Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney, authors of Willpower, on tour September 2011

Posted By on August 8, 2011

About Willpower

• Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: The Penguin Press (September 1, 2011)

“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

Leading social psychologist and scientist Roy F. Baumeister’s latest research reveals that the average person spends four hours of their day battling temptation.  It’s no wonder most of us claim our greatest weakness is lack of willpower.  But Baumeister argues this doesn’t have to be the case.  In Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, he collaborates with renowned New York Times science writer John Tierney to revolutionize our understanding of self-control.

Various studies have showed a link between self-control and success across a variety of personal realms. Over years of research, Baumeister found that willpower works like a muscle that can be strengthened with practice, and fatigued with overuse. His lab work also ties willpower to glucose, the basic biological fuel for brain and body, and shows that self-control can be strengthened simply by replenishing the body’s store of fuel. That’s why eating and sleeping — or lack thereof — have such dramatic effects on self-control.  It’s also why prison researchers have been able to accurately predict, based solely on how prisoners’ bodies process glucose, which prisoners will commit more violent crimes after their release.

Decision making is similarly reliant on glucose, with choice and will often directly competing for resources. For instance, life-changing decisions can go in different directions depending on whether they’re made before or after lunch. As Baumeister and Tierney show, exhausting and starving your willpower doesn’t just produce one symptom: it intensifies all manner of feelings and impulses. The glucose connection creates a particularly unfortunate Catch-22 for dieters: in order not to eat, a dieter needs willpower; but in order to have willpower, a dieter needs to eat.

The good news is that while self-control is biologically rooted, we have the capacity to manipulate our nature. Willpower features personal stories from entrepreneurs, executives, artists and parents who have managed to do just that. People like David Blaine, Eric Clapton, Mary Karr, and Oprah Winfrey offer life-changing lessons in the exercise of self-control.  Their experiences show that we can not only build willpower, but also conserve it for crucial moments by setting the right goals and using the best techniques for monitoring our progress. Once we establish the correct habits, willpower gets easier.

Combining the best of modern social science with practical wisdom, Baumeister and Tierney deliver the definitive compendium of modern lessons in willpower, and explain how however we define happiness—a close-knit family, a satisfying career, financial security—we  won’t reach it without mastering self-control.

About Roy F. Baumeister

Roy F. Baumeister is one of the world’s most prolific and influential psychologists. He received his PhD from Princeton in 1978 and currently is Francis Eppes Eminent Scholar and head of the social psychology program at Florida State University, and he also holds an honorific special professorship at the VU Free University of Amsterdam. He has over 450 scientific publications, and this will be his 28th book. Already in 2003 he was listed by the Institute for Scientific Information as one of the most heavily cited (most influential) psychologists in the world, and his citations have more than doubled since then. This year he is receiving the Jack Block Award for Distinguished Contributions to Personality Psychology. His laboratory has received millions of dollars in research grants from the National Institutes of Health and other sources.

About John Tierney

John Tierney writes the Findings science column for the New York Times. He has written on a wide variety for topics for the Times (in columns for the Sunday magazine, the Metro section, the Washington bureau and the Op-Ed page) and for national magazines. His science writing has won awards from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute of Physics. He is the author of The Best-Case Scenario Handbook and the co-author, with Christopher Buckley, of the comic novel God Is My Broker. He has frequently been on national radio and television programs, including the Today Show and Good Morning America.

Roy’s and John’s Tour Stops

Monday, September 5th: Patricia’s Wisdom

Wednesday, September 7th: Sustainable Life Blog

Monday, September 12th: Today’s Path

Tuesday, September 13th: Inventing My Life

Wednesday, September 14th: 2 Kids and Tire Book Reviews

Tuesday, September 20th: Unclutterer

Wednesday, September 21st: Stephany Writes

Thursday, September 22nd: Overstuffed

Tuesday, September 27th: Mind Hacks

Wednesday, September 28th: Always Well Within

Thursday, September 29th: Truth2BeingFit

Friday, September 30th: Evolution You


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