Tuesday, September 13, 2011


I've been feeling pretty stuck lately...unproductive...unmotivated...unable to get my butt in gear and get anything done...

...so when I was offered the opportunity to review a book called Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney, it seemed like exactly the book I needed to read at exactly the right time.

The book arrived several weeks ago, and then sat in various places around the house.  The kitchen table.  The coffee table in the living room.  Next to the bed.  It even went to work with me a couple of times.  Then last weekend I realized that the due date for my review was coming up and I had better get cracking...I managed to read the introduction and most of the first chapter before I just ran out of steam (or willpower, I suppose).

Ironic, yes?

What I did read definitely made sense to me.  The authors described some experiments done on college students, in which the students who had been made to exercise self-restraint for long periods of time (by being put in a room alone with a plate of cookies and told not to eat any, for example) were less able to complete difficult tasks such as math problems than those who had not resisted temptation before math problems.  They had used up all their willpower on the cookies and had nothing left over for the math problems.

I feel like that just about sums up my life ever since Elfe came into the picture.  I spend an awful lot of energy resisting an awful lot of things, sometimes successfully and sometimes not.  I resist spending money.  I resist staying up late and I resist sleeping past 5AM.  I have tried to resist distractions on the computer in the evenings.  I have essentially given up resisting junk food - though I seem to have no problem resisting exercise - both of which explain why I have gained back all of the weight I lost last year, and more.  Lately I have been extremely unsuccessful at resisting yelling at Elfe for petty little things, which causes me no end of remorse and regret.  After using up all of my willpower resisting all those other things, I just don't have it in me to resist when I really should.

I really should finish this book.  According to the table of contents, it hits upon all of the topics I am interested in - money, weight loss, parenting, getting things done - and more.  I'm just not sure when I'll have enough willpower to sit down and actually read it.


heathertlc said...

I hope you do get a chance to read the rest of the book - from what you wrote it sounds like this might be the perfect book for you. :)

Thanks for being on the tour.

scooping it up said...

This made me laugh! I think it is so hard to generate will power. I have found almost all my source of strength and motivation is from other people. Even if I talk on the phone while I do dishes, I do more. If left to my own, I'd load a few and then tell myself I will do them later and then crash on the internet. It's an interesting concept that there is a finite amount of will power in a given day, and then it's used up. Never thought about it that way.

los cazadores said...

I hear you on the remorse. I think I need that book.

(Btw, a long time ago I decided that cookies would no longer be called cookies, but called "remorsels" instead. Which seems fitting to this post.)

Claudia said...

oh gosh... the limited amount of willpower thing... such an interesting idea and I can TOTALLY believe it! It takes SO much effort not to lose my mind with the children every day that I feel everything else goes to pot. Junk food has been a big one for me too - Im' trying to get out of that cycle but yeesh, it's hard.

Lots to think about here. Let me know if you ever finish that book - I'm interested to know if they have good ideas for increasing the willpower capacity!

Mark & Erin said...

if the premise of the book is that we have limited willpower available, then it seems like it's more an issue of prioritizing what you want to apply the willpower to. if you spend all your willpower not staying up late, then you won't have any left to ignore the petty things. of course if you're so tired from staying up late, then you'll probably be more grouchy :)

Seems like the book would be more helpful if it had a way to generate more willpower.

Kyra said...

I find it helpful to give myself rewards. If I do a couple of things I don't want to do, wash dishes etc, I get to do something I want to do. I wonder too, if framing it as the willpower to do something, rather than the willpower to not do something would be helpful, so instead of "I will resist yelling," to put your energy into "I will talk calmly."
Keep us posted. I am sure you are your own worst critic, and if I were to meet you in real life I'd think you were the best parent ever.

Waiting for Zufan! said...

Crazy book! I don't believe in willpower. Do what you WANT, the trick is to make yourself want it. (Want the exercise, the spinach over the cookie, patience, etc.) NOT that I have all the answers, ha ha, as you know if you ever read me. But resistance is useless. Just gotta change the focus, right? :)