Book Reviews

Willpower - Book Review

“One of the most common reasons for the self-control problem is overconfidence in willpower.”

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Willpower is a resource that we need to spend time exercising and using wisely to avoid overwhelming ourselves and failing to achieve personal goals.  This book helps explain what willpower really is, what it can do for us, and the limits of willpower.  Supported by scientific studies and research, this is a self-help book without any of the fluff.

1. Willpower is a limited resource.  You only have one source of willpower for all the needs of the day and the willpower to resist sweets uses up the same reserve of willpower for dealing with annoying coworkers.  Each is using self-control and the studies outlined throughout the book show that these take a toll on us throughout the day. 

2. Our environment can either help or hurt our willpower.  After working hard to be patient and kind to everyone around us, it is vital to construct an environment that does not tempt us too much when our self-control is depleted.

You may not care if your bed is made or your room is clean, but these environmental cues subtly influence your brain and your behavior, making it ultimately less of a strain to maintain self-discipline.
— Page 252

3. Take on one big thing at a time. When trying to lose weight, it is best to focus your energy solely on this. This will require a lot of willpower and as this is a precious and limited resource, it will increase your odds of success.  Further, at the end of the year, be sure to only make one New Year’s resolution.

No-one has enough willpower for that list…Each time you try to follow one, you reduce your capacity for all the others.
— Page 38

4. Willpower is directly connected to Glucose levels.  If your body runs out of glucose it will affect your decision-making ability and cause you to make bad choices. Our bodies will crave sugary foods to replenish the glucose levels and will make it harder to stick with diet goals.

5. Avoid conflicting goals. For example, setting a goal to be promoted and spending more time playing golf will likely result in failure in one or both goals. There are three outcomes in conflicting goals as demonstrated in a study published in 1988:

1.     You worry a lot

2.     You get less done

3.     Your health suffers, physically as well as mentally

6. Willpower can be strengthened with exercise.  Like any muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it will get. By choosing things to exercise self control, like sitting up straight, overall willpower increases not only in posture, but in other tests as well. 

7. There is something called 'Decision Fatigue'. The more decisions we need to make in a day, the more it will affect how we make the choices at the end of the day. This concept is demonstrated through multiple studies but the main point is this, if you are forced to make a lot of decisions in a short time, be prepared for the fatigue that sets in and know that you will need to work harder to make positive choices. 

To learn more about this concept click Here.

8. Know your limits – We overestimate our ability to control ourselves.  The odds are against us, but we can proactively set ourselves up for a better outcome with a little planning.  (For this reason, I decided to use M&M's in the photo above rather than a donut!)

9. Pre-commitment is the ultimate offensive weapon for self-control. “Buy junk food in small packages or keep them out of the kitchen altogether. Plan meals by the week, rather than on the spur of the moment when it’s already past dinnertime and you’re starving.”

10. Self-control is the most underappreciated character trait.  After reading this book it is clear that we need to put a higher importance in controlling ourselves. As shown in the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths study, self-regulation is typically last place when personally rating the list of character strengths. 

Self-control is ultimately about much more than self-help. It’s essential for savoring your time on earth and sharing joy with the people you love.
— Page 260

In summary, I wouldn’t say this is a must read, but it is a must listen to.  The audio version is very well done with the intro done by the authors, and the main reader doesn’t add that typical self-help soft voice. You can find it Here.

Triggers Book Review

Trigger Cover

This book is perfect for anyone that wants to get their professional and personal life back on track. 

I first heard about this book from Myke Hurley and CGP Grey on the Cortex Podcast and they both gave it very positive reviews.  The author, Marshall Goldsmith is a professional coach and has a unique method of getting his message across.  He is also only paid after the people around the individual he is coaching agree that the subject has changed for the better.

Here he is in a TED Talk from 2005

 

There is so much to unpack in this book as it is full of useful examples so to keep this review short, I’ll focus on a few of the main topics as to why you should read it.

I. TRIGGERS

As the book’s name identifies, the first step in working to better yourself, is identify the triggers that are causing you to feel stressed, upset, regretful, and resentful.  The paragraph that I personally identified with was right at the beginning: 

Regret is the emotion we experience when we assess our own present circumstances and reconsider how we got here. We replay what we actually did against what we should have done-and find ourselves wanting in some way. Regret can hurt.

Once identifying the triggers that effect us, the book goes into how we react and process the impacts on us.

We seldom recognize that self-control is a limited resource. As we become tired our self-control begins to waiver and may eventually disappear.

By acknowledging we all have a mental “leader role’ in the morning, but by the afternoon we should take more of an ‘employee role’ and stick to what we set out to do by following a guiding system.  The system to use is laid out in the second section of the book.

II. The 6 Questions to Kick-Start Change

  1. Did I do my best to set clear goals?
  2. Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals?
  3. Did I do my best to find meaning?
  4. Did I do my best to be happy?
  5. Did I do my best to build positive relationships?
  6. Did I do my best to be fully engaged?

While these are all very general, this is only the starting point for the questions that matter the most to you and your goals.  Specific questions are encouraged once you identify what you want to work on, like eating fewer carbs.  The transformative substance of the book explains that focusing on effort, rather than results, is the main objective in the short term.  Each day if you asked yourself how well you tried, it makes you much more accountable.

The daily questions are scored on a number system 1-10 on how well you tried to do something.  Here are my own questions I came up with and so far after starting this program I have lost 5 lbs after 2 weeks.

Active Questions

III. Structure

For my personal goals, the structure is what I had been missing in the past.  Once you have the data from the daily questions, or that you already know you would like to improve, the structure is there to help. The examples in this section provide evidence to show that by setting up things for yourself ahead of time, you will be able to achieve the goals you set out for yourself.

This section also shows where you may suffer and how to get avoid failing. One of the main points made in this section deals with something called Emotional Depletion. 

Basically, all the natural urges we try to rein in during the day have the potential to rush toward center stage as the day progresses and our depletion increases. It doesn’t mean they will materialize, but they’re lurking within us, waiting for the right trigger.

SUMMARY

I would say that this book is geared more to the professional life, but it has many personal aspects that make it a well rounded read.  You can find it on Amazon here.  I also recommend the audio book version as it is shorter than most books at about 6hrs.

Here is a longer list of questions to get you started.

Here is a longer list of questions to get you started.

To get you started on your own list of questions, I would like to host a giveaway for a free copy of Triggers, as well as a Leuchtturm1917 notebook with matching pen loop!  Simply comment on this blog or on the social site about one thing you are working on to better yourself or want to work on.  Drawing will be made on Friday, June 29 at 12pm EDT. Good Luck!

Giveaway!