Willpower is like a muscle.
There’s only so much of it that you can use if you don’t train it.
And it gets tired and depleted of its energy reserves, if you just use it rashly.
You need to train it, bulk it up and make it strong so that you can then use it to create change.
As Baumeister states in the conclusion of the book,
Self-control is ultimately about much more than self-help.
It’s essential for savoring your time on earth and sharing joy with the people you love.
People with stronger willpower are more altruistic.
They’re more likely to donate to charity, to do volunteer work, and to offer their own homes as shelter to someone with no place to go.
Willpower evolved because it was crucial for our ancestors to get along with the rest of the clan, and it’s still serving that purpose today.
Inner discipline still leads to outer kindness.
Notes from the book
Willpower 101, First Lesson: Know Your Limits
No matter what you want to achieve, playing offense begins by recognizing two basic lessons
1. Your supply of willpower is limited, and
2. you use the same resource for many different things.
Watch for Symptoms
Do things seem to bother you more than they should? Has the volume somehow been turned up on your life so that things are felt more strongly than usual? Is it suddenly hard to make up your mind about even simple things?
If you notice such feelings, then reflect on the last few hours and see if it seems likely that you have depleted your willpower.
While you’re depleted, frustrations will bother you more than usual. You’ll be more prone to say something you’ll regret.
Impulses to eat, drink, spend, or do other things will be harder than usual to resist.
Pick Your Battles
You can’t control or even predict the stresses that come into your life, but you can use the calm periods, or at least the peaceful moments, to plan an offence.
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?
You can’t do this every day, of course, and certainly not during busy, stressful times, but you can set aside at least one day a year—maybe your birthday—to do some reflection and write down notes on how well you spent the previous year.
If you make this an annual ritual, you can look back over the notes from previous years to see what kinds of progress you’ve made in the past: which goals were met, which goals remain, which ones are hopeless.
Make a To-Do List—or at Least a To-Don’t List
Beware the Planning Fallacy
- When was the last time you heard of a highway or building being completed six months early? Late and over budget is the norm.
One way to avoid the planning fallacy is to force yourself to think about your past.
Don’t Forget the Basics
- While cutbacks might seem a fair price to pay in order to channel all you energies into preparing for exams, In the long run, slovenliness can leave you with less energy—and fewer healthy relationships.
Self-control will be most effective if you take good basic care of your body, starting with diet and sleep.
Use The Power of Positive Procrastination (like The Nothing Alternative)
- Do what Raymond Chandler did to write his books. Use the Nothing Alternative; a marvelously simple tool against procrastination for just about any kind of task.
Set aside time to do one and only one thing. You can look out of the window or stand on your head or writhe on the floor, but you are not to do any other positive thing.
You might, for instance, resolve to start your day with ninety minutes devoted to your most important goal, with no interruptions from e-mail or phone calls, no side excursions anywhere on the Web.
- Besides offering immediate encouragement, monitoring lets you improve your long-term planning. If you keep records, you can periodically check how far you’ve come so that you can set more realistic goals for the future.
- When you set a goal, set a reward for reaching it—and then don’t stiff yourself. If you just use willpower to deny yourself things, it becomes a grim, thankless form of defense. But when you use it to gain something, you can wring pleasure out of the dreariest tasks. We’ve criticized the everybody-gets-a-trophy philosophy of the self-esteem movement, but trophies for genuine accomplishments are fine.
Which incentives work? A mix of frequent small prizes with occasional big ones.