Willpower

Background

My ‘to read’ list on goodreads.com is growing much faster than my occasional reading – there are so many good (and possibly bad) books I want to read! So I decided to challenge myself to read a book a week every two weeks. I also have a very selective memory (I recently caught myself putting a movie back on my IMDB watchlist, without realising I’d already watched it this year!), so I figure a blog post summarising my learnings ought to help solidify my memory. So here goes…

Book: Willpower by Roy F Baumeister & John Tierney

Contents

Why does willpower matter?

Will power and self-control are not sexy topics. But are crucial for doing well at life.

Others are taking notice too, including God, Buddha, Tony Robbins, Buffer and more.

Is it willpower or self control? They are the same, willpower and self control can be interchanged.

What are the symptoms of being depleted of willpower?

  • Do you get bothered more than usual?
  • Is it hard to make up your mind about simple things?
  • Are you reluctant to make a decision?

If you are drained, eat some healthy food and wait half an hour then try make the same decision.

Where does willpower come from?

Willpower comes from both genetics, and can be trained. Both are usual.

The basics:

  1. You have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it.
  2. You use the same stock of willpower for all manner of things[1]

Given that we have finite amount of willpower, there are two methods for increasing our available willpower:

  1. Reduce the drain on your willpower
  2. Increase your willpower – like a muscle willpower can be exercised and grown. The best time to do this is in your childhood, but there are things that you can do

How to reduce drain on your willpower

  1. Free up “RAM” or space in your mind by closing the loop on thoughts and to-dos. This is called the Zeigarnik effect – Your subconscious mind requires “a plan to completion” for a thought or idea, before it will let it go.
    1. The recommended way to do this is to follow something like GTD (watch a video), and making sure the thoughts end.
  2. Align your goals to ensure that you have no conflicting goals. This is a MUST.
    1. This is really heard because people hate to give up options. But it turns out the closing the door on some options are more beneficial.
  3. Ensure that you have enough blood sugar going to your brain. The best way to do this is to eat slow burning foods – aka foods with a lower glycaemic index.
  4. Sleep when you’re tired! – Getting enough sleep is super important.
    1. How do you know when enough is enough?
  5. Sickness takes a toll on willpower – “Driving a car with a bad cold has been found to be even more dangerous than driving when mildly intoxicated”[2]
  6. Automate as much as possible. When I thought of this I tried to think of all the things that I could automate.
    1. Groceries – I can order these online, have them delivered and setup the order to repeat so I don’t have to choose again each week
    2. Routines & rituals – I used to think that routine & rituals were dumb, and un exciting. But I’ve now realised that ustilised well, these habits can create life changing change and momentum to life. Here are some areas that can be automated:
      1. Morning routine – I can get into a ritual of the same pattern
      2. Evening routine – the process of going to bed
      3. At work – this could be
  1. Loading automatic responses – if X happens, I’ll do Y. Eg “if they serve chips, I will refuse them all.”
  1. Precommitment: take action to remove temptation. Eg: brushing teeth soon after dinner to avoid late night snacking.
  2. Be tidy – messiness is a strain on self control
  3. Learn regularly used information off by heart. This is where I have massive regret about not doing well at remembering my times tables. I know my times tables, but I have to mentally figure it out each time. In the good old days (or in asaian culture?) they are installed by roate learning, and the answer just presents itself.
  4. Create very clear boundaries. Eg.

“When you make an agreement and you don’t keep it, you undermine your own self-trust.”[3]

How to increase your willpower?

“Will power is the muscle that can be strengthened.”[4]

Actually increasing your willpower involves exercising it. This can be done by undertaking tasks which require…. Strengthening willpower in one area of your life will

  1. Small tasks for strengthening will power:
    1. not swearing
    2. saying yes and no instead of yeah and nah
    3. sitting up right
    4. using your left hand for casts your right hand would usually do (between 8 AM and 8 PM)
  2. Monitor yourself regularly – while this neither
    1. Video yourself
    2. Monitoring metrics towards your goals. Metrics that can be easily tracked:
      1. Sleep quality and amount
      2. Calories
      3. Activity
      4. Pulse
      5. What we do with our time
      6. Spending habits
  1. Use “high level thinking”

“Why questions will bring the mind into a higher level of thinking, and a focus on the future. How questions will bring the mind into the low levels of thinking, and a focus on the present.”[5]

  1. Practice a religion. But only if you really believe it, non-believers don’t reap the willpower benefits.
  2. Reward yourself often for good progress. Mimic the rewards of gamification in computer games to reward yourself. A meaningful and relevant mix of frequent small prizes and occasional big ones.

Options for children:

  1. Reading books
  2. Learning to play the right type of games
    1. Eg
  3. Enrolling children in a pre-school which values self-control, like Tools of the mind.

 

 

“…People can make themselves feel good by comparing themselves to the “average person” – who we all like to think is inferior to ourselves. We also can often get pleasure by comparing our current selves to our past selves, because we generally think we are comparing with age…”[6]

 

“it requires self control of the parents to instil self control and the children”[7]

[1] Page 35

[2] Page 59

[3] Page 78

[4] Page 127

[5] Page 164

[6] Page 112

[7] Page 200

 

How to Use Google Analytics on a WordPress.com Blog

Jonathon Balogh

New! Take the poll! The CloudFlare solution in this post isn’t trivial to set up. Would you be willing to pay for a solution that allowed you to run Google Analytics on WordPress.com if it was simpler, full featured and hack-free? View poll results here.

Like many people looking to start a blog I initially found myself drawn to the WordPress platform. The fully hosted and free solution provided by wordpress.com is especially attractive if you don’t want the overhead of managing a self-hosted WordPress blog. Unfortunately, one of their many restrictions is that you can’t use Google Analytics. Instead, you have to use their built-in WordPress analytics tool.

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