Monthly Archives: October 2011

Willpower for Marketers

I was listening to a scientific review of all the psychological research
on willpower today and  learned a few reasonably surprising things I
think we marketers should take note of:

1) It’s not a yes/no thing, but more like “gas in the tank”

2) Willpower is 100% proportional to your blood sugar.

If you spike and dip, you not only lose willpower regarding
food, but regarding everything else you’re working on.  It
doesn’t matter how determined or “strong willed” you
try to force yourself to be… if you let your blood sugar
dip too low, all bets are off.  (This was the biggest and
most consistent finding)

3) Mental work depletes the gas in the tank… especially
the work of making difficult mental decisions.

4) You can improve your ability to retain willpower longer
(your “fuel efficiency” if you will) by working on odd habits.

For example, teaching yourself to always eat with your left
hand (if you’re a righty) improves your willpower for workouts,
financial discipline, food, etc.

5) Choose ONE major willpower goal at a time.  For example,
never try to lose weight while you’re also trying to totally
revamp your work or sleep habits.  Studies show this actually
results in regression.

6) Thinking of lofty concepts like God, the meaning of life,
and who you want to be in the world seriously increases willpower,
whereas focussing on the mundane seriously decreases it.

(E.g. focus on WHY rather than HOW)

7) Women struggle with willpower during PMS because they
let their blood sugar drop.  Their reproductive needs require
an extra 120 calories a day at that time of month, but they
rarely let themselves have it, so they get really moody instead.

(I wish I knew this 20 years ago!)

Name of the book is “Willpower Rediscovered” and the author
is Roy Baumeister.  It’s written in the same style as Cialdini’s
“Influence” book (thorough research review followed by summary
of principles discovered)


a) Decide on your single most important marketing goal and singlemindedly
focus on it to the exclusion of everything else.  Of course you can have other
goals in the background,  but don’t focus too much energy on them.

(In retrospect, EVERYTHING of significance I’ve ever accomplished
was during a period of single minded focus like this)

b) Find some easy to change, totally unrelated habit to integrate.
Maybe doing 3 pushups as soon as you roll out of bed.  Or brushing
your hair before bed.  Or brushing your teeth with the opposite hand.
(ANYTHING – as long as it’s ultra easy and signals a consistent change
in controlled behavior)

c) Snack on healthy protein throughout the day.   (Raw seeds, lean
animal protein, etc).  Don’t let your blood sugar spike or dip… your
BANK ACCOUNT depends on it at least as much as your health does.

d) When you’ve got a long day of particularly difficult problems and
decisions to make, emphasize #3 even more.  Otherwise, you’ll wind
up leaning towards overly safe status-quo type of decisions which
don’t produce progress.

e) When you set a single minded marketing goal, take the time to think
about WHY you’re setting it.  Don’t be content with “features” like
money, fame, etc.  Think about loftier BENEFITS such as THE
PERSON you will be when it is achieved… how will it change your
contribution to the world?  Your family?  Community?

Food for thought…

G 🙂

PS – The only thing I took issue with was their understanding
of the 12 step programs.  They reviewed research which showed
they were equally effective to all other forms of treatment, and
concluded that means they should be taken seriously.  But they
neglected to mention that NO treatment for addiction works
much better than doing NOTHING at all, and some make
the problem worse.