Summary of Willpower
Just finished reading this book called Willpower
by Baumeister and Tierney. I'll try my best to summarize it. You can also get the book here
Skip to Recap if you don’t have time.
The best way to manage your self-control is by avoiding a situation where you might relapse. People that have the most self-control generally have little need to use them and therefore, have a lot left over. Willpower is a limited resource and while you can increase it, it’s finite.
One way to prevent willpower from being depleted is to have a system for everything. Organizing your desk or bedroom is a great way to reduce stress and prevent your brain from using up willpower. By organizing your areas, you spend less time and willpower having to maintain them. You can also try to set up habits that put your brain in auto-pilot.
Something that is very common for people to do is to aim for a huge and quick transformation. “I want to lose 10 pounds in 1 week” is a terrible choice. Why? Well oftentimes, people will end up gaining that weight back after they’ve lost it. This is because once they’ve lost that weight, they don’t bother with maintaining that new weight. The same thing applies to NF. Don’t expect yourself to get to 90 days on your first try. It almost never happens. Instead, you should be making goals that you know are achievable. For instance, instead of going for full abstinence when you watch it 5 times a day, go for small changes. Reducing it down to 4 may not be much, but it’s progress. It also reserves your willpower for other things like building habits.
Now, the most ineffective way to fight an addiction is to fight the urges. A better way would be to avoid fighting these urges. Anytime you get an urge, don’t sit on a porn site and hope that you won’t relapse. Instead, have a plan. If you get an urge, perhaps do something else more productive such as drinking water or cleaning your room.
This book also talks about positive procrastination. If you get an urge (or any distraction), tell yourself to do it later rather than never. This is because procrastinators typically avoid a task by doing something else. It’s rare for someone to sit there and do nothing at all. By doing something else, you magically forget the thing you were trying to do.
This ties into another strategy known as the “Nothing Alternative.” Basically, if you should be focusing on one thing, only focus on that one thing. Alternatively, just use this saying: if I can’t do x, I will do nothing. This builds on the positive procrastination because your brain hates doing nothing. By telling yourself you have nothing else better to do, you make it easier for you to do that one thing.
Precommitment is also another great strategy. Basically, avoid situations where you know you might relapse. It’s easy to say that you will never relapse again, after you’ve just relapsed. But, can you really resist your temptation when you go back on that site? More than likely not.
Keeping track is also great. You can make a diary where you document urges and all that. Or, you can have companions where you all keep track of each other’s streaks. Additionally, it can also provide a buffer when you realize you’ve made a lot of progress. In other words, a relapse will seem less discouraging when you realize your streaks have gone up over time (if they’ve gone up over time).
Rewarding often allows your brain to realize that NF is worth continuing. If you resist an urge, treat yourself. It doesn’t need to be much. But, it just needs to be enough to tell your brain that relapsing is a bad idea. Big rewards are great as well, but only once in a while. Moreover, don’t beat yourself up over a relapse. Treat it more as a learning opportunity. Something else to keep in mind, is that your reward needs to be relevant.
These strategies are nice and all, but what’s the point? Well, the point is to highlight that willpower is better spent going on the offensive rather than the defensive. Don’t use it resist urges. You will fail. Especially without any of these strategies.