Once again, we heard about this month’s book recommendation, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney over at The Simple Dollar. Willpower is an interesting look at psychological and physical aspects of self control, how and why it works the way it does, and what you may be able to do to strengthen it.


Willpower, also called self control, is not something that comes from a bottomless reservoir. It’s actual a physical attribute that can be overworked, affected by what you eat, and can be strengthened. These traits lead Baumeister and Tierney to liken willpower to a muscle.


According to the authors, willpower can be overworked through too much use, like a muscle. An example in the book is dieting. Those who diet and are consciously trying to avoid certain foods by using their self control can easily overwork their willpower. This may lead to making bad, uncontrolled decisions when put into tempting situations, like binge eating. It also explains why trying to make big, life changing resolutions is often unsuccessful. You are expending all of your willpower trying to change ten things at once, and then you just give up on all of them when your willpower is depleted.


Baumeister and Tierney also discuss how what you eat can affect your willpower. People who maintain a healthier diet may be able to maintain more of their willpower. Also, glucose has a big impact on your self control. If your body is glucose deprived, you may be much more like to lose self control than if your glucose level is at a normal range.


Also, like a muscle, willpower can be strengthened over time. Baumeister and Tierney discuss how practicing a small change to your habits daily, like repeatedly telling yourself to stand straight every time you notice you are slouching, can strengthen your willpower.


Willpower isn’t the most exciting book to read, but it is interesting. It gave us an idea of why a rational and self controlled person may make a terrible, unreasonable decision, especially when it come to their finances.