Willpower Book Summary - Willpower Book explained in key points
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Willpower summary

Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney

Why Self-Control is the Secret of Success

3.8 (194 ratings)
19 mins

Brief summary

"Willpower" by Roy Baumeister & John Tierney is a science-based exploration of self-control and how to strengthen it. It reveals practical tips for increasing our willpower, achieving our goals, and living a healthier and happier life.

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    Summary of 8 key ideas

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    Willpower is like a muscle that tires with use.

    Imagine that you’ve just left the gym after a hard workout. Your legs wobble on the way to your car, and your arms are so exhausted that even tugging the door handle feels like a feat of strength. Your willpower works much the same way.

    The more willpower you exercise without interruption, the less you’ll have available immediately after.

    Essentially, we have a limited “supply” of willpower to use in our day-to-day – from choosing broccoli over cookies to being nice to our in-laws. Any of these tasks can contribute to willpower depletion.

    This was verified in one of the author’s own studies, in which participants were placed in a room that smelled of delicious cookies and then divided into groups: one group got to eat cookies, while the other was asked to eat radishes instead.

    In the second half of the experiment, participants had to solve geometry puzzles. Surprisingly, those who forwent the delicious cookies and instead ate radishes spent significantly less time trying to complete these puzzles than those who simply ate the cookies: 12 minutes less, in fact.

    In other words, using their willpower to resist the cookies left them with less stamina available to tackle difficult tasks later.

    In addition, our willpower and decision making are intimately tied together – each has drastic effects on the other. For example, many “deciders” – e.g., prime ministers, mayors and other people in positions of power – seem to more easily succumb to carnal temptations and get involved in sex scandals.

    This is likely due to decision fatigue. Having to make so many important decisions on a regular basis exhausts their available willpower, and thus makes it difficult to resist temptations.

    In the same vein, we tend to make worse decisions when we suffer from mental fatigue. For many this plays out daily, when people come home exhausted from work and find themselves bickering with their spouse instead of finding compromises.

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    What is Willpower about?

    Willpower brings the concept of self-control back into mainstream discussions on achievement. It takes contemporary scientific studies and breaks them down, demonstrating that, despite the previously held views of many experts, willpower can indeed be harnessed and strengthened to make the changes in your life you’ve always wanted to make.

    Willpower Review

    Willpower (2011) offers a captivating exploration of the science behind self-control and how it affects our lives. Here's what makes this book a worthwhile read:

    • Packed with practical strategies and research-backed insights, it empowers readers to strengthen their willpower and achieve their goals.
    • Combining psychology, biology, and personal anecdotes, the book provides a fascinating look into the inner workings of willpower, making it both informative and engaging.
    • With its exploration of topics like decision-making, temptation, and perseverance, Willpower keeps readers intrigued, ensuring that learning about self-control is anything but boring.

    Best quote from Willpower

    Decision fatigue leaves us vulnerable to marketers who know how to time their sales.


    —Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney
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    Who should read Willpower?

    • Anyone interested in behavioral science
    • Anyone whose fickleness gets in the way of their success
    • Anyone interested in how the brain works

    About the Author

    Roy F. Baumeister, PhD, is a prolific and world-renowned psychologist who has written 450 scientific publications and 28 books. He is currently Francis Eppes Professor of Psychology at Florida State University.

    John Tierney is a science columnist for the New York Times who has been honored with awards from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Institute of Physics.

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    Willpower FAQs 

    What is the main message of Willpower?

    The main message of Willpower is that self-control is a key factor in achieving success and happiness.

    How long does it take to read Willpower?

    The reading time for Willpower varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Willpower a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Willpower is a valuable read for anyone interested in understanding and improving their self-control. It provides practical insights and strategies for enhancing willpower.

    Who is the author of Willpower?

    Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney are the authors of Willpower.

    What to read after Willpower?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Willpower, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Marshmallow Test by Walter Mischel
    • Insight by Tasha Eurich
    • The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal
    • The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner
    • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
    • Make Your Bed by William H. McRaven
    • Mindset by Carol Dweck
    • Emotional Habits by Akash Karia
    • The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron & Suzanne Stabile
    • The CBT Workbook for Mental Health by Simón Rego & Sarah Fader