Key Findings

1. Finite willpower supply in your tank

You have finite amount of willpower that is depleted when exerting self-control or making decisions

↑ # of choices = ↑ willpower usage

Lazy Choices – when your willpower is low, you are more likely to look at only one dimension (e.g., just give me the cheapest, or just give me the very best) and you are also more likely to go with recommended options

German Car Dealerships Study – researchers found that they could get customers to spend $2,000 more on features if they properly ordered their decisions. e.g put tough choices (i.e. choices with more options) at beginning and expensive decisions and expensive recommended options at end

2. Only one tank

You use same supply for all temptations / decisions

Marital Counseling – If a two-career couple fights over trivial issues every evening at dinner, it could be because they have depleted their willpower during their busy work day. Instead, maybe talk about issues or decisions over breakfast when you have more willpower.

3. Sugar & sleep fill up tank

Only way to restore your body’s willpower is by eating foods that have glucose (sugar) or by sleeping / resting

Plan to make big decisions in the morning (after coffee and breakfast!), not at night time or before lunch

The Judge’s Dilemma – Columbia researches found that judges in an Israeli prison system were much more likely to give parole in the morning or after lunch; since denying parole is seen as a non-decision since prisoners can re-apply later

4. Can make tank bigger

You can strengthen willpower by forcing yourself to maintain habits that require self-control (e.g., flossing, cleaning your room, making a new habit)

Mardi Gras Theory – people once (incorrectly) thought that by partying and eating before Lent, people could store up the willpower necessary to sustain themselves through weeks of self-denial conclusion: you can’t build up extra reserves of willpower without creating new good habits

Willpower workouts – subjects who spent two weeks either 1) working on their posture or 2) recording everything they ate, significantly improved on self-control tests vs. control group

Messy Room –subjects placed in a messy room did worse on a self control test than subjects in a neat room

5. Can conserve willpower

Save your willpower energy by simply avoiding temptation in the first place through habits or automatic rules; avoid wasting energy on trivial decisions; other tricks exist too…

Bridal Registry – for people who liked shopping, making decisions didn’t use willpower for 4 minutes of adding items to registry but it did for people that didn’t like shopping; For both groups though it used willpower after 12 minutes

Zeigarnik effect – uncompleted tasks or goals constantly go through your mind and use up willpower until it is completed or written down with a Getting Things Done framework – i.e. write down all tasks in a robust, trustworthy task list and always do task, delegate it, defer it (i.e. put it on to-do list), or drop it

Make Permanent Habits – this will increase the size of your willpower tank and makes it an automatic process. Once it is automatic, it no longer requires willpower to complete. Until it is a habit, it is a controlled process that uses willpower

6. Self and public awareness increases self-control

Halloween Mirror – trick-or-treators left with a bucket of candy and a sign that said “take one”, took less when there was a mirror next to the bucket

Public Loans – a study in Chile, found loans were more likely to be repaid if borrower was subject to public scrutiny a study in Chile, found loans were more likely to be repaid if borrower was subject to public scrutiny

7. Long-term vision and frequent monitoring increases self-control

Why > How – Subjects asked why they did activities did better than subjects that were asked how they did them

Professor Tenure – more likely to be achieved by those with daily tasks and goals than those without

Other important tips and notes

Watch for symptoms of low willpower (e.g., irritation, food cravings, tired) and try to avoid making big decisions or temptation

Create new habits

Avoid temptation in the first places (e.g., don’t keep snacks in the house)

Create automatic rules for certain situations (e.g., what clothes to wear to work and when – like Steve Job’s black turtle neck)

Make a to-do list that is very specific

The nothing alternative – dedicate a time block to doing a certain activity and only allow yourself to do the activity or to do nothing but no distractions (e.g., texting friends, going on social media)

Tell your friends about your goals

Bright Lines – make clear, simple, and unambiguous rules

Create a long-term vision but monitor goals daily

Average person spends 25% of waking hours resisting desires

Oscar Wilde quote – “I can resist anything except temptation”

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