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A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.Francis Bacon

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Willpower is a resource that we have in limited stock. How can we manage and develop it?

Author(s): Roy F. Baumeister, John Tierney

Publisher: Penguin Books

Date of publication: 2011

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Noting the point to which most of us lack willpower and self-discipline in our personal and professional lives, the authors of this book undertake to explore this topic scientifically, based on numerous experiments.

The main lesson drawn is that our willpower must be managed and preserved like a scarce resource. We have a limited stock of willpower which diminishes as the day goes on, and particularly when our blood sugar is low. So if we spend the morning making many choices—even simple ones—, we will likely have exhausted our capacity to make good ones by lunch, because our tired brain will then drive us to make decisions that give priority to simplicity or a short-term perspective. The authors consequently advise us to be very watchful, because when we observe signs that our willpower is flagging, we should abstain from making important decisions!

Although our stock of willpower is limited, we can nonetheless exercise and develop it, much like a muscle. With small daily exercises, people can increase their willpower and hence their ability to attain their objectives.

But we are also advised to work on our concept of objectives. We set objectives that are almost always too ambitious, and rarely take account of our limited willpower. We should thus wait to set a second objective until the first has been attained, to avoid dispersing our precious stock of willpower. We should also track these objectives on a regular—even daily—basis to avoid the natural tendency to drift off-track. This type of monitoring is even more effective when it is shared with those close to us, because an oral and public commitment has more weight than a silent commitment made to oneself.

This book, replete with often common-sense recommendations, some counter-intuitive, but always validated by experiments, is highly recommended for both personal and professional use.