We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
In Willpower, the pioneering researcher Roy F. Baumeister collaborates with renowned New York Times science writer John Tierney to revolutionize our understanding of the most coveted human virtue: self-control.
In what became one of the most cited papers in social science literature, Baumeister discovered that willpower actually operates like a muscle: it can be strengthened with practice and fatigued by overuse. Willpower is fueled by glucose, and it can be bolstered simply by replenishing the brain's store of fuel. That's why eating and sleeping- and especially failing to do either of those-have such dramatic effects on self-control (and why dieters have such a hard time resisting temptation).
Baumeister's latest research shows that we typically spend four hours every day resisting temptation. No wonder people around the world rank a lack of self-control as their biggest weakness. Willpower looks to the lives of entrepreneurs, parents, entertainers, and artists-including David Blaine, Eric Clapton, and others-who have flourished by improving their self-control.
From Klavan's post:
Willpower surpasses even intelligence as a predictor of success in life. And Baumeister has performed a number of experiments that convinced him that willpower is something like a muscle: it can be strengthened, conserved, and fatigued...
But in the question period after the presentation, I asked Baumeister how else, aside from eating well, could willpower be strengthened. His response was this: Exercise strengthens willpower just as it strengthens muscles. Even a meaningless exercise of will — training yourself to use your left hand for a task instead of your right, for instance — can make the will stronger over time. He added — I quote from memory: “When I was a boy, I used to be baffled by the idea of profanity. I used to wonder why there should be all these words that everyone knew but nobody used. But now I understand: that strengthens willpower.”
Well, right. In other words, behaving well, behaving responsibly, learning the norms of politeness and refusing to abandon them without good reason tend to make you a more self-controlled, successful, and finally better person.
This is precisely the wisdom my generation threw away. Their promiscuity, adolescent foul-mouthedness, bad manners, and disregard for tradition — all of which they claimed were a new kind of freedom — were in fact the precursors to the very oldest kind of slavery: slavery to one’s own impulses and desires. This slavery, packaged in the Sixties as “identity” or “culture” or “the right to be yourself,” ultimately leads to enslavement by others as it makes you indolent and irresponsible and in need of protection and restraint by the powers that be. A poor black man’s journey from hip hop culture to prison is a perfect example. So is a middle class white man’s journey from moral license and unwarranted praise to his sniveling need for an all-providing — oh, and by the way, all-powerful — state.
Ditto to that, Mr. Klavan. I have always thought of willpower as mental or moral muscle. I've been practicing telling myself for years that I will do, or will not do, one thing or another several times daily. It gets easier, just like running that extra mile.
Willpower and persistence are surely important in pursuing one's goals in life, but I would add other items too, for examples:
Comportment Good vibes Sense of duty Social intuition Good, sane judgement Constructing good life plans - if you want to
If one assiduously develops one's willpower, if one resists every alluring temptation, in other words, if one behaves perfectly, one will have the satisfaction of sickening and dying with the knowledge that life can be lived sans pleasure of any kind.
There seems to be a flaw in the logic.
The thesis is that success presupposes self-control, the denial (or at least deferral) of pleasure.
I'm simply saying that doing what one would rather not do to succeed can drain life of vitality.
There has to be a happy medium.
Which reminds me, I knew a happy medium at university. She was able to...
I intuitively agree with Baumeister, but he hasn't proven his point scientifically about developing the will. An internal impression that one has exerted effort to learn to delay gratification may simply be the post-hoc rationalization of a person genetically loaded to delay it. I certainly advocate it as a default position for oneself and one's children until more is known. The downside, however, is congratulating yourself for something that was none of your doing, which strikes me as rather bad for the character and rather encouraging of the judgment of others.
Assistant VIllage Idiot