I see willpower is back in fashion.

I’ve just read The Young Visiters by Daisy Ashford, The Art of War by Sun Tzu (obviously the thing one would read next, ha ha) and Willpower: Rediscovering our greatest strength by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney. The Baumeister book is interesting, solid, traditional psychological research, and Tierney polishes it up and makes it useful and glossy for the consuming public. Despite its polish, it is quite no-nonsense. Here are some memorable extracts from the final chapter. They do not waste their pity on you.

  • The best way to reduce stress in your life is to stop screwing up.
  • People who have more self control are better at arranging their lives so that they avoid problem situations.
  • People with good self control mainly use it not for rescue in emergencies but rather to develop effective habits and routines in school and at work. They use their self control not to get through crises, but to avoid them.
  • There is a strategy for going on offence.
  • Rule 1: Don’t keep putting it off. Do the right thing. Be orderly in your habits. Exercise discipline.
  • Rule 2. Control your impulses. When faced with a boring or unpleasant task, resist the temptation to improve your short term mood by doing something else. Stop and think about the courses of action available, predict your feelings about the outcomes.
  • Your willpower resource each day may be limited, so do the more challenging and difficult things that need more will and better judgement in the early part of the day.
  • Watch for the symptoms of emotional arousal, whether positive excitability or distress. Detach yourself. Delay before replying.
  • If you are depleted you are more likely to make mistakes which result in money spent, weight gained, etc. If you eat properly and get enough sleep you will make better decisions.
  • When you pick your battles, look beyond the immediate challenges and put your life in perspective. Are you where you want to be? What could be better? What can you do about it?
  • Have an idea of what you want to accomplish in a month and how to get there.
  • “We simply ask our managers and other workers to set their top goals for the week,” Patzer says. “You can’t have more than three goals and it’s fine if you have less than three. Each week we go over what we did last week and whether we met those goals or not, and then each person sets the top three goals for this week. If you only get goals one and two done, but not three, that’s fine, but you can’t go off working on other goals until you’ve done the top three. That’s it – that’s how we manage. It’s simple, but it forces you to prioritise, and it’s rigorous.”
  • People exhibit more self control when their desk is clean. This is also why you should make the bed.
  • “Write or nothing. It’s the same principle as keeping order in a school. If you make the pupils behave, they will learn something just to keep from being bored. I find it works. Two very simple rules, a. you don’t have to write. b. you can’t do anything else. The rest comes of itself.”

3 Books points. Today I drafted a daily schedule for myself with disappointingly little effort, no opportunities for procrastination there. I also activated some financial planning software. Then I locked myself out of iTunes by mistake. Then I went outside and walked for 1 hour, so 1 Health point. And I bought groceries because it is Thursday. Now I need to get offline and do about a month of housework because there is the prospect of a cheeky date at the weekend.

3 thoughts on “I see willpower is back in fashion.”

  1. Wow…this is GREAT! This is all from “Willpower?” Fantastic. I’m buying this book right now haha. Thanks for the suggestion! I love that last bullet point. I think that is spot on…there are so many distractions in life, especially with technology, and limiting those forces us in a way to do what we need to do. Great stuff. I also just picked up a copy of “The Art of War” about a week ago. I have three books lined up before that one but I’m excited for it!

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