Willpower – and insights you can get from it

We often feel we are not on track. But how to get on a track we want?

Research suggests Willpower is like a muscle. It can be strengthened with use or fatigues with over use. Feel like we’re over eating? Not saving enough? Focusing on one area uses up your energy to focus on another. A simple experiment is described in the book (pp 22-23, you can read through “Look Inside” link on Amazon) with resisting freshly baked chocolate chip cookies or radishes … and how long you took go give up on solving puzzles just afterwards. Radish eaters gave up sooner since they expended their energy resisting the cookies.

Willpower is more important in our lives than we realize.

Using energy for self control is important to understand. You exercise self control under stressful situations at work. If you use it all up at work, you have little remaining to be patient with your family when you get home. Try to save some energy for home. And try to give some space to the other for the other to recover some energy after getting home from work too. You use up your reservoir of willpower by controlling thoughts, emotions, impulses … AND performance (at work usually).

How can you tell if you are getting low on willpower? Answer: when your cravings and/or emotions are stronger.

Our multi-tasking world uses up willpower faster than you think. Try focusing on one thing as a time will conserve your energy. Getting frustrated? Eat a small healthy snack (yes, get energy to refill your brain – food is the brain’s energy source) and then focus on the highest priority for the moment. Stressed or important deadline looming? Eat right before hand.

And get your rest. Sleep helps us process food for energy better – your brain runs on the processed energy. If your body is using the energy for other things (like fighting a cold) you have less for self control (studies show driving with a cold is more dangerous than driving slightly intoxicated).

Chapter 5 is relevant to your financial matters: “Where have all the dollars gone?” “Once you’ve taken the first two steps in self-control – setting a goal and monitoring your behavior – you’re confronted with a perennial question: Should you focus on how far you’ve come or how much remains to be done? There’s no simple, universal answer … For contentment, it pays to look at how far you’ve come. To stoke motivation and ambition, focus instead on the road ahead.”

Raising Stong Children, Chapter 9, finds that children gain the same benefits playing video games as they do from sports, music, or other passions requiring discipline. “To succeed at a complex computer game, you need to focus your attention, learn intricate rules, and follow precise steps to reach a goal. It takes more discipline than watching television.”

And yes … no book on self control would be complete without a chapter on diets. Why they don’t work and how to actually slowly get to a weight you want are covered with sensible explanation.


There are ways to strengthen your willpower – surprisingly simply by concentrating on something totally unrelated to what you really want to improve … such as concentrate on improving your posture … that concentration spills over to other things.

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance has a great review of the book by Robert Frick’s column, Your Mind and Your Money (Aug 2012).


What is the difference between Self-Control and Willpower? Self control is the ability to control one-self (what you do). Will power is how you do that (how you do it).

The book is humorous in places and full of helpful insights … Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney


Also … here are other resources that may give you some guides

Habit … invent your tomorrow and make it happen.

When Change is Hard

Happy Secret and Are you Happy?

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5 Responses to Willpower – and insights you can get from it

  1. Larry Frank, Sr. August 19, 2012 at 3:39 pm #

    Dan Ariely, author and behavioral economist, has some tips to help you with willpower … he call’s it fighting ego depletion.


  2. Larry Frank, Sr. August 2, 2014 at 9:06 am #

    Here’s a link to a questionnaire that looks at how you approach money through the lens of how you view time – your past, present and future

    Take the quiz and enjoy your results!

  3. Larry Frank, Sr. September 27, 2015 at 10:18 am #

    Self control is related to Willpower … here’s an interest article on self control http://www.sciencealert.com/researchers-show-how-self-control-can-drain-your-memory-banks


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