A Smarter Way to Think About Willpower

Since World War II, obesity rates in the United States have skyrocketed, our net national savings rate has plummeted, and American adults and kids alike have allocated a rapidly rising proportion of their free time to staring at electrons dancing on screens.

What’s happened to our country since the Greatest Generation? Are these secular trends symptoms of an epidemic decline in self-control? Do we need to make American self-control great again?

Americans generally see themselves as kind, fair and honest people. In contrast, in a self-report questionnaire completed by more than 80,000 American adults, self-control ranked lowest among 24 strengths of character. In a recent survey, three out of four parents said they thought self-control has declined in the past half-century.

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