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Education Bookcast

Apr 25, 2016

A natural continuation from last week. Habit formation, and breaking habits, takes willpower. So how does willpower work?

Like a muscle.

  1. Willpower gets tired. You have a limited "store" of it, and it gets drained over the course of a day. So, if you had a stressful day at work, then you are much more likely to cave in and have that chocolate cake / cigarette. (Sound familiar?)
  2. Willpower gets stronger with use. People who adopt strict exercise regimes, for example, start eating healthier, studying more (if they're students), and drinking and smoking less. This is also true when people take up some other willpower-heavy scheme, such as trying to improve their study habits.
  3. This is the weirdest one - willpower is more or less directly related to blood glucose levels. If you've just eaten, you'll have more willpower; if you're hungry, you'll have less.

The book gives numerous examples of people who have demonstrated vast amounts of willpower, and shares strategies from those people. Like a typical Gladwell, it blends scientific research with individual cases into a sort of easily digestible yet nutritious risotto.

And then it spends a chapter giving ill-advised parenting advice based on a lack of proper research on the subject. Well, you win some, you lose some.

Enjoy the episode.