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Roy Baumeister and John Tierney

However you define success - a happy family, good friends, a satisfying career, robust health, financial security, the freedom to pursue your passions - it tends to be accompanied by two qualities. When you isolate the personal qualities that predict positive outcomes in life, they consistently find two traits: intelligence and self-control. So far researchers haven't learned how to permanently increase intelligence. But they do know how to improve self-control/

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Experimenters found willpower gives people the strength to persevere. They found people lose self-control as willpower is depleted. Like a muscle, it is fueled by glucose in the bloodstream, it becomes fatigued by overuse, but it an be strengthened over the long term by exercise.

Most major problems, personal and social, center on failure of self-control - compulsive spending, impulsive violence, underachievement at school, procrastination at work, drug and alcohol abuse, unhealthy eating. Poor self-control is basis of just about every personal trauma - losing your job, divorcing, going to prison. It can destroy your career, as adulterous politicians discover, and it can leave you in poverty, as people who don't save for old age discover.

Victorians saw themselves living in transitional times. The rigid certainties of the old Catholic Church had been swept away by the Protestant Revolution which made faith more individual, and the Enlightenment, which weakened faith in dogma. Victorians came to doubt religious principles by rational thinking, but kept pretending to believe because they considered it their public duty to preserve morality. And so needed to stick to rigid rules.

Social scientists looked for causes of misbehaviour outside the individual. Poverty, racial oppression, female oppression or other govt failures. Politically incorrect to 'blame the victim' and much easier to advocate political change than to try to 'reform' individuals.

Researchers focused on self-esteem rather than self-control. But eventually could not deny evidence that US 8th grade math students had exceptionally high confidence in their own abilities, but on tests they scored far below Koreans, Japanese and other students with lower self-esteem.

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Marshmallow expt (Walter Mischel) was almost an accident. It was only because his daughter went to the same Stanford U campus where the expts had been done, and kept coming across anecdotal evidence about them. He tracked down hundreds of veterans of the test and found that kids who'd managed to hold out for the full 15 minutes went on to score 200 points higher on the SAT than the ones who'd caved in in first half minute. There were many other correlations - more popular, higher salaries, less drug abuse. These were stunning results, because it's very rare for anything measurable in early childhood to predict anything in adulthood. The only other things are extreme events such as trauma or malnutrition.

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Researchers looked at 35 personality traits - self-control turned out to be the only trait correlating with college student's grade average. Intelligence obviously an advantage, but it was self-control that got them to attend classes, start their homework earlier, and spend more time working and less watching TV.

Evo suggestion that self-control necessary for social life - if fought over every scarp of food instead of peaceful sharing, you'd likely burn more calories than you gained. Monkeys can't view the future. Even if provided with unlimited food once a day, they won't store any of it - so when they wake up the next day they are famished.

Woman who made a living as a street statue (white clothes, white makeup. Very good money - $50 an hour or more - but could do no more than 2 90 minute spells a day. Sounds easy - don't have to move a muscle - but in fact huge amount of energy used to stop any movement.

Expt to show how willpower depletes. Subjects (who were already hungry) into room where plates laid out. Chocolates, fresh baked (and smell wonderful) cookies, and .... radishes. Some allowed to eat whatever liked; some told they cd only eat radishes. They were left alone in the room and had to resist temptation to eat forbidden food. Then given a maths test where told to work out a problem which was actually insoluble. Those who'd been allowed to eat cookies persisted for 20 mins before giving up; those who'd been assigned radishes and had to resist tempt, lasted 8 minutes. They'd successfully resisted the temptation to eat the cookies and chocolate, but the effort had left them with less energy to tackle the puzzles.

Explains why high-stress jobs kill marriages. Using up all willpower to stop exploding at work and no energy left to tolerate partner's foibles.

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Emotional control is very difficult because you usually can't alter yr mood by an act of will. To ward off sadness and anger, people use indirect strategies, such as going to gym or shopping sprees or food binges or get drunk.

Lesson of ego-depletion is that if you're trying to change yourself, focus on one task at a time. Because you are emptying yr self-control tank trying to resist one thing, you are far more likely to make a serious slip up in another area. If you try to quit smoking while also eating less and exercising more, you are likely to fail at all three, because there are too many simultaneous demands on willpower.

Ego-depletion tied up with glucose. Your brain doesn't stop working when glucose is low, it just shifts activity to other things. As body uses glucose during self-control, it starts to crave sweet things to eat. The more demands for self-control in daily life, the more their hunger for sweets. Even just expecting to have to exert self-control seems to make people hungry for sweet foods.

Driving a car when you have a bad head cold is more dangerous than driving when mildly intoxicated. Your immune system is using so much glucose that there isn't enough left for yr brain. system. Have 31 folders for each day of the month, and another 12 folders for each month of the year. Once something is filed in the appropriate folder, you know you'll be reminded to deal with it on the appropriate day. Your unconscious mind wants a plan - if you don't have one set up, yr uncs will keep fretting away, reminding you to do something. "You may want to find God, but if you're running low on cat food you better make a plan for dealing with it. Otherwise the cat food is going to take a whole lot more attention and keep you from finding God."

Decision fatigue: people simply run out of energy if asked to make too many decisions. Decision making depletes your willpower, and once yr willpower is depleted, it's harder to make decisions. You'll look for excuses to postpone making the decision or you'll take the easiest option. One of reasons people find it hard to make decisions is that we are reluctant to give up options. Even when the options aren't doing them any good.

Online daters have so many options available that they get very picky. In contrast, if you go to a speed dating event, you quickly pick out the potential partners. But because online seekers have so many choices, they just go on browsing.

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The ability to compromise is one of the most difficult parts of decision making, and so it's one of the first to decline when willpower depleted. A $100 bottle of wine isn't 5 times better than a $20 bottle. But you have to decide when exactly the higher price isn't worth it. When yr willpower low, you're likely to look at just one dimension, such as price (Just give me the cheapest). When customers buying a new BMW, confronted with endless list of choices - 4 styles of gearshift knobs, 25 engine/gearbox configurations etc. After a while, decision fatigue set in and they just went for the default. So dealers could substantially increase profit on items by the order in which they presented them, and by which one was the default.

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The Quantified Self website for self-regulation. Monitor yourself to detect early signs of illness. Instead of being bombarded by messages selling fast foods, set up so get health and conscientiousness messages. By putting a score to everything - how much sleep you had, how many stairs you climbed - motivates you to maintain or improve the numbers. The very best way to self-regulate is to make numbers public. We care far more about what others know of our exercise or spending or eating numbers. We can rationalize or overlook our private lapses, but can't ignore public numbers. his also has side advantage that when things start to go badly you can get help or encouragement from others in yr group. And by having the numbers easier to identify patterns.

Covenant Eyes tracks all websites you visit and then once a day emails list to any 3 people you choose - your boss, spouse, mother, pastor. Or commitment to lose weight or whatever, with an agreed penalty. Could be just a round of emails to yr supporters if you fail, or donation to a charity, or to an 'anti-charity' (a group you'd hate to support).

Young uni profs want to get tenure. Tenure depends on how much you've published. Two different strategies - some did a page or two every day; others had a major binge every so often. Almost no-one from second group got tenure. Clear lesson that you need to form a daily habit and you'll produce more with less effort.

Navy SEAL training Hell Week test of continual running, swimming, crawling and freezing that must do on 5 hours sleep. At least three quarters of men fail to complete course, and survivors aren't the ones with strongest muscles. The ones who get through are those who had ability to step outside their own pain, put aside their fear and ask 'How can I help the guy next to me?' "They had more than the 'fist' of courage and physical strength. They also had a heart large enough to think about others."

Alcohol doesn't increase your impulse to do stupid things; it simply removes restraints. It lessens self-control in two ways - by lowering blood glucose levels and by reducing self-awareness. So it mainly affects behaviours marked by inner conflict, as when part of you wants to do something and part of you doesn't, like having sex with wrong person, spending too much money, or drinking too much.

Self-esteem program a bust: doesn't improve student's grades, it just makes them think they're ok anyway. At worst, self-esteem becomes narcissism, the self-absorbed conviction of personal superiority. Deep craving to be admired, though not worried about being liked. hey tend to make good first impressions but don't wear well. But the self-esteem movement still trundles onward, despite all the evidence that it's not helping kids.

Your body doesn't care if you sit in front of the TV or walk around the block. It will even go along with a diet once or twice. But the 3rd or 4th attempt at diet doesn't work. Evolution favored people who could survive famines, so once the body has gone through one experience of not getting enough to eat, it assumes it needs to keep every fat cell it can in case famine arrives again. Instead of going for quick weight loss, you're better off using your self-control to make gradual changes that will have lasting effects.

But you have to be careful about the strategies you use. William Hill, the English bookmaker, has a standard offer to bet against anyone who makes a plan to lose weight. Offers odds of up to 50 to 1, and lets the bettors set their own targets of how much they'll lose in how much time. The bettors lose 80% of the time, and female bettors are even more likely to lose, because they set the most impossible goals.

Dieters often seem to have a 'what the hell' system - if they blow their target one day they figure there's no point in being virtuous again until tomorrow, so they binge. But don't realize how harmful the binge is.

Put tempting delicacies just within reach of women dieters forces them to continually resist temptation, and depletes willpower. And, depletion makes you feel things more intensely. Desires and cravings are exceptionally intense.

It's possible to lose a lot of weight quickly under a strict regime (defined as any loss of more than 2 pounds a week)but what good will that do if the regimen is too strict to follow permanently?

One trick is to have an implementation strategy - a set of rules/procedures you'll use in any given situation. Puts decision making on automatic so don't have to decide when you're 'hot' craving for something sweet in front of you. Eg what you will do if confronted by tempting food at a party. "If there's a buffet I will only eat vegetables."

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Despite conventional wisdom, people who weigh themselves every day are much more successful at keeping weight off. Monitoring works well in quite surprising ways. Expt at a sports bar, people ate fewer chicken wings when the bones were left on the table (I can see how much I've eaten) than when waiters continually cleared away the evidence.

The best way to reduce stress in yr life is to set it up so you have a realistic chance to succeed. You don't use willpower as a last-ditch defense. You arrange yr life so you are beset with fewer problem situations. People with good self-control use it not as a rescue in dangerous situations but to develop effective habits and routines.

The Nothing Alternative - Raymond Chandler's way of beating procrastination. He wasn't one of those writers who could churn out words by routine, but he forced himself to work by one rule. He didn't have to write, but until he did, he wasn't allowed to do anything else - read paper, go for a walk, or anything. As he said "It's the same principle as keeping order in a school. If you make the pupils behave, they will learn something just to keep from being bored. Two simple rules a. You don't have to write. b.You can't do anything else.

Online games have shown us that what motivates kids to learn is frequent small prizes with occasional big ones. Even when they make mistakes and die, they don't feel that they've failed, they just feel that they haven't succeeded yet.

Until quite recently, most people outsourced self-control to God. Combination of social pressure from the congregation and fear of eternal damnation.

In the C19th the average worker had barely an hour of free time a ay and never tought of retiring. Today we spend only about a fifth of our waking hours at work.We have an unprecedented amount of spare time, but it takes an unprecedented amount of self-control to use that time wisely.


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