. (The book tries to make a case that Stanley himself wasn't personally involved, but it's pretty lame.) He was also partly responsible for Leopold of Belgium's horrific rule over the Congo. Surely there were better examples than this, especially for a book representing the latest scientific research into ways of overcoming human suffering!
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