Derek Sivers
Willpower - by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney

Willpower - by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney

ISBN: 1594203075
Date read: 2011-09-09
How strongly I recommend it: 8/10
(See my list of 360+ books, for more.)

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

You have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it. Two traits that consistently predict “positive outcomes” in life: intelligence and self-control. Most major problems, personal and social, center on failure of self-control. When people were asked about their failings, a lack of self-control was at the top of the list. So let's talk about self-control....

my notes

Two traits that consistently predict “positive outcomes” in life: intelligence and self-control.

Most major problems, personal and social, center on failure of self-control.

When people were asked about their failings, a lack of self-control was at the top of the list.

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 tasks.

People spend about a quarter of their waking hours resisting desires:
urge to eat
urge to sleep
urge for leisure, like taking a break from work by doing a puzzle or game
Sexual urges
urges for other kinds of interactions, like checking e-mail and social-networking sites, surfing the Web, listening to music, or watching television.

Will is to be found in connecting units across time. Will involves treating the current situation as part of a general pattern. Smoking one cigarette will not jeopardize your health. Taking heroin once will not make you addicted. One piece of cake won’t make you fat, and skipping one assignment won’t ruin your career. But in order to stay healthy and employed, you must treat (almost) every episode as a reflection of the general need to resist these temptations.

Self-control lets you relax because it removes stress and enables you to conserve willpower for the important challenges.

They’d successfully resisted the temptation of the cookies and the chocolates, but the effort left them with less energy to tackle the puzzles.

Why marriages were going bad just when stress at work was at its worst: People were using up all their willpower on the job. They gave at the office - and their home suffered.

Muscle pain: the natural impulse is to relax, but you can will yourself to keep squeezing - unless your mind has been too busy suppressing other feelings.

Brain region known as the anterior cingulate cortex watches for mismatches between what you are doing and what you intended to do.

Ego depletion causes a slowdown in the anterior cingulate cortex.

As the brain slows down and its error-detection ability deteriorates, people have trouble controlling their reactions.

Depleted persons react more strongly to all kinds of things. Desires intensified along with feelings.

If you’d like some advance warning of trouble, look not for a single symptom but rather for a change in the overall intensity of your feelings. If you find yourself especially bothered by frustrating events, or saddened by unpleasant thoughts, or even happier about some good news - then maybe it’s because your brain’s circuits aren’t controlling emotions as well as usual.

Ego depletion thus creates a double whammy: Your willpower is diminished and your cravings feel stronger than ever.

They simply stopped worrying about unhealthy, fattening food when they were focused on exams.

There’s a common misperception that stress causes those kinds of emotions. What stress really does, though, is deplete willpower, which diminishes your ability to control those emotions.

Before testing people’s perseverance, he informed them that they could win money by doing well. The cash worked wonders. People immediately found reserves to perform well.

Since they hadn’t been warned ahead of time, they hadn’t conserved any energy, and it showed in their exceptionally bad performances. In fact, the better they had done in the second round, the worse they did in the third round.

unrelated activities - resisting chocolate and working on geometry puzzles - drew on the same source of energy,

There are hidden connections among the wildly different things you do all day. You use the same supply of willpower to deal with frustrating traffic, tempting food, annoying colleagues, demanding bosses, pouting children.

People often conserve their willpower by seeking not the fullest or best answer but rather a predetermined conclusion. Theologians and believers filter the world to remain consistent with the nonnegotiable principles of their faith.

Focus on one project at a time. If you set more than one self-improvement goal, you may succeed for a while by drawing on reserves to power through, but that just leaves you more depleted and more prone to serious mistakes later. When people have to make a big change in their lives, their efforts are undermined if they are trying to make other changes as well.

Because you have only one supply of willpower, the different New Year’s resolutions all compete with one another. Each time you try to follow one, you reduce your capacity for all the others. A better plan is to make one resolution and stick to it. That’s challenge enough.

Thinking requires plentiful glucose in the bloodstream.

The diet sweetener didn’t furnish any glucose. Sugar gave them a quick burst of glucose. A sugar spike is promptly followed by a crash that leaves you feeling more depleted, so it’s not a good long-term strategy.

No glucose, no willpower:

Ego depletion shifts activity from one part of the brain to another. Your brain does not stop working when glucose is low. It stops doing some things and starts doing others.

Don’t skimp on calories when you’re trying to deal with more serious problems.

When you eat, go for the slow burn. The body converts just about all sorts of food into glucose, but at different rates. Foods that are converted quickly are said to have a high glycemic index. These include starchy carbohydrates like white bread, potatoes, white rice, and plenty of offerings on snack racks and fast-food counters. Eating them produces boom-and-bust cycles, leaving you short on glucose and self-control - and too often unable to resist the body’s craving for quick hits.

You’re better off eating foods with a low glycemic index: most vegetables, nuts (like peanuts and cashews), many raw fruits (like apples, blueberries, and pears), cheese, fish, meat, olive oil, and other “good” fats.

When you’re sick, save your glucose for your immune system.

Your immune system is using so much of your glucose to fight the cold that there’s not enough left for the brain.

Sleep deprivation has been shown to impair the processing of glucose.

The first step in self-control is to set a clear goal.

The problem is not a lack of goals but rather too many of them.

An executive’s daily to-do list for Monday often contains more work than could be done the entire week.

The more competing demands you face, the more time you spend contemplating these demands. You’re beset by rumination:

People who think more about their goals replace action with rumination.

People with clear, unconflicting goals tended to forge ahead and make progress, but the rest were so busy worrying that they got stuck.

People with conflicting goals reported fewer positive emotions, more negative emotions, and more depression and anxiety.

Finish a story that begins with these words:
After awakening, Bill began to think about his future. In general he expected to _____
Joe is having a cup of coffee in a restaurant. He’s thinking of the time to come when _______

When Joe sat in the coffee shop thinking of the “time to come,” that time typically covered about a week in the stories from the control group, but in the heroin addicts’ stories it covered only an hour.
When the control group wrote about “the future” for Bill, they tended to mention long-term aspirations, like earning a promotion at work or getting married, while the addicts wrote about upcoming events, like a doctor’s appointment or a visit with relatives.
The typical person in the control group contemplated the future over four and a half years, while the typical addict’s vision of the future extended only nine days.

Another drawback of daily plans is that they lack flexibility. They deprive the person of the chance to make choices along the way, so the person feels locked into a rigid and grinding sequence of tasks. Life rarely goes exactly according to plan, and so the daily plans can be demoralizing as soon as you fall off schedule. With a monthly plan, you can make adjustments. If a delay arises one day, your plan is still intact.

Agreements you make with yourself: When you make an agreement and you don’t keep it, you undermine your own self-trust.

The waiter explained that he remembered each order only until it was served.

The Zeigarnik effect: Uncompleted tasks and unmet goals tend to pop into one’s mind. Once the task is completed and the goal reached, however, this stream of reminders comes to a stop.

(Stupid songs stuck in your head:) That’s why this kind of ear worm is so often an awful tune rather than a pleasant one. We’re more likely to turn off the bad one in midsong, so it’s the one that returns to haunt us.

The unconscious is asking the conscious mind to make a plan. The unconscious mind apparently can’t do this on its own, so it nags the conscious mind to make a plan with specifics like time, place, and opportunity. Once the plan is formed, the unconscious can stop nagging the conscious mind with reminders.

Once you make that plan - once you put the meeting memo in the tickler file for Wednesday, once you specify the very next action to be taken on the project - you can relax. You don’t have to finish the job right away.

There’s nothing worse than sitting down to write when you’ve got a blinking phone and a pile of letters and a ton of e-mails in your face. You’re not going to do your very best work. But if you know the other stuff is taken care of, you can concentrate on your writing. You can be more creative.

Decision making depletes your willpower, and once your willpower is depleted, you’re less able to make decisions.

Some students choose double majors in college not because they’re trying to prove something or because they have some grand plan for a career integrating, say, political science and biology. Rather, they just can’t bring themselves to say no to either option. To choose a single major is to pronounce judgment on the other and kill it off, and there’s abundant research showing that people have a hard time giving up options, even when the options aren’t doing them any good.

At the online dating service, customers filled out an extensive questionnaire about their attributes. In theory, that detailed profile should have helped people find just the right mate, but in practice it produced so much information and so many choices that people became absurdly picky.

Because the online seekers have so many choices, they just go on browsing. When you have all these criteria to consider, and so many people to choose from, you start striving for perfection. You don’t want to settle for someone who’s not ideal in height, age, religion, and forty-five other dimensions.

Closing a door on an option is experienced as a loss, and people are willing to pay a price to avoid the emotion of loss. Sometimes that makes sense, but too often we’re so eager to keep options open that we don’t see the long-term price that we’re paying - or that others are paying.

Men who saw photos of hot women shifted toward getting an immediate reward instead of waiting for a larger payoff in the future. Apparently, the sight of an attractive woman makes men want cash right away. They focus on the present rather than the future.

Self-awareness evolved because it helps self-regulation.

If the people could see themselves in the mirror, they were more likely to follow their own inner values instead of following someone else’s orders.

Anthony Trollope believed it unnecessary - and inadvisable - to write for more than three hours a day. He became one of the greatest and most prolific novelists in history while holding a full-time job with the British Post Office. He would rise at five-thirty, fortify himself with coffee, and spend a half hour reading the previous day’s work to get himself in the right voice. Then he would write for two and a half hours, monitoring the time with a watch placed on the table. He forced himself to produce one page of 250 words every quarter hour. At this rate he could produce 2,500 words by breakfast. He didn’t expect to do so every single day - sometimes there were business obligations or fox hunts - but he made sure each week to meet a goal. For each of his novels, he would draw up a working schedule, typically planning for 10,000 words a week, and then keep a diary.

Nothing surely is so potent as a law that may not be disobeyed. It has the force of the water drop that hollows the stone. A small daily task will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules.

That little diary, with its dates and ruled spaces, its record that must be seen, its daily, weekly demand upon my industry, has done all that for me.

The Quantified Self movement: Instead of paying doctors and hospitals to repair your body, you can monitor yourself to avoid illness. Instead of heeding marketers’ offerings of fast foods and instant pleasures, you can set up your life so that you’re bombarded with messages promoting health.

She’s monitoring herself with new electronic sensors like the Fitbit clip, the BodyMedia armband, and the Zeo “sleep coach” headband. By measuring her movements, her skin temperature and moisture, and her brain waves, these sensors tell her exactly how much energy she expends during the day and how many hours of good sleep she gets at night.

If I’m at a party in the evening, I’ll tell myself that if I leave now, I could go to bed at nine-thirty instead of ten-thirty, and I’d get more sleep, and my sleep number would look better in the morning. In many ways, it frees me to do the right thing because I can blame my behavior on the numbers.

For contentment, it pays to look at how far you’ve come. To stoke motivation and ambition, focus instead on the road ahead.

Public information has more impact than private information. People care more about what other people know about them than about what they know about themselves. A failure, a slipup, a lapse in self-control can be swept under the carpet pretty easily if you’re the only one who knows about it. You can rationalize it or just plain ignore it. But if other people know about it, it’s harder to dismiss.

Getting your brain wired into little goals and achieving them, that helps you achieve the bigger things you shouldn’t be able to do.

It’s always making things more difficult than they should be, and never falling short, so that you have that extra reserve, that tank, so you know you can always go further than your goal. For me that’s what discipline is. It’s repetition and practice.

The best results came from the group working on posture. That tiresome old advice - “Sit up straight!” - was more useful than anyone had imagined. By overriding their habit of slouching, the students strengthened their willpower and did better at tasks that had nothing to do with posture. Thanks to the students’ posture exercises, their willpower didn’t get depleted as quickly as before, so they had more stamina for other tasks.

The key is to concentrate on changing a habitual behavior. One simple way to start is by using a different hand for routine tasks. Many habits are linked to your dominant hand. Right-handed people, in particular, tend to use their right hands for all sorts of things without giving the matter the slightest thought. Making yourself switch to your left hand is thus an exercise in self-control.

Another training strategy is to change your speech habits.

Exercising self-control in one area seemed to improve all areas of life.

You might think that people who start doing physical workouts would naturally start eating better, but in fact the reverse has often been observed in other studies: Once you start exercising, you feel virtuous and therefore entitled to reward yourself with high-calorie treats. (That’s an example of the “licensing effect,” when you act as if one good deed gives you license to sin.)

Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa’s Greatest Explorer.

By creating the public persona of himself as Bula Matari, the unyielding Breaker of Rocks, he forced himself to live up to it. As a result of his oaths and his image, Jeal said, “Stanley made it impossible in advance to fail through weakness of will.”

I mean by attention to my business, by self-denial, by indefatigable energy, to become, by this very business, my own master.

A strategy to conserve willpower that he used over and over with great success: precommitment.
The essence of this strategy is to lock yourself into a virtuous path. You recognize that you’ll face terrible temptations to stray from the path, and that your willpower will weaken. So you make it impossible - or somehow unthinkably disgraceful or sinful - to leave the path.
Precommitment is what Odysseus and his men used to get past the deadly songs of the Sirens. He had himself lashed to the mast with orders not to be untied no matter how much he pleaded to be freed to go to the Sirens. His men used a different form of precommitment by plugging their ears so they couldn’t hear the Sirens’ songs. They prevented themselves from being tempted at all, which is generally the safer of the two approaches.

“Public Humiliation Diet” followed by a writer named Drew Magary. He vowed to weigh himself every day and promptly reveal the results on Twitter - which he did, and lost sixty pounds in five months.

Software from Covenant Eyes that will track your Web browsing and then e-mail a list of the sites you visit to anyone you designate in advance - like, say, your boss or your spouse.

People who draw up a contract without a financial penalty or a referee succeed only 35 percent of the time, whereas the ones with a penalty and a ref succeed nearly 80 percent of the time.

What began as a precommitment turned into something permanent and more valuable: a habit.

“The creation of order can only have been an antidote to the destructive capacities of nature all around him.” Stanley himself offered a similar explanation for his need to shave in the jungle: “I always presented as decent an appearance as possible, both for self-discipline and for self-respect.”

Orderly habits like that can actually improve self-control in the long run by triggering automatic mental processes that don’t require much energy.

Orderly Web sites, like the neat lab rooms, provided subtle cues guiding people unconsciously toward self-disciplined decisions and actions helping others.

People with high self-control were distinguished by their behaviors that took place more or less automatically.

Self-control turned out to be most effective when people used it to establish good habits and break bad ones.

The best advice for young writers and aspiring professors is: Write every day. Use your self-control to form a daily habit, and you’ll produce more with less effort in the long run.

A correct principle of self-control: Focus on lofty thoughts.

“Why” questions push the mind up to higher levels of thinking and a focus on the future.
“How” questions bring the mind down to low levels of thinking and a focus on the present.

Have people move up or down from a given concept, like the word singer.
To induce a high-level mind-set, people were asked, “A singer is an example of what?”
To induce a low-level mind-set, they were asked, “What is an example of a singer?”
Thus the answer pushed them to think either more globally or more specifically.

These manipulations of mental state had no inherent relation to self-control. Yet self-control improved among people who were encouraged to think in high-level terms, and got worse among those who thought in low-level terms.

Alcohol doesn’t increase your impulse to do stupid or destructive things; instead, it simply removes restraints. It lessens self-control in two ways: by lowering blood glucose and by reducing self-awareness.

Religious people are less likely than others to develop unhealthy habits, like getting drunk, engaging in risky sex, taking illicit drugs, and smoking cigarettes. They’re more likely to wear seat belts, visit a dentist, and take vitamins. They have better social support, and their faith helps them cope psychologically with misfortunes.

Environmentalism is especially strong in rich countries where traditional religion has waned. The devotion to God seems to give way to a reverence for nature’s beauty and transcendence. Environmentalists’ exhortations to reduce consumption and waste are teaching children some of the same self-control lessons offered in religious sermons and Victorian primers.

Bright lines: These are clear, simple, unambiguous rules. You can’t help but notice when you cross a bright line. If you promise yourself to drink or smoke “moderately,” that’s not a bright line. It’s a fuzzy boundary with no obvious point at which you go from moderation to excess. In contrast, zero tolerance is a bright line: total abstinence with no exceptions anytime.

Once you’re committed to following a bright-line rule, your present self can feel confident that your future self will observe it, too.

Students with higher self-esteem did have higher grades.
But which came first? Did students’ self-esteem lead to good grades, or did good grades lead to self-esteem?
It turned out that grades in tenth grade predicted self-esteem in twelfth grade, but self-esteem in tenth grade failed to predict grades in twelfth grade.
Thus, it seemed, the grades came first, and the self-esteem came afterward.

Across the country, students’ self-esteem went up while their performance declined. They just felt better about doing worse.

People with high self-esteem think they’re more popular, charming, and socially skilled than other people, but objective studies find no difference.

Two clearly demonstrated benefits of high self-esteem, according to the review panel.
First, it increases initiative, probably because it lends confidence. People with high self-esteem are more willing to act on their beliefs, to stand up for what they believe in, to approach others, to risk new undertakings. (This unfortunately includes being extra willing to do stupid or destructive things, even when everyone else advises against them.)
Second, it feels good. High self-esteem seems to operate like a bank of positive emotions, which furnish a general sense of well-being and can be useful when you need an extra dose of confidence to cope with misfortune, ward off depression, or bounce back from failure. These benefits might be useful to people in some jobs, like sales, by enabling them to recover from frequent rejections, but this sort of persistence is a mixed blessing. It can also lead people to ignore sensible advice as they stubbornly keep wasting time and money on hopeless causes.

Narcissists are legends in their own mind and addicted to their grandiose images. They have a deep craving to be admired by other people (but don’t feel a special need to be liked - it’s adulation they require). They expect to be treated as special beings and will turn nasty when criticized. They tend to make very good first impressions but don’t wear well. When the psychologist Delroy Paulhus asked people in groups to rate one another, the narcissists seemed to be everyone’s favorite person, but only during the first few meetings. After a few months, they usually slipped to the bottom of the rankings. God’s gift to the world can be hard to live with.

When the going gets tough, people with high self-esteem often decide they shouldn’t bother.

Cultural traditions in China and other Asian countries undoubtedly play an important role in instilling self-discipline, and those traditions in Asian-American homes have contributed to the children’s low levels of narcissism as well as their later successes.

The Confucian concepts of chiao shun, which means “to train,” and guan, which means both “to govern” and “to love.” These parents might have seemed cold and rigid by American standards, but their children were flourishing both in and out of school.

“As I watched American parents slathering praise on their kids for the lowest of tasks - drawing a squiggle or waving a stick - I came to see that Chinese parents have two things over their Western counterparts:
(1) higher dreams for their children
(2) higher regard for their children in the sense of knowing how much they can take.”

That feeling of accomplishment. That’s where your self-esteem comes from, not from being told you’re the greatest.

Forget about self-esteem. Work on self-control.

By far the most important facet of punishment - and the most difficult one for parents - is consistency. Ideally, a parent should quickly discipline the child every single time he or she misbehaves, but in a restrained, even mild manner. A stern word or two is often enough as long as it’s done carefully and regularly. This approach can initially be more of a strain on the parents than on the child. They’re tempted to overlook or forgive some misdeed, if only because they’re tired or because it may spoil the pleasant time everyone else is having.

You have to do what’s right for the child, and it really is all about being consistent. They have to grow up knowing what’s appropriate and inappropriate behavior.

Nearly all experts agree that children need and want clear rules, and that being held accountable for obeying the rules is a vital feature of healthy development. But rules are helpful only if children know them and understand them, so the brighter the line, the better.

Anything that forces children to exercise their self-control muscle can be helpful: taking music lessons, memorizing poems, saying prayers, minding their table manners, avoiding the use of profanity, writing thank-you notes.

If you’re serious about controlling your weight, you need the discipline to follow these three rules:
1. Never go on a diet.
2. Never vow to give up chocolate or any other food.
3. Whether you’re judging yourself or judging others, never equate being overweight with having weak willpower.

The first step in self-control is to establish realistic goals.

The dieters reacted in the opposite pattern. The ones who had downed the giant milkshakes actually ate more cookies and crackers than the ones who’d had nothing to eat for hours.

The researchers gave it a formal scientific term, counterregulatory eating, but in their lab and among colleagues it was known simply as the what-the-hell effect. Dieters have a fixed target in mind for their maximum daily calories, and when they exceed it for some unexpected reason, such as being given a pair of large milkshakes in an experiment, they regard their diet as blown for the day.

That day is therefore mentally classified as a failure, regardless of what else happens. Virtue cannot resume until tomorrow. So they think, What the hell, I might as well enjoy myself today - and the resulting binge often puts on far more weight than the original lapse.

Dieters don’t even seem to be aware of how much damage these binges do.

As long as the diet wasn’t busted for the day, the dieters tracked what they were eating. But once they broke the diet and succumbed to the what-the-hell effect, they stopped counting and became even less aware than nondieters of what they were eating.

Their obesity made them likely to go on diets, and their diets caused them to rely on external instead of internal cues.

Dieters learn to eat according to a plan, not to their inner feelings and cravings.

You mainly try to tune out the start-eating signal, but the start and stop signals are intertwined, so you typically lose touch with the stop-eating signal, too,

They have only the one bright line, and once they have passed it, there are no more limits.

Non-dieters could sit next to an array of snacks - Doritos, Skittles, M&M’s, salted peanuts - without using up willpower.

The dieters can resist for a while, but each act of resistance further lowers their willpower. Then, as they’re weakening, they face yet another of the peculiarly maddening challenges of controlling eating. To continue resisting temptation, they need to replenish the willpower they’ve lost. But to resupply that energy, they need to give the body glucose. They’re trapped in a nutritional catch-22: 1. In order not to eat, a dieter needs willpower. 2. In order to have willpower, a dieter needs to eat. Faced with this dilemma of whether to eat or not, a dieter might try telling herself that the best option is to slightly relax the diet. She might reason that it’s best to consume a little food and try to salve her conscience: Look, I had to break the diet in order to save it. But once she strays from the diet, we know what she’s liable to tell herself: What the hell. And then: Let the binge begin.

Brush your teeth early in the evening.

Make highly specific plans for automatic behavior in certain situations.

If x happens, I will do y. The more you use this technique to transfer the control of your behavior to automatic processes, the less effort you will expend.

People who weighed themselves every day were much more successful at keeping their weight from creeping back up.

The more carefully and frequently you monitor yourself, the better you’ll control yourself.

Those who kept a food diary lost twice as much weight as those who used other techniques.

Telling yourself I can have this later operates in the mind a bit like having it now. It satisfies the craving.

It’s less stressful on the mind to say Later rather than Never.

You could sum up a large new body of research literature with a simple rule: The best way to reduce stress in your life is to stop screwing up. That means setting up your life so that you have a realistic chance to succeed. Successful people don’t use their willpower as a last-ditch defense to stop themselves from disaster.

These people have less need to use willpower because they’re beset by fewer temptations and inner conflicts. They’re better at arranging their lives so that they avoid problem situations.

When procrastinators are feeling anxious about a difficult job, or just bored by a mundane chore, they give in to the urge to improve their mood by doing something else. They go for the immediate reward, playing a video game instead of cleaning the kitchen or writing a term paper, and they try to ignore the long-term consequences.

What matters is the exertion, not the outcome. If you struggle with temptation and then give in, you’re still depleted because you struggled. Giving in does not replenish the willpower you have already expended.

Have an idea of what you want to accomplish in a month and how to get there. Leave some flexibility and anticipate setbacks. When you check your progress at month’s end.

Set their top goals for the week.

“You can’t have more than three goals. You can’t go off working on other goals until you’ve done the top three.”

A way to boost your willpower is to expend a little of it on neatness. People exert less self-control after seeing a messy desk than after seeing a clean desk.

Dorothy Parker gave her editor at The New Yorker the all-time best excuse for an overdue piece: “Somebody was using the pencil.”

Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.

Benchley explained how he could summon the discipline to read a scientific article about tropical fish, build a bookshelf, arrange books on said shelf, and write an answer to a friend’s letter that had been sitting in a pile on his desk for twenty years. All he had to do was draw up a to-do list for the week and put these tasks below his top priority - his job of writing an article.

A professional writer needed to set aside at least four hours a day for his job: “He doesn’t have to write, and if he doesn’t feel like it, he shouldn’t try. He can look out of the window or stand on his head or writhe on the floor, but he is not to do any other positive thing, not read, write letters, glance at magazines, or write checks.” This Nothing Alternative is a marvelously simple tool against procrastination

Two very simple rules, a. you don’t have to write. b. you can’t do anything else. The rest comes of itself. That’s the seeming effortlessness that comes from playing offense.

Setting aside time to do one and only one thing.

Resolve to start your day with ninety minutes devoted to your most important goal, with no interruptions.

Precommitment is the ultimate offensive weapon.

One of the most common reasons for the self-control problem is overconfidence in willpower.

Benefit just by noting the word count at the beginning and end of the day:

Games: Even when players lose battles or make mistakes or die, they remain motivated because of the emphasis on rewards rather than punishment. Instead of feeling as if they’ve failed, the players think that they just haven’t succeeded yet.

When societies modernize, the newly affluent people at first tend to gorge themselves on previously forbidden (or unaffordable) fruit, but eventually they look for a more satisfying way to live.

We assume we’ll magically have more free time in the future than we do today. So we say yes to a work commitment three months from now that we’d never accept if it were next week - and then discover too late that we still don’t have any time for it.

Inner discipline still leads to outer kindness.