Roy Baumeister and John Tierney:
People with stronger willpower are more altruistic. They’re more likely to donate to charity, to do volunteer work, and to offer their own homes as shelter to someone with no place to go. Willpower evolved because it was crucial for our ancestors to get along with the rest of the clan, and it’s still serving that purpose today. Inner discipline still leads to outer kindness.
I mentioned a few months ago that I was interested in reading this book and, though it’s taken me a while, I finally finished it last night.
Honestly, it’s been one of the most enjoyable books I’ve read in quite a while. Each chapter is filled with so many insights on topics ranging from decision making to finances, to parenting and dieting. And, for a book of this type, it’s thoroughly practical too. I can’t remember the last time I found myself highlighting so many sections of a book.
The premise of the book is this: Willpower is like a muscle that can be strengthened with practice and improved over time. The latest laboratory work shows that self-control has a physical basis to it and so is dramatically affected by simple things such as eating and sleeping - to the extent that a life-changing decision may go in different directions depending on whether it’s made before or after lunch.
It was intriguing to see, as part of their conclusion, the link between willpower and altruism as quoted above. All in all, the point that the books seems to make is that if we want to have a better life, and if we want to live in a better work, then willpower needs to be a muscle that we take time to develop and build up.
All in all, highly recommended and a definite thumbs up from me.
I keep coming across this book and, after seeing it again in Waterstones this afternoon, I think it’s definitely going onto my electronic books to read pile. It looks like it’ll be a really interesting read.
It’s certainly getting some positive reviews too. This from Paul Bloom is just one of many recommendations: “A brave, brilliant, and eloquent exploration of the most important issues of our time. It will challenge the way you think about liberals and conservatives, atheism and religion, good and evil.”
Has anyone else read it already? I’d love to know what you thought and if you’d recommend it.
Here’s the official blurb from the cover:
Why can it sometimes feel as though half the population is living in a different moral universe from you? Why do ideas such as ‘fairness’ and ‘freedom’ mean such different things to different people? Why is it so easy to see the flaws in others’ arguments, and less in our own?
Jonathan Haidt, one of the world’s most influential psychologists, reveals that the reason we find it so hard to get along is because our minds are designed to be moral. Not only that, we are hardwired to be moralistic, judgemental and self-righteous too. Our intrinsic morality enabled us to form communities and create civilization, and it is the key to understanding everybody. It explains why some of us are liberal, others conservative. It is often the difference between war and peace. It is also why we are the only species that will kill for an ideal. Drawing on moral psychology, ancient philosophy, modern politics, poetry, advertising and the semantics of bumper stickers, Haidt’s incredibly wise and enjoyable book examines how morality evolves; why we are predisposed to believe certain things; how our surroundings can affect our morality; and how moral values are not just about justice and fairness - for some people authority, sanctity or loyalty are more important.
Morality binds and blinds, but with new evidence from his own empirical research, Haidt proves it is possible to liberate us from the disputes that divide good people and cooperate with those whose morals differ from our own. After all, they might just have something to say.