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Willpower

I enjoyed and (I hope) personally profited from Roy Baumeister & John Tierney’s Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.  The link gives a better book review than I could hope to write but this a special book.  It analyses our ability to say “no” to temptation (to use heroin, to eat excessively, to fritter our lives away on pointless internet searching, to procrastinate etc etc.) and to work and play effectively.   It is a popularisation of a stream of work in psychology that rescues that quaint old-fashioned idea of “strength of will”.  It is, the authors’ claim, the single most important personal strength to develop.  Moreover, you can strengthen your endowment of this resource which, however, remains in finite supply so use it wisely.  I liked the discussions of Eric Clapton’s alcoholism and Henry Morton Stanley’s treks through the Congo*.  This is an academic “self-help” book that can improve every aspect of your own life.  An enjoyable well-written work as well.

B & T link the supply of willpower to glucose supplies that power the brain.  A reasonable question is whether diabetics experience particular self-control issues. Eating (and sleeping) well augment your willpower. Ignoring small willpower depletions and concentrating the focus on major one’s reduces willpower depletability and makes you more effective. Self-control capabilities are the single most important determinant of capabilities in kids and hence strongly condition the way we should raise them.

* An amazing man whom I had always treated as a caricature of what he was.  I want to read his biography.

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