Should one need a more practical sales pitch for the importance of willpower, Messrs. Baumeister and Tierney point to empirical work showing its over-riding importance for academic, personal, career and financial success. (Remarkably, for example, self-control is a better predictor of students’ college grades than IQ or SAT scores.) So crucial is self-discipline to individual flourishing, the authors suggest, that “research into willpower and self-control is psychology’s best hope for contributing to human welfare.”
In “Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength,”, authors Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney report that willpower can be viewed as a “moral muscle”, with similarities to a physical muscle.
- It can be overused and temporarily depleted.
- It is fueled by glucose, so hunger can weaken our willpower.
- It can be strengthened by training.
But “mind over matter” also plays a role in willpower.
Recent research suggests that “Willpower” may exacerbate the very problem it is trying to reduce by promoting the idea of self-control as a limited resource. Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck and her colleagues have found, both in the laboratory and in the real world, that one’s willpower is depleted through exertion only if one thinks it will be. Losses of self-control may sometimes “result not from a true lack of resources after an exhausting task,” Ms. Dweck and her colleagues wrote last year, “but from people’s beliefs about their resources.”