Will is not a word any of us uses as a matter of daily discourse. Either as a noun or a verb, will is not a word we use in the twenty-first century, unless we’re talking about virtue and in 2014, who talks about virtue outside of the Bible or Sunday church? Are self-control and will power irrelevant and outmoded concepts, belonging to the former Christian age?
In a recently published book, Willpower, Discovering the Greatest Human Strength, authors Roy Baumeister and John Tierney approach will and self control from a social scientific viewpoint, claiming in their introduction that success, however defined, materially, financially, psychologically, seems to be influenced by intelligence and self-control. The authors are almost confessional as they describe their initial agreement with modern culture that the religious teachings about character, morality and will were restrictive and punitive.
But the authors markedly changed their views when studying the irrefutable studies demonstrating the observable link between will power and self control, now claiming that will power is like a muscle; self control demonstrably diminishing as will power ‘fatigues.’ The authors state emphatically that improving will power “is the surest way to a better life.” Further, that most major problems, ranging from underachievement in school to obesity to divorce, anxiety, depression, impulsive violence and many more of the most common social illnesses result from a lack of self control.
I recall vividly the many days and months of studying Catholic Christianity at the Benedictine Monastery where I joined the Catholic Church on a day in September over fifteen years ago. Like many of us secular citizens, notions of virtue, will, self control were only vaguely grasped; however, once I began to study, to notice, things began to change as I began to change. Isn’t it interesting to see secular scientists working in their basic science laboratories to measure and validate behaviors thought to be common sense only a few decades ago?