Book Review: ‘Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength’


One of the most challenging obstacles that must be overcome when setting goals is mustering up the willpower to achieve them. Some common goals that call for an exercise in willpower include losing weight, saving money or trying something new like going back to school. All of these and other difficult goals necessitate a restructuring of behaviors, as well as the will to enact these changes. The book, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, by Research Psychologist Roy F. Baumeister and New York Times science writer John Tierney, explores the subject of willpower, and the authors share tips and tricks for harnessing your own willpower and using it to achieve goals. 

The Science of Will

Much of this book explores the psychological science behind willpower and its relation to everyday activities. For example, the authors examine the relationship between fatigue and its contribution to a lack of willpower. They also focus a lot of attention on different biological factors that may contribute to a “lack” of willpower, including a person’s glucose levels. Baumeister and Tierney’s research indicates that people tend to have less willpower when their glucose levels are lower, and they advise people to monitor these fluctuations when setting and working toward goals. They also suggest that when your “reserves” of willpower have been depleted that they will carry over into other aspects of life, sabotaging the original goal. 

External Factors Influencing Willpower

While examining biological factors that may be contributing to a perceived lack of willpower, Baumeister and Tierney lay out strategies that you can undertake to control your own. Strategies include paying attention to your energy levels and not making decisions when you’re depleted, as well as closely monitoring your diet to ensure steady energy. Making decisions during a sugar crash can have an adverse effect on your willpower. What sets this book apart is that it deals with physiological factors that could be contributing to your own self sabotage. Rather than blaming your issues with willpower on yourself, the book outlines outside factors that may be sabotaging you. 

Harnessing Your Own Willpower

Understanding the external factors that may be contributing to your own lack of willpower makes it easier to set goals and to understand how you may be inadvertently sabotaging yourself. Citing his own research as well as other studies and anecdotal evidence, Baumeister helps the reader to operate at their peak so that they can successfully accomplish their goals. One of the main points in the book is that we have a limited supply of willpower, and once we have depleted it, it becomes harder to make decisions, potentially leading to more breaks in willpower.

This books stands apart from others like it because it was co-written by a researcher and a journalist, making it easy to read and understand. Rather than bogging the reader down with scientific facts in a dry tone, the authors make the information fun and interesting. A well informed and researched book, Willpower: Rediscovering The Greatest Human Strength uses relatable stories from people of all walks of life. Its combination of scientific facts and skillful storytelling make it a quick and easy read with useful information for anyone who wants to improve their goal setting abilities.