Video: Self-Control is the Key to Success: John Tierney and Roy Baumeister on Willpower


 "Self-Control is the Key to Success: John Tierney and Roy Baumeister on Willpower" Produced by Jim Epstein. About one hour. 

Originally released on February 10, 2014. Original writeup is below:

"There are two qualities that correlate with success," says New York Times journalist John Tierney. "One of them is intelligence and the other is self-control. And so far researchers haven't figured out what to do about intelligence, but they have rediscovered how to improve self-control."

Tierney spoke at an event sponsored by the Reason Foundation on January 28, 2014 at New York City's Museum of Sex. He was joined by Roy Baumeister, the Francis Epps Eminent Scholar in psychology at Florida State University, and the co-author with Tierney of Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. Baumeister and Tierney discussed the importance of willpower in determing our success in life and offered tips for improving our self-control. The conversation touched on laboratory experiments that show how willpower can be depleted (6:20); the effect of glucose levels on self-control (10:15); how to make good on your New Year's resolutions (16:30); why dieting undermines self-control (20:45); how to make an effective to do list (22:30); Tierney and Baumeister's experience meeting David Allen, author of Getting Things Done (24:30); why it's a good idea to weigh yourself every day if you're trying to shed pounds (25:30); the role of genetics in determining a person's willpower (31:00); why self-help literature rarely emphasizes willpower (33:00); the victim mentality and Alcoholics Anonymous (35:20); willpower and crime (38:50); procrastination as a tool for getting things done (47:20); and willpower and evolution (51:45)

About 1 hour and 2 minutes.

Shot and edited by Jim Epstein.

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  1. Some to the Museum of Sex to hear us talk about self-control!

    1. If the comment ain’t broke, don’t fix it, amirite?…..nt_4301521

      1. Jerk store is the line! Jerk store!

    2. How is anyone supposed to practice self-control at a sex museum?

      1. It raises the stakes of losing self control.

        Remain in control, you leave unharmed.

        Lose control, the NYPD deals with you.

  2. What’s this personally responsibility shit? Every problem in America is caused by rich people and capitalism.

    You can’t expect unsuccessful people to have self-control because self-control is a benefit of privilege.

  3. I wanted to quick on the link, but just couldn’t be bothered.

    1. TL; DW

  4. The video image, interpreted =

    A “Before-After” shot of a guy who has just successfully transitioned through Alcoholics Anonymous after a life as an itinerant wino, and having sobered up is now an extremely successful real estate broker in Southern California.

    BUT! =who was actually much happier as a dunk hobo.

    FWIW, I had a psychology professor @ Vanderbilt who looked just like Roy, who seemed very happy with his job. He was one of those 101-class lecturers who people show up and sit in the aisles even when they’re not taking the class because he was such an enthusiastic lecturer and interesting to listen to.

    One of his more interesting topics was State-Dependent Learning, which he encouraged us to experiment with ourselves……..t_learning

    I wont say how.

  5. Personal responsibility is a racist plot of the patriarchy.

  6. Interesting video. One question I would like to have seen ask would be about “triggers” that cause people revert to behavoirs they had successfully given up over long periods of time. Whether it be alchohol cigarettes, food or whatever there are a large nunber if people who successfully control their temptations for months or longer who fall right back into those bad behaviors usually after some stressor. So they have willpower everyday for three months or even three years and then all of the sudden they don’t anymore? Would be interested in their take on that.

    1. I’m reading the book this afternoon and am about halfway through, so I’m going to bastardize what very well could be their answer.

      When they cover addiction, they fall back on the symbol of a general reserve of willpower that’s depleted each time you make a decision or resist a temptation. The best strategy for dealing with temptation is avoiding it altogether–don’t drive past the liquor store, hang out with druggie friends, etc–and preventing yourself from having to make the choice. The general strategy so far is to reserve willpower by eliminating active choices as much as possible, having your day planned, and avoiding temptation. Oh, and not going hungry–they talk a lot about the importance of glucose in decision-making.

      Caving to a trigger would be the case of someone who’s made too much choices and has nothing left when the temptation strikes at a moment when their tank is on empty. They also make a big deal about only implementing one life change at a time, as trying to change more than one behavior exhausts you to the point that you can’t change any behaviors.

      It’s an interesting pop psychology book.

      1. Interesting. Thanks! Worth reading in your opinion?

        1. Given the focus on energy I would think sleep would be up there with glucose.

  7. When did “willpower” become 1 word?

    Can’t miss Stanton Peele at the Museum of Sex now.

  8. Strictly for my fellow disciples of David Keirsey: I suspect, although I’m not sure I can prove it, that Rationals John Tierney and Roy Baumeister are setting a Pygmalion Project on all us non-Rationals when they preach the virtues of willpower, a trait that will never gratify most people’s self-image as much as it does theirs.

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