Willpower

Willpower - Book Review

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

IMG_0377.png

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.