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The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It

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The first book to explain the new science of self-control and how it can be harnessed to improve our health, happiness, and productivity. After years of watching her students struggling with their choices, health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., realized that much of what people believe about willpower is actually sabotaging their success. Committed to sharing what the The first book to explain the new science of self-control and how it can be harnessed to improve our health, happiness, and productivity. After years of watching her students struggling with their choices, health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., realized that much of what people believe about willpower is actually sabotaging their success. Committed to sharing what the scientific community already knew about self-control, McGonigal created a course called "The Science of Willpower" for Stanford University's Continuing Studies Program. The course was an instant hit and spawned the hugely successful Psychology Today blog with the same name. Informed by the latest research and combining cutting-edge insights from psychology, economics, neuroscience, and medicine, McGonigal's book explains exactly what willpower is, how it works, and why it matters. Readers will learn: Willpower is a mind-body response, not a virtue. It is a biological function that can be improved through mindfulness, exercise, nutrition, and sleep. People who have better control of their attention, emotions, and actions are healthier, happier, have more satisfying relationships, and make more money. Willpower is not an unlimited resource. Too much self-control can actually be bad for your health. Temptation and stress hijack the brain's systems of self-control, and that the brain can be trained for greater willpower. In the groundbreaking tradition of Getting Things Done, The Willpower Instinct combines life-changing prescriptive advice and complementary exercises to help readers with goals ranging from a healthier life to more patient parenting, from greater productivity at work to finally finishing the basement.


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The first book to explain the new science of self-control and how it can be harnessed to improve our health, happiness, and productivity. After years of watching her students struggling with their choices, health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., realized that much of what people believe about willpower is actually sabotaging their success. Committed to sharing what the The first book to explain the new science of self-control and how it can be harnessed to improve our health, happiness, and productivity. After years of watching her students struggling with their choices, health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., realized that much of what people believe about willpower is actually sabotaging their success. Committed to sharing what the scientific community already knew about self-control, McGonigal created a course called "The Science of Willpower" for Stanford University's Continuing Studies Program. The course was an instant hit and spawned the hugely successful Psychology Today blog with the same name. Informed by the latest research and combining cutting-edge insights from psychology, economics, neuroscience, and medicine, McGonigal's book explains exactly what willpower is, how it works, and why it matters. Readers will learn: Willpower is a mind-body response, not a virtue. It is a biological function that can be improved through mindfulness, exercise, nutrition, and sleep. People who have better control of their attention, emotions, and actions are healthier, happier, have more satisfying relationships, and make more money. Willpower is not an unlimited resource. Too much self-control can actually be bad for your health. Temptation and stress hijack the brain's systems of self-control, and that the brain can be trained for greater willpower. In the groundbreaking tradition of Getting Things Done, The Willpower Instinct combines life-changing prescriptive advice and complementary exercises to help readers with goals ranging from a healthier life to more patient parenting, from greater productivity at work to finally finishing the basement.

30 review for The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It

  1. 5 out of 5

    Greg Swierad

    How willpower exactly works is still mystical, however, we know what increases our willpower and what can deplete it. There is a lot of talking about the willpower, however, there was no a book that would cover all the practical things that can improve it. In fact, this is a book about productivity, from the perspective of willpower. So, if you struggle with getting things done, this one might be a good fit for you. Top 3 strategies from this book that I applied to my life: * Identify and describe How willpower exactly works is still mystical, however, we know what increases our willpower and what can deplete it. There is a lot of talking about the willpower, however, there was no a book that would cover all the practical things that can improve it. In fact, this is a book about productivity, from the perspective of willpower. So, if you struggle with getting things done, this one might be a good fit for you. Top 3 strategies from this book that I applied to my life: * Identify and describe the inner conflict that keeps you from being productive. * Watch your diet—eat foods that keep your mind healthy, energetic, and focused. * Fight being negatively influenced by others. From this book, I extracted 16 strategies on improving your willpower and wrote a detailed book summary, available here: https://www.mentorist.app/books/the-w...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Wendy Yu

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Perhaps this book spoke to me so directly and deeply because I consider lack of willpower my single biggest flaw, or at least the one that I feel most guilty about. I don't know if the author "cured" me, but she certainly made an entertaining and outstanding attempt. I had so many "omg that's me" moments I thought she was my biographer. I want Kelly to get more money so I'm hiding this review, but below are my notes as I went along: (book dish: vegetables) - Brain is like a muscle and will improve Perhaps this book spoke to me so directly and deeply because I consider lack of willpower my single biggest flaw, or at least the one that I feel most guilty about. I don't know if the author "cured" me, but she certainly made an entertaining and outstanding attempt. I had so many "omg that's me" moments I thought she was my biographer. I want Kelly to get more money so I'm hiding this review, but below are my notes as I went along: (book dish: vegetables) - Brain is like a muscle and will improve in certain areas with practice (e.g. juggling improves visual perception of motion, memory games strengthens memory). it also gets tired with use. - the prefrontal cortext is your "willpower" organ -- it helps you do the harder thing among different choices - meditation sends blood to the prefrontal cortext and makes it stronger - 3 aspects of willpower goals: I will, I won't, I want (big goal) - we cave to impulses when we're distracted, stressed and tired (the muscle is not effective) - our natural impulses: fight or flight. try "pause and plan" - An "I will" problem might be better cast as an "I won't" problem. e.g. if you have trouble with "i will go to bed early" maybe "i won't turn on the TV at night" works better. try to make it fun and playful for you. (instead of "i won't be late" make it "i will always be the first one there" if you're competitive) - good eating, exercise, sleep all help your willpower muscle - slow breathing, shavasana, exercise, shot of greenery, nap, a little sugar all might help rejuvenate your willpower - if you overburden it, the willpower muscle will get weaker, and it works across different arenas. e.g. students cramming will inhale junk food. dieters cheat on their spouses more. - you can build up your willpower muscle by training it with small non-overwhelming habits (e.g. don't surf the TV during commercials) - beware moral licensing: that good feeling you get when you finish writing out your to-do list. you haven't actually done anything yet but you feel like you deserve a reward. you don't (basically the angel on your shoulder was satisfied and now all you hear is the demon). instead, ask "why" you resisted or did the hard thing. focus on your goals. - decrease variability: if you slip, make a rule that you will always do that thing for a month. helps you value future time. - beware dopamine fueled desires. Dopamine makes you pursue pleasure, it doesn't mean you experience happiness. Notice how it actually feels to actually do the thing you think you want to do. Often not that great. - try to create a dopamine effect for things you want to do (e.g. listen to music while vacuuming) - Beware "what the hell" effect. Forgive yourself for slipping up, it's natural and human. don't think you "blew" the whole diet and binge. - Effective stress relief strategies: exercise, praying, reading, music, time with friends/family, massage, walk outside, meditation, yoga, creative hobby - Worst stress relief strategies: gambling, shopping, smoking, drinking, eating, video games, surfing internet, TV or movies for more than 2 hours. - Frame the decision as a loss of future benefit instead of a current gain (e.g. is my future awesome body worth this cookie) - precommit -- burn your ships. tax your time. destroy your ethernet card, etc. - don't wait for "future you" to complete your to-do list. there is no "future you" that is full of energy, focused, diligent and loves doing taxes. - even a 10 mins delay of an impulse will make you reduce your flawed PV calculation of its benefit - social proof: what you think others are doing is a huge influence on your behavior. find a group of people who embody your ideals. - don't think about the white bear. supressing an urge makes it more powerful. instead, "surf the urge." stop and notice every physical response, notice your breathing. accept that you have this feeling sometimes. it's uncontrollable, but remember that you choose whether to act on them or not. remember your goal. the urge will pass like a wave if you wait. - imagine how proud you'd feel not succumbing to your urge. - people who think they're especially great at something are the worst

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

    I thought this was going to be another "do-what-I-did" type self-help books. Boy, was I wrong. I am so glad I read this book. The Willpower Instinct is based off of a 10-week academic-style class taught by the author. It uses the latest information from neuroscience to explain what exactly your brain goes through during a thinking or decision-making process and how to use that process to your advantage to increase your sense of self-control. That may sound boring or technical, but McGonigal has a I thought this was going to be another "do-what-I-did" type self-help books. Boy, was I wrong. I am so glad I read this book. The Willpower Instinct is based off of a 10-week academic-style class taught by the author. It uses the latest information from neuroscience to explain what exactly your brain goes through during a thinking or decision-making process and how to use that process to your advantage to increase your sense of self-control. That may sound boring or technical, but McGonigal has a knack for communicating difficult science in lay terms with a sense of humor to boot. For example, she asks you to imagine you are walking down the street on a beautiful day, and the birds are in the trees...singing John Lennon's Imagine. The book says at the very beginning that it offers NO EASY TRICKS to help with willpower. However, I found that to be completely wrong. Most of the techniques offered are quite simple. For example, as little as 5 minutes of exercise can boost willpower. Or just slowing down your breathing for just ONE MINUTE can also help your self-control. The science behind all these techniques are covered in-depth. I was even amazed by some of the scientific facts that I wasn't previously aware of. I am usually up-to-date on neuroscience, so learning something new (from a scientific viewpoint) wasn't something I expected with this book. I highly recommend this book for anyone who has ever struggled with willpower, goal setting, or motivation.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    This is basically a book for people in the thrall of a compulsion, habit or addiction they wish to change..... Me? I'm on a diet. And in fact much of the book was geared towards people dieting. It's range however covered a wide range of compulsions, and it could be utilized by anyone who wants to give up or change a behaviour. My enjoyment of the book was greatly enhanced by my sister reading it with me. We followed the author's suggestion to read only one chapter a week, the better to mull over This is basically a book for people in the thrall of a compulsion, habit or addiction they wish to change..... Me? I'm on a diet. And in fact much of the book was geared towards people dieting. It's range however covered a wide range of compulsions, and it could be utilized by anyone who wants to give up or change a behaviour. My enjoyment of the book was greatly enhanced by my sister reading it with me. We followed the author's suggestion to read only one chapter a week, the better to mull over and practise what we had read as we went along. Now, what did we think of the quality of information and ideas presented? Well, most of them were based on cutting-edge research, and most of the ideas given were completely new to me. That was a big plus. The author was not just re-hashing old psychology. Indeed some of the ideas presented were really counter-intuitive, and I am still trying to get my head round some of the exercises suggested. I'm going to give it a go though.....the research cited was pretty convincing. Some of the ideas though were outlandishly ridiculous, or at least me and my sister thought so. There were a few that had us rolling around on the floor with laughter, and we shall not be putting those into practice. A lot of the ideas though sounded extremely interesting - unexpected, but interesting - and we shall certainly be giving them a bash. All in all a fascinating book. I hope to come back at a future date and add another paragraph to this review. This is a *doing* book, and can really only be judged by the fruits of its ideas. I need to come back after I have been practising them for a while, and note the level of success. My one grump is that I think there should have been a synopsis at the end - a brief 'to do list' for the exercises presented. It would make putting them into practise much easier. 21st August 2014 Update I'm afraid I can now hardly remember what the book was about...and I have not been putting its ideas into practice. This may well be a reflection of my own air-brained ineptitude. Regrettably no big changes as a result of reading it. I am therefore marking it down from four to two stars. ------------------------------------------------------------ Given the negative commentary that the paragraph above has evoked, I think I expressed my ideas badly. I will therefore add a comment .... I think I am at fault in one respect... I don't think I made clear the fact that I have read several psychology books that have revolutionized my life. Among these I would particularly recommend The Upward Spiral by Alex Korb, and Errornomics: why we make mistakes and what we can do to avoid them. by Joseph T. Hallinan. The book above was quite the opposite. Fairly interesting in places, but the ideas petered out like a damp squibs as soon as I put the book down - in spite of me having rigorously practised the exercises while reading the book (a chapter a week, as suggested by the author)."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    A fabulous book about willpower that surprised me with its insight and clean prose. Popular psychology books often get a bad rep for either oversimplifying science or complicating it to the point if incomprehension. Kelly McGonigal, however, provides concise, research-supported strategies supported on how to achieve goals - ranging from eating healthier to smoking less to staying faithful to your spouse. She gives a quality mixture of anecdotes, analysis, and applications to ensure that readers A fabulous book about willpower that surprised me with its insight and clean prose. Popular psychology books often get a bad rep for either oversimplifying science or complicating it to the point if incomprehension. Kelly McGonigal, however, provides concise, research-supported strategies supported on how to achieve goals - ranging from eating healthier to smoking less to staying faithful to your spouse. She gives a quality mixture of anecdotes, analysis, and applications to ensure that readers walk away with the tools to alter their habits for the better. I most loved this book for its emphasis on self-compassion. McGonigal enforces that treating ourselves with kindness when we mess up - because all humans mess up - increases our chances of succeeding in our pursuits. Indeed, tenderness toward oneself does not mean sacrificing ambition or resolve, rather, it entails using our ability to forgive ourselves as a driving force to do even better. While McGonigal shares tons of cool tricks from more basic and neuroscience-oriented scientific studies to improve willpower, her consistent push toward loving oneself elevated the depth and meaningfulness of The Willpower Instinct. Overall, recommended to anyone interested in psychology and/or to those trying to make a change in their lives. If you want a more in-depth look on how to improve your relationship with food, I would recommend Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, and if you wish to learn more about the flawlessness of self-compassion, check out Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff. Thank you, Kelly McGonigal, for writing a psychology book that slays.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alex Kenjeev

    I'm now reading this for the second time. It has a lot more science, and a lot less self-help nonsense, than you might expect. And yes, it is OK to admit to reading it -- nobody's perfect when it comes to willpower! Here's a sampling of what I learned from Dr. McGonigal's book. 1. Willpower is centered in a specific region of the brain (within the prefrontal cortex). It uses more energy than almost any other brain region, and therefore it gets tired after prolonged use each day. It's also like a I'm now reading this for the second time. It has a lot more science, and a lot less self-help nonsense, than you might expect. And yes, it is OK to admit to reading it -- nobody's perfect when it comes to willpower! Here's a sampling of what I learned from Dr. McGonigal's book. 1. Willpower is centered in a specific region of the brain (within the prefrontal cortex). It uses more energy than almost any other brain region, and therefore it gets tired after prolonged use each day. It's also like a muscle, in that training it - through very specific meditations, breathing exercises, and a few other tricks - increases its strength and endurance over time. 2. Heart rate variability is the most closely correlated metric to willpower. There are specific things you can do to increase your heart rate variability if you need a quick willpower boost. For example, slow down your breathing as much as possible (ideally 4 breaths / minute). 3. Your brain's dopamine system (the short-term reward center) is the root of most willpower problems because, for survival reasons, you are hard wired to prefer an immediate reward in front of you, like a burger, over a long term reward, like good heart health. You can get around this by delaying the short term reward for 10 minutes, and then using that time to compare the 2 competing rewards objectively, without interference from your brain's powerful short-term reward system. 4. Over time, is paradoxically far easier to resist temptations if you DON'T try to repress them, but instead actually focus on them until they go away by themselves. Many studies have proven this counter-intuitive finding. I absolutely recommend this book -- not so much for its practical benefits, although those are great -- but more for the intrinsic value of knowing yourself.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sasha

    This book is immensely valuable, and very much needed by most people. It isn't even that the book itself is so fantastic, though it is definitely a good book, clearly written, good ideas, well executed. The topic matter is so absolutely pertinent that a thorough and adequate treatment of the subject automatically becomes enormously helpful. It's somewhere in between a readable review of the science, and a well structured self help book. In terms of the order of the chapters, there are a few fairl This book is immensely valuable, and very much needed by most people. It isn't even that the book itself is so fantastic, though it is definitely a good book, clearly written, good ideas, well executed. The topic matter is so absolutely pertinent that a thorough and adequate treatment of the subject automatically becomes enormously helpful. It's somewhere in between a readable review of the science, and a well structured self help book. In terms of the order of the chapters, there are a few fairly essential subjects--chapter 6 on self-compassion and healthy pessimism and chapter 9 on acceptance of difficult feelings, I believe--that I think would be of more value in an earlier part of the book, if the reader takes the approach which the author recommends, which is to pick a goal or 'willpower challenge,' read one chapter per week, and gradually work on that challenge. On the other hand, because her chapter summaries and short description of exercises are so short and well written, you can easily ignore her advice, read the book quickly, and return to those summaries and exercises once a week--perhaps even re-ordering them. An issue is that, as the author says, basically willpower is tiring. One thing she doesn't go into is that what should begin with willpower should turn into habit--because habit is not tiring. Exercising our 'willpower muscle' is important, but knowing how to transition changes from choices into habits is at least as important, so that we can move on to new willpower challenges. With that in mind, I strongly recommend that this book is read together with Part I and the appendix of "Power of Habit" by Charles Duhigg. (Parts II and III are about group habits and may not be very relevant to individuals.) Which book to read first? If you're going to tear through The Willpower Instinct in a few days, then return to the summaries and exercises in order to apply what you've learned, I think it would be best to read The Willpower Instinct first, while deciding what your challenge is going to be. Then, as you're applying her exercises, read The Power of Habit, Part I and the appendix.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mike Tiernan

    McGonigal brings together the newest insights about self-control from psychology, economics, neuroscience and medicine to build willpower. She is a health psychologist at Stanford School of Medicine where she teaches a course called "The Science of Willpower" that quickly became the most popular classes ever offered by Stanford. Course evaluations call the course "life-changing". The book's 10 chapters reflect her 10-week course, written in an interesting and easy style, without any "academic pom McGonigal brings together the newest insights about self-control from psychology, economics, neuroscience and medicine to build willpower. She is a health psychologist at Stanford School of Medicine where she teaches a course called "The Science of Willpower" that quickly became the most popular classes ever offered by Stanford. Course evaluations call the course "life-changing". The book's 10 chapters reflect her 10-week course, written in an interesting and easy style, without any "academic pompousness": 1. effective willpower - just noticing what's happening is key 2. the willpower instinct - anything that puts a stress on your mind or body can sabotage self-control but too much willpower is stressful 3. self-control is like a muscle - it gets tired from use but regular exercise makes it stronger 4. why being good encourages bad behavior - we use past good behavior to justify indulgences 5. why we mistake wanting for happiness - even false promises of reward make us feel alert and captivated, so we chase satisfaction from things that don't deliver 6. how feeling bad leads to giving in - self-compassion is a far better strategy than beating ourselves up 7. we discount both future rewards and future costs - we consistently act against our own long-term interests and we illogically believe our future selves will (magically) have more willpower 8. why willpower is contagious - humans are hardwired to connect and we mimic and mirror both willpower failures and willpower successes of our social network 9. inner acceptance improves outer control - attempts to fight instincts and desires ironically make them worse 10. final thoughts - the aha moment Each chapter makes use of fascinating paradoxes to dispel common misconceptions about self-control. This book is way ahead of any others I've read on the subject, for its wide range of down-to-earth and practical strategies for greater success.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rift Vegan

    I thought I had promised myself: No more self-help books about procrastination. Unfortunately, when it comes to books, I have no willpower! haha! Fortunately, this book is totally different from all those other worthless books I've read. There are lots of interesting scientific experiments, mostly on humans (except the one rat study was terrible and I really wish it wasn't stuck in my brain :( ). The book starts out with very basic advice, eat better, get better sleep, get some exercise and star I thought I had promised myself: No more self-help books about procrastination. Unfortunately, when it comes to books, I have no willpower! haha! Fortunately, this book is totally different from all those other worthless books I've read. There are lots of interesting scientific experiments, mostly on humans (except the one rat study was terrible and I really wish it wasn't stuck in my brain :( ). The book starts out with very basic advice, eat better, get better sleep, get some exercise and start meditating. And it goes on from there. I actually took a few pages of notes in my journal, which is an indication of how much I was inspired by the book. I will definitely be re-reading it soon.

  10. 5 out of 5

    WhatIReallyRead

    Expectations: an informative and reliable, yet readable non-fiction book about willpower by a Stanford professor. Reality: lame jokes, some questionable science, and a bunch of pretty dumb-sounding statements I would be comfortable hearing from my grandma in the kitchen, but not from a Stanford professor in a non-fiction book. What Kelly McGonigal did here to me felt so unscientific as to be borderline anti-scientific. THE BAD Me, reading The Willpower Instinct: Oh, boy, The Willpower Instinct was Expectations: an informative and reliable, yet readable non-fiction book about willpower by a Stanford professor. Reality: lame jokes, some questionable science, and a bunch of pretty dumb-sounding statements I would be comfortable hearing from my grandma in the kitchen, but not from a Stanford professor in a non-fiction book. What Kelly McGonigal did here to me felt so unscientific as to be borderline anti-scientific. THE BAD Me, reading The Willpower Instinct: Oh, boy, The Willpower Instinct was not for me. SCIENCE? Okay, I know this is the THIRD time I'm mentioning this in my review, but: I don't understand how a STANFORD PROFESSOR can seriously and REPEATEDLY do this: 1) discuss a study with whole 24 human participants for half a chapter as if it's completely legit and nothing calls for caution when using its results; 2) cite dozens of studies and yada yada through the specifics: After two months of the treatment, they showed improvements in attention and the ability to ignore distractions. This added one hour a night to their quality sleep time, which in turn significantly reduced the risk of drug use relapse. Huh? How big were the improvements? What exactly was improved? How "significantly" was the risk reduced? She did this ALL THE TIME and it drove me crazy. What's the point of citing studies if you do it like this? Instead of giving us the data, she just gave her own assessment of it, and given her loss of credibility, it was just irritating and insubstantial. Most of the time she forgot to mention sample sizes, the parameters that were "improved", the method of measuring said improvement, and the size of it, too. UGH. Life's too short to provide those details, but there was enough space to include a whole chapter on the debunked "marshmallow test" and a 100th rendition of the story of Phineas Gage. 3) support the merits of a breathing exercise by mentioning one dude found it helpful to "make better decisions under pressure". What are "better" decisions? Why is he the judge of them being better? Who is this dude anyway and why does his private opinion matter? If the benefits of an exercise have not been studied or measured, okay. But be upfront about it - no need to bullshit me with TV-advert style reasoning to support it instead. 4) cite a study; interpret its results in a way that's convenient to the point she is trying to make; pretend this is the only interpretation and the true reason behind such results The chimpanzees expressed a preference (six M&Ms is better than two) and then acted on it. They maximized their gains with very little personal cost (a mere 120 seconds’ delay). The humans’ choices, on the other hand, were irrational. Before the challenge began, they clearly stated that they preferred six treats to two. But as soon as they had to wait two minutes to triple their snacks, their preferences reversed more than 80 percent of the time. They deprived themselves of what they really wanted for the fleeting satisfaction of a quick fix. Kelly McGonigal then goes on to lament how humans are dumber than chimps. But I have a few questions here. What exactly were these people asked and how did they express their preference? A number of things could have happened. One, they could have said that generally speaking, 2 is better than 6, but didn't mean it as a personal preference. Maybe they don't like M&Ms, have recently eaten something sweet or think eating more sweets is unhealthy. Two, there's a major difference between humans and chimps in this situation: people can easily get as many M&Ms as they want at any time and they know it. There's no scarcity, so there's no need for willpower. Chimps can't do that. This is exactly the reason why "the marshmallow test" was debunked. This seems to me like the most obvious and likely explanation for such a result, but McGonigal mopes the human's inferior willpower for an entire chapter without mentioning any other possibilities. This enraged me so much! A 2010 national survey by the American Psychological Association found that 75 percent of people in the United States experience high levels of stress. It’s not surprising, given the events of the last decade, from terrorist attacks and flu epidemics to environmental disasters, natural disasters, unemployment, and near economic collapse. It's not a surprising result, because if you ask Americans if they are stressed, of course, they'll say they are. The terrorist attacks, which accounted for less than 0.01% of deaths and 35.6% of media coverage, have little to do with that. But McGonigal assumes no critical thinking in her readers and just bullshits away! HUMOR? A simple fact: the author made a lot of jokes in this book. I found none of them funny, on the contrary, they got on my nerves, seemed lame and "trying too hard". So their abundance really made reading The Willpower Instinct a chore. To give you an example, these are taken from a chapter on how and why willpower was formed in humans: Imagine this: It is 100,000 years ago, and you are a top-of-the-line homo sapiens of the most recently evolved variety. Yes, take a moment to get excited about your opposable thumbs, erect spine, and hyoid bone (which allows you to produce some kind of speech, though I’ll be damned if I know what it sounds like). ... think twice before saying “That loincloth makes you look fat.” ... cutting-edge stone tools. ... to care for you if you get sick or injured—no more hunting and gathering for you. ... minding your own early hominid business. Major cringe. I guess she tried to make this book light and entertaining, but I don't find anthropology so boring as to require stupid puns in every other sentence. PLAIN NONSENSE. I know this book isn't an academic work. But when a professor uses scientific terms, I expect them to be used appropriately, and not like this: Evolution prefers to add on to what it’s created, rather than start from scratch. ... the following meditation technique will get the blood rushing to your prefrontal cortex—the closest we can get to speeding up evolution. Willpower is a biological instinct, like stress, that evolved to help us protect ourselves from ourselves. ... we’ve seen that the human mind is not one unified self, but multiple selves who compete for control. There’s the self who wants immediate gratification and the self who remembers your bigger goals. There’s your present self, who may or may not seem to have much in common with your future self. As if that weren’t a crowded enough crew, it turns out that you have a few other people living in your head too. She writes this stuff as if the words "evolution", "instinct", "stress", "self" have no actual meaning. Stress is a response, not an instinct. Yes, evolution is about evolving, not building from scratch, genius. No, evolution can't be sped up within the lifespan of a single individual. And don't get me started on this "multiple selves" stuff. Neuroeconomists—scientists who study what the brain does when we make decisions—have discovered that the self-control system and our survival instincts don’t always conflict. In some cases, they cooperate to help us make good decisions. THE GOOD Some ideas were interesting, I guess? Verdict: a waste of time. Garbage. The execution killed the book completely. I've read so many good, interesting and fun non-fiction books that reading this one felt intolerable.

  11. 4 out of 5

    BuenoBomb aka Andre Bueno

    Excellent book. Filled with tons of knowledge. *Still need to edit these notes but here's the raw version: NOTES* INTRODUCTION This book is based on a Stanford class People cite lack of Willpower (WP) as one of the number one things holding them back The best way to improve self control (SC) is to see/understand why you lose control Being overly optimistic is bad because you cannot objectively judge your own flaws and predict times of difficulty True/Honest self knowledge is the foundation of good self Excellent book. Filled with tons of knowledge. *Still need to edit these notes but here's the raw version: NOTES* INTRODUCTION This book is based on a Stanford class People cite lack of Willpower (WP) as one of the number one things holding them back The best way to improve self control (SC) is to see/understand why you lose control Being overly optimistic is bad because you cannot objectively judge your own flaws and predict times of difficulty True/Honest self knowledge is the foundation of good self control Struggles with WP are part of the human condition and in order to get more of it, you need to study yourself, experiment, and test the theories out. There are 2 types of challenges (with a bonus 3rd) I will challenges (things that you normally put off/ignore, like studying or running), I won’t challenges (refraining from negative activity like not spending money or not eating fast foods), and I want challenges. CHAPTER ONE: I WILL, I WON’T, I WANT: WHAT WILLPOWER IS, AND WHY IT MATTERS I will and I won’t are the two sides of self control However, you need a 3rd thing: you have to know what you really want As the world and society became more complex the demands of WP grew Strong WP = Good life Statistically, WP is one of the best (if not best) determinants of success Certain states mimic prefrontal cortex damage like being drunk, sleep deprived, highly distracted The Problem of Two Minds The system of self control was put on top of old systems, it didn’t actually replace them We still have all of our ancient cravings/impulses We have impulse and impulse control Almost like having two minds The Value of Both Selves Yes, the primitive impulse self can be frustrating However, it is still critical today In some cases it works with the prefrontal cortex eg. High prices can stimulate a pain response, making one less likely to overspend THE FIRST RULE OF WP: KNOW THYSELF Self awareness lets you recognize when you need WP because most decisions stem from habit, so awareness lets us avoid that when necessary Distraction really hurts WP  since you lose your self awareness You can train WP physically through meditation Start with 5 minutes a day. A short practice every day is much better than a long practice every once in awhile. Being bad at meditation is good for self control When you are bad at meditation your mind will wander A LOT That skill translates directly into WP You notice you are off goal and then spend a lot of time redirecting it back to the present moment Don’t be worried when you struggle, the struggle will improve your WP WP is a battle that can only be won through self-awareness and self-control CHAPTER TWO: THE WILLPOWER INSTINCT: YOUR BODY WAS BORN TO RESIST CHEESECAKE Craving is as much a physiological event as it is a psychological event Certain physical states can help/hurt you Learning those states will be helpful WP is all about planning for tomorrow... so we can see why the fight or flight response causes problems “We’re used to seeing temptation and trouble outside of ourselves: the dangerous doughnut, the sinful cigarette, the enticing internet.  But self-control points the mirror back at ourselves, and our inner world of thoughts, desires, emotions, and impulses.  For your willpower challenge, identify the inner impulse that needs to be restrained. Next time you’re tempted, turn your attention inward." The Willpower Instinct: Pause and Plan Willpower has a biological signature It’s like the fight or flight (FoF) response, but very different Unlike FoF, it is triggered by internal conflict/threats In a nutshell, it slows your mind down This is Your Brain and Body on Willpower Pause and plan (P+P) Monitoring system dispersed throughout brain and connected to prefrontal cortex Constantly monitors thoughts, emotion, and stimulus If sees things that suggest break with longer term goals, system is activated Prefrontal cortex is stimulated Energy is redirected from the body to the brain Heart slows Breathing deepens Muscles loosen All these things physiologically prime you to exercise willpower This system is innate to all people, just like fight or flight, but it doesn’t always feel like that It is also a much newer system The Body’s Willpower Reserve Studies have shown that the best predictor of the strength of someone’s P+P response is their HEART RATE VARIABILITY Essentially, everyone’s heart rate tends to vary from moment to moment These are small but safe fluctuations The greater the variability, the greater the willpower The sympathetic nervous system stimulates and “revs” the body This increases heart rate and decreases variability The parasympathetic nervous system puts the breaks on This decreases heart rate and increases variability Stress -> Sympathetic nervous system -> low variability Self control -> Parasympathetic nervous system -> high variability When people use WP, their variability goes up So what actually causes high variability? Good food, rest, meditation, low pollution, etc. all improve variability A calm mind is a WP mind Experiment: Breathe Your Way to Self Control This is a “quick” fix that will help give you the edge in your WP struggles.  When facing a WP challenge, slow your breathing to 4-6 breaths per minute.  This activates the parasympathetic nervous system, increases heart variability, and in the end will give you a WP boost. Train  Your Mind and Body What follows are two strategies that will give you absolutely the most bang for your buck in regards to improving WP Also they will help with general health and happiness. The Willpower Miracle Megan Oaten and Ken Cheng conducted a study on a technique for improving WP At the end of the treatment here is what happened to the subjects: Improved attention span, improved ability to tune out distraction, less smoking, drinking, caffeine, junk food, healthy food, TV, procrastination, etc. So, what was this miracle drug? Physical exercise. Exercise helps in pretty much every aspect of your life Heart variability shoots ups with fitness More gray and white matter throughout the brain Most increases in the prefrontal cortex In some cases as powerful as prozac for depression WILLPOWER EXPERIMENT: THE FIVE MINUTE GREEN WILLPOWER FILL-UP Feeling like you need a quick dose of more WP?  Get outside for just five minutes and move around.  This will help give you a quick willpower “fill-up”.  If that outside is green space, the effect is greater.  It doesn’t have to be a mega workout. In the long run, exercise will give you much more energy and power than it takes away. Gain Willpower in Your Sleep If you are surviving on less than 6 hours of sleep a night, you probably don’t even know what it is like to operate with full WP Sleep deprivation absolutely murders WP Under 6 hours chronically is really bad Sleep deprivation Impairs the brain’s ability to use glucose Triggers sugar or caffeine cravings But even if you eat it, the craving will persist because the brain can’t actually use the glucose in the blood efficiently Hits the prefrontal cortex harder than anything else, as it is the most energy intensive part of the brain Clinically called “Mild prefrontal dysfunction” With an impaired prefrontal cortex, all of your brain regulation begins to falter Alarm system and fight or flight are no longer kept properly in check Ordinary stress will trigger fight or flight, and you will be stuck in a permanent physiological mild fight or flight response Fortunately, all of this is easily reversable Just sleep more! Experiment: ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ The best is obviously 8 hours a night, but that isn’t alway possible.  A single good night can help reverse multiple bad ones, so if you are busy during the week catch up on the weekend.  Some studies suggest you can build up a reserve, so consider oversleeping if you know you are about to enter a hard stretch.  Finally, naps can do wonders by breaking up consecutive waking hours.  So the best is to actually get 8 hours, but if that fails consider catch up, stocking up, or napping.  If you find yourself avoiding sleep, consider what you are saying “yes” to instead of sleep.  Your WP issue may not be an “I will” go to sleep issue, but a “I won’t” browse Reddit after 10pm issue.  Consider what you have to say “no” to so you can say “yes” to sleep. The Cost of too Much Self-Control Stress is very costly Diverts the body’s resources to a perceived emergency But obviously, some stress is also good! WP is also very costly It also uses the body’s resources aggressively Chronic WP is just as bad as chronic stress Self-control is a nifty evolved response to a specific set of circumstances, just like stress is To preserve health and happiness, you need to give up your pursuit of WP perfection You need time off, and you need to choose your WP battles wisely Experiment: Relax to Restore WP Reserve Relaxation is very important.  So, here is a technique that activates the physiological relaxation response for 5-10 minutes. Lie on your back Elevate your legs slightly, or do what is most comfortable. Close your eyes and take deep breaths Focus on your body If you feel tension in any muscle, contract that muscle tightly for a few seconds then relax it Repeat for all tension in body Then just chill for 5-10 minutes in the knowledge that for these 5-10 minutes there is nothing you have to do besides relax and enjoy yourself :) If worried about falling asleep, set an alarm (A peaceful one!) Do this every day if you are able.  It will both reduce your stress and increase your WP. One Nation Under Stress Willpower isn’t a personality trait or a virtue It is a physical capacity and an instinct You don’t always get to just make your mind up about it Stress always harms one’s willpower Don’t increase stress in yourself or others to get things done Biologically, stress and willpower are incompatible and antagonistic systems People say the United States has lost its willpower “This week, test the theory that stress- whether physical or psychological- is the enemy of self-control.  How does being worried or overworked affect your choices?  Does being hungry or tired drain your WP?  What about physical pain and illness?  Or emotions like anger, loneliness, or sadness?  Notice when stress strikes throughout the day or week.  Then watch what happens to your self control.  Do you experience cravings?  Lose your temper?  Put off things you know you should do?” The last word WP is an evolved mental instinct that initially promoted healthy group dynamics WP failures can often be traced to being in the wrong physical state to properly exercise WP Waging the mental WP war will be hard if you are not physically prepared to do it CHAPTER THREE: TOO TIRED TO RESIST: WHY SELF-CONTROL IS LIKE A MUSCLE Self control is like a muscle But... it isn’t just using self control that can exhaust WP Any pause and plan action drains it The more one uses WP the less active the prefrontal cortex becomes over a short time frame Is it a problem of energy? In part, yes Low blood sugar is a strong predictor of WP failure However, WP uses less raw glucose energy than a task like walking, so if you are walking then it isn’t just energy Energy Crisis Brain has a very low energy storage capacity Therefore, very dependent on blood for energy If the brain detects a drop in blood sugar, it will start to cut back on energy consumption, and the prefrontal cortex gets cut very early So even if you can walk, your prefrontal cortex may still be restricted “Energy Budget” model for self control In general your body will spend energy when it is plentiful, and conserve it when it is not More subtly it looks at the change in energy So increasing blood sugar, more WP Decreasing blood sugar, less WP People Who are Starving Shouldn’t say No to a Snack So the above may seem a bit frustrating, but consider ancient scarcity It makes sense for the brain to do the above Low blood sugar = scarce resources Time to take risks and be impulsive The future doesn’t really matter as much The problem is that low blood sugar still pushes people to make risky and impulsive decisions eg. People on diets commit adultery at measurably higher rates Experiment: The WP Diet Sugar spikes are not the answer to the above problem.  Spikes lead to massive drops later, and that means massive drops in WP.  A smooth and even supply of sugar is the best option in regards to WP.  This means focussing on foods that are low on the glycemic index.  Consult a dedicated dieting resource, but here are some low glycemic foods: lean proteins, nuts and beans, high-fiber grains and cereals, and most fruits and vegetables.  A decent rule of thumb is if it looks like it’s in its natural state (not much post processing) it is probably low on the index.  Now, it will take SC adn WP to switch to these healthier foods, but they will give you increased returns given the even and steady blood sugar.  Consider them a WP investment like exercise. Training the WP Muscle Create a WP exercise or challenge Create and meet self imposed deadlines For example, clean a closet over time These will help in all aspects of your WP in the long run Small WP tasks (maintaining good posture, tracking spending, etc.) are also great for WP exercise All of the above train you to notice your actions and then do the more difficult thing, and that is fundamentally what WP is all about Experiment: A Willpower Workout Strengthen “I won’t” Commit to refraining from one trivial activity: don’t swear, don’t cross legs when sitting, don’t slouch, don’t use dominant hand to open certain doors Strengthen “I will” Commit to one small habit that you will do every day: meditate, call a family member, throw one old thing out Strengthen Self monitoring Formally track something you don’t normally track.  Calories, spending, time spent online, whatever works.  A pen and paper is enough, but there are tons of self tracking tools out there.  Scope out www.quantifiedself.com if you really want to get into it.  Pick it and stick to it. Try to pick a workout that relates to your main challenge.  So, if you want to save money, track your spending habits.  If you want to exercise more, consider just doing 10 quick push ups before you shower.  Even if you can’t make it relate directly, you will still be improving your WP. Another way these exercises can come in handy is by easing you into truly massive WP challenges.  Consider quitting smoking after a really heavy habit.  If you can refrain from smoking for just some brief period for a work out, that will help in the long run. How real are the limits of self control? When WP “runs out” is that just because exercising WP is getting hard or is that really a physical barrier? To find out, let’s look at real muscles Making the Finish Line Consider the marathoner who “pushes through” fatigue Scientists used to think that when most runners stopped from fatigue or exhaustion, they had hit a real physical barrier However, when they examined the muscles of most exhausted runners, they were physically still capable of running for quite some time Fatigue was in the mind (In most cases!) The brain uses fatigue as a trick to make you stop running It doesn’t want you to hit true exhaustion, so stops you with “gas still in the tank” You will get the mental sensation of fatigue long before you are actually physically fatigued Fatigue is literally in the mind It’s closer to an emotion than a physical sense of where your body is at The first wave of fatigue isn’t a real physical limit This doesn’t mean you can’t hit true exhaustion, you can, but it comes much later than you think Truly good athletes learn to ignore the first waves of fatigue and push on If it was actually a physical limit, they couldn’t push on So why do we care about this? Some theorize that WP is like this When we feel drained, we really aren’t yet drained When you feel WP exhaustion, know that it isn’t a true physical boundary, and you can keep going Those who believe that WP exhaustion isn’t a “true” representation of their physical mental reserves don’t tire as quickly due to WP use They just keep on pushing What a person believe about WP is their reality. Therefore, whenever you feel WP exhaustion, just keep pushing It is just like early physical fatigue, and can be ignored Microscope: Is your exhaustion real? When you feel that first moment of “I want to give up” or other WP exhaustion, move past it.  It can be ignored and pushed through in a manner similar to physical fatigue.  However, be aware of feeling constantly drained.  If you always feel drained of WP, you may have hit a real limit for the time being.  However, even those limits can be increased with time and mental exercise. Where There’s a Want, There’s a Will Correct inspiration = more willpower Consider some delicious girl scout cookies Tempting, right? Now imagine someone will pay you $100 to not eat a single one Not so tempting now What you want will affect your WP So, incentives can work Here is one incentive that can apply to everyone who is exercising their WP Practice will make things easier What is hard and takes a lot of WP now will become easier and maybe even second nature in time As you exercise your WP, things will get easier It is a positive feedback loop that can and will bring you a better life if you stick to it Experiment: What’s Your “Want” Power When your WP is getting low, tap into your want power.  Consider: Think of how you will benefit from completing this challenge.  Will you have greater health?  More happiness?  More freedom?  Money?  Success? Think of who else will benefit.  If you can’t do it for yourself, consider your children or others you feel an obligation to.  Think of family, friends, or community.  How will they benefit from you sticking to your WP challenge? Know that this challenge will get easier for you over time if you are willing to do what is difficult now.  Think of how great it will feel when you succeed down the line.  Is some discomfort now worth that? Find which one of these works best for you, and use it in times of need.  Sometimes what you think will motivate you isn’t what you expect, so experiment with them all! Everyday Distractions and the Collapse of Civilization An experiment was run that required foresight and cooperation between multiple subjects Subjects given a shared public resource, an imaginary forest They could “log” the forest for real money Experiment took place over a long period of time, and the forest had a simulated grow back rate Best economic choice would be for all parties to cooperate, and harvest slowly over time The control party did just that, and made some decent cash The treatment party was subjected to WP depletion treatments They exhausted their forest so early the experiment had to be cut short People with exhausted WP can’t be counted on to make good decisions This can be helped with choice architecture Set things up so the “better” thing is easier to do Automatic opt in for organ donors, automatically scheduled check-ups Keep this in mind when making your own WP plans Don’t plan around some heroic you that can make great choices Plan around the tired you that will give in, and take steps ahead of time to move you towards the harder thing The Last Word We can’t control everything in our lives However, we need to use WP to get better at it Use it or lose it But don’t run a WP marathon every day!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mario Tomic

    Very insightful and interesting content. Decided to listen to the audio book which normally I don't find very easy to focus on but with this one I didn't have any problems. Although I was already familiar with some of the concepts mentioned here still learned a lot especially on understanding how one can strengthen will power. Definitely check out this book if you're interested to find out why our mind craves so many things that are unhealthy in the long run. Very insightful and interesting content. Decided to listen to the audio book which normally I don't find very easy to focus on but with this one I didn't have any problems. Although I was already familiar with some of the concepts mentioned here still learned a lot especially on understanding how one can strengthen will power. Definitely check out this book if you're interested to find out why our mind craves so many things that are unhealthy in the long run.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mohammed H

    Thank you for taking the time to read my review I believe we all have willpower, some of us rely on it and make it stronger some of us don't know how! Its crazy to think of it as a muscle! But thats what it really is! This book looks at willpower from a scientific point of view and how it evolved with our brains. It shows you ways of strengthening your willpower. It also shows you how your brain plays tricks on you to make you do things you don't necessarily want to do. If you cannot complete a d Thank you for taking the time to read my review I believe we all have willpower, some of us rely on it and make it stronger some of us don't know how! Its crazy to think of it as a muscle! But thats what it really is! This book looks at willpower from a scientific point of view and how it evolved with our brains. It shows you ways of strengthening your willpower. It also shows you how your brain plays tricks on you to make you do things you don't necessarily want to do. If you cannot complete a diet, or quite smoking or stop drinking, or cannot find your willpower, this book is for you. I got this book on audiobooks but I believe that having a hard copy of this book is more useful as it has exercise at the end of every chapter and a summery to help you accomplish certain goals. What I found most interesting about this book is the subject on Dopamine! It looks how dopamine effects us and how it is used by todays marketers! I think you will find this true once you scientifically understand how it effects our brains.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Helene

    MEH.................................. ehhhhhh 1.5 I know I have willpower . I completed this book .. REPETITIVE! Endless annoying footnotes ... I feel it might be good middle age child .. But it did not contain any useful tips or information . McGonigal repeats her accomplishments so many times ! Which had no relevance to this book ! I laughed to myself several times .. ...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Deb

    **Putting down the book presented a willpower challenge** Speaking of willpower, once I started reading this book, it took every ounce of my willpower to put it down! (And, so yeah, I may have been spotted reading this book in my car while while sitting at red lights. My apologies to the drivers behind me for any [slight] delays my willpower challenges may have caused.) As the above evidence suggests, I can't rave enough about this book. It's a gem, it's a god-sent, and it's just that good. You'l **Putting down the book presented a willpower challenge** Speaking of willpower, once I started reading this book, it took every ounce of my willpower to put it down! (And, so yeah, I may have been spotted reading this book in my car while while sitting at red lights. My apologies to the drivers behind me for any [slight] delays my willpower challenges may have caused.) As the above evidence suggests, I can't rave enough about this book. It's a gem, it's a god-sent, and it's just that good. You'll have to read for yourself to see what all this gushing is about, but for now, here's a small sampling in the form of the titles' chapters with the author Kelly's big idea summary of each: ***Chapter 1: I Will, I Won't, I Want—What Willpower Is, and Why It Matters Willpower is actually three powers—I will, I won't, and I want—that help us to be a better version of ourselves. ***Chapter 2: The Willpower Instinct—Your Body Was Born to Resist Cheesecake Willpower is a biological instinct, like stress, that evolved to help protect ourselves from ourselves. ***Chapter 3: Too Tired to Resist—Why Self-Control Is Like a Muscle Self-control is like a muscle. It gets tired from use, but regular exercise makes it stronger. ***Chapter 4: License to Sin—Why Being Good Gives Us Permission to Be Bad When we turn willpower challenges into measures of moral worth, being good gives us permission to be bad. For better self-control, forget virtue, and focus on goals and values. ***Chapter 5:The Brain's Big Lie—Why We Mistake Wanting for Happiness Our brains mistake the promise of reward for a guarantee of happiness, so we chase satisfaction from things that do not deliver. ***Chapter 6: What the Hell—How Feeling Bad Leads Us to Giving In Feeling bad leads to giving in, and dropping guilt makes you stronger. ***Chapter 7: Putting the Future on Sale—The Economics of Instant Gratification Our inability to see the future clearly leads us into temptation and procrastination. ***Chapter 8: Infected!-—Why Willpower is Contagious Self-control is influenced by social proof, making both willpower and temptation contagious. ***Chapter 9: Don't Read This Chapter—The Limits of “I Won't” Power Trying to suppress thoughts, emotions, and cravings backfires and makes you feel more likely to think, feel, or do the thing you most want to avoid. ***Chapter 10: Final Thoughts If there is a secret for greater self-control, the science points to one thing: the power of paying attention...Self-awareness is the one “self” you can always count on to help you do what is difficult, and what matters most. Needless to say, I was enthralled and captivated throughout this book. Kelly's down-to-earth delivery of the essential insights of psychology, biology, neuroscience, and economics is beyond out-of-this-world. But, she doesn't just share the findings; she provides ways for you to see and do for yourself. Sprinkled throughout her discussions are “Under the Microscope” and “Willpower Experiment” features of this book which provide many personalized opportunities for gaining self-awareness and experimenting with new strategies to help you address your own willpower challenges—be it over-eating, over-drinking, over-spending, over-thinking, over-indulging, over-Facebooking, under-doing, or perhaps even over-reading at red lights. In the introduction, Kelly shares her hopes that: “If this book did nothing else but help you see that common humanity of your willpower struggles, I would be happy. But I hope that it will do far more, and that the strategies in this book will empower you to make real and lasting changes in your life....By the time you finish this book, you'll have greater insight into your challenges and a new set of self-control strategies to support you.” And, indeed she delivers on that hope. Reading this book provides the insight you need to understand—and more importantly, have compassion for—your personal challenges, along with the techniques, tools, and perspective makeovers you need to gain more of that seemingly elusive self-control. Now, how can you resist that? (Just look out for green lights while reading.)

  16. 5 out of 5

    Romans Karpelcevs

    Great book! Lots of way that will (and already started to) help me do things I want, but avoid. I read it back to back after The Power of Habit, and it reinforced and backed up most of the important lessons. Takeaways: * Willpower is a limited, muscle-like resource (I postponed all tough things except one) * Train with small tasks (I'm flossing teeth and keeping a daily diary) * Meditate and exercise to boost willpower (requires some willpower capital first) * Willpower works better with little v Great book! Lots of way that will (and already started to) help me do things I want, but avoid. I read it back to back after The Power of Habit, and it reinforced and backed up most of the important lessons. Takeaways: * Willpower is a limited, muscle-like resource (I postponed all tough things except one) * Train with small tasks (I'm flossing teeth and keeping a daily diary) * Meditate and exercise to boost willpower (requires some willpower capital first) * Willpower works better with little variation. If you start doing things, do it as consistently as possible (I'm flossing and keeping a diary at exactly the same moment in the day) * Avoid temptation makes you more likely to fail. Embrace and channel it through you. I'd recommend this one over The Power of Habit because of more actual science and no endless anecdotes. This is a self-help book without the self-help stench.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Prabhat

    Ok...please ignore the most embarrassing cover of this edition. Not at all as cheesy as it sounds. McGonigal is funny, but packs some serious insights. If you're a long time WP challenged (but hate to admit you need help), get a copy. Don't tell anybody, but do experiment as the book says! Who knows - you may really help yourself! Ok...please ignore the most embarrassing cover of this edition. Not at all as cheesy as it sounds. McGonigal is funny, but packs some serious insights. If you're a long time WP challenged (but hate to admit you need help), get a copy. Don't tell anybody, but do experiment as the book says! Who knows - you may really help yourself!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Grumpus

    Meh. I enjoyed the science most but the majority of this information seemed intuitive to me. Still, I can see how this could be helpful to those whom need a boost in the willpower department. I was looking for a little more as I begin an exercise program as a New Year's resolution. Fortunately (and a little surprisingly), my willpower and desire to succeed has thus far been strong. Meh. I enjoyed the science most but the majority of this information seemed intuitive to me. Still, I can see how this could be helpful to those whom need a boost in the willpower department. I was looking for a little more as I begin an exercise program as a New Year's resolution. Fortunately (and a little surprisingly), my willpower and desire to succeed has thus far been strong.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Morgan Blackledge

    Lately, it has become very fashionable (particularly for neuro-sceensters) to bash the the outdated notion of free will. And for good reason. That shit is a fairy tale. It just plain doesn't exist. At least the hokey ol' folk psychology notion of "uncaused" behavior a.k.a. contra-causal free will. a.k.a. classical dualistic free will i.e. the belief that there is a component (call it a soul or what ever) to human behavior that is something more than the unavoidable consequences of the genetic an Lately, it has become very fashionable (particularly for neuro-sceensters) to bash the the outdated notion of free will. And for good reason. That shit is a fairy tale. It just plain doesn't exist. At least the hokey ol' folk psychology notion of "uncaused" behavior a.k.a. contra-causal free will. a.k.a. classical dualistic free will i.e. the belief that there is a component (call it a soul or what ever) to human behavior that is something more than the unavoidable consequences of the genetic and environmental history of the individual and the possible stochastic laws of nature.............. Every event (including human behavior) has a natural cause (of some sort or another), and there's no such thing as ghosts, so please get over it, it's 2013 for fux sake. That being said, it is pretty clear that people make choices, and the choices they make, make a difference. It's gonna take people smarter than myself to sort out all of the apparent contradictions and tangles inherent in this particular philosophical puzzle. So I'm not even going to try. And frankly, neither did the author of The Willpower Instinct (Kelly McGonigal), and I for one, think that's a very good thing. McGonigle does a decent job of revitalizing this decidedly uncool and very unfashionable topic, due in part to the fact that she kept that shit simple! Simple language, simple ideas, simple simple simple. I loved that about this book. Many people erroneously think that the answer to their problems will come from learning some complex theory or idea, and once they have the magical information, than their life will "fall in to place" with little to no effort. In my experience, the opposite is true. The information needed to understand most of life's challenges is typically quite simple and readily available. But the actual solutions are usually difficult and typically take some real effort. Willpower is one of those things. If you lack willpower, the explanation is not complex, McGonigal explains the issue quite easily, in very simple language. But actually changing that situation for yourself will require effort i.e. practice. Willpower is like any other psychological skill. It's like a muscle, it gets stronger with practice. It's not hard to understand, you just have to actually do it. McGonigle didnt exactly get creative with the format though (for better or worse). It's a standard formula for popular psychology books to (a) identify a problem that nearly everyone suffers from, (b) Identify all the ways that commonsense notions about the issue are wrong, (c) summarize the what the "new" science of ______ says about the subject, (d) bombard you with a litany of interventions and exercises, followed by (e) case study examples of dubious authenticity, and (f) copious research findings. Again, McGonigle doesn't even try to do it differently. She pretty much just did one of those. And it works pretty good. Cha Chunk - one pretty decent pop psych book, made to order, nothin fancy. WHERE THIS BOOK SHINES! McGonigle does do a particularly good job of describing how negative self evaluation can be deleterious to our willpower. According to McGonigle, self criticism and self castigation is counterproductive to adaptive behavioral change. Many people think they need to be "hard on themselves" in order to "keep them selves in line". But negative self talk (and the feelings and beliefs that accompany it) can actually keep people trapped in cycles of maladaptive, out of control behavior. For example: people who over eat to manage negative feelings may harshly self castigate, leading to enhanced negative feelings, which trigger more of the unwanted impulsive over eating behavior -and so on -and so on -and so on... I am currently working as a clinician in a addiction recovery program. Our clients come to us FULL of shame and self criticism. It's normal, it's natural, but it doesn't help them change the behavior. If shame worked for that, they wouldn't be addicts. Shame actually makes the problem worse because it makes them feel worse (see above) and it diverts attention from the real problem, making arriving at a reasonable solution pretty dang hard. One component of this phenomena is the Ironic Rebound Effect: This refers to when attempts at cognitive control/suppression backfire and result in increased incidents of the undesired cognitive content e.g. feelings, mental images, self talk etc. For example: after individuals attempt to disregard doubts about themselves, their self esteem actually declines and their anxiety rises (Borton, Markovitz, & Dieterich, 2005). Likewise, when individuals feel compelled to condemn some activity, such as a risky act, they are actually more likely to undertake that activity in the future (Maio & Olson, 1998). According to McGonigle, the intervention for ironic rebound effects is, simply put, to "give up". Let go of the agenda of cognitive control. Surf The Urge! In other words, allow yourself to have the problematic feelings or thoughts (or what ever), with equanimity, i.e. without resistance or self judgment, and (most importantly) without reflexively acting on them. From this platform of self acceptance, the individual can begin to gain insight into the actual triggers and mechanisms of the behavior, and make the needed adjustments necessary to retrain the maladaptive behavior. Self acceptance, however counterintuitive, can be the critical first step to exiting these kinds of behavioral traps. So there you go. The secret to willpower is giving up. Wait, what? Not so fast! There are plenty of instances where the agenda of cognitive change (cognitive restructuring) is effective. In my opinion, acceptance and mindfulness based approaches are best when offered in concert with traditional CBT. I like to say, you can change the cognitive content (traditional CBT) or you can change your relationship to the cognitive content (Mindfulness Based CBT). What ever works for you. It's just that most people are oversold on the agenda of cognitive change and under trained/educated on the agenda of acceptance. For me, it's all about embracing the dialectic of Acceptance and Change. SUMMARY: the ABC's of willpower are A: self care, B: self awareness and C: connecting with what matters most in life (i.e. values). The rest is simply a matter of practice.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship

    Take my rating with a grain of salt: I’ve read this book, but haven’t really taken the time to put its advice into practice yet. This book is a useful combination of popular science/psychology and self-help, looking at why our brains work the way they do and how to get better at putting big-picture goals ahead of short-term urges. There’s a fair amount of science and studies in it, explained in an accessible way, along with practical tips and strategies for everyday life. There’s a lot of useful i Take my rating with a grain of salt: I’ve read this book, but haven’t really taken the time to put its advice into practice yet. This book is a useful combination of popular science/psychology and self-help, looking at why our brains work the way they do and how to get better at putting big-picture goals ahead of short-term urges. There’s a fair amount of science and studies in it, explained in an accessible way, along with practical tips and strategies for everyday life. There’s a lot of useful information here, in terms of both general information about human psychology and things that might help you make positive changes in your own life. And it’s actually enough information to justify a book, not just a magazine article stretched out to book length with lots of anecdotes (there are a few anecdotes sprinkled throughout, but they don’t dominate the pages). The author suggests reading one chapter per week – the book’s genesis is in a ten-week college course – which I mostly did, but which didn’t ultimately help me much. Some of the topics resonated (like the one about why our brains trick us into turning to counterproductive behaviors like snacking or Internet surfing to relieve stress, even though these are actually among the least effective stress relievers), while others seemed less relevant to my life. Also, the “homework” from the first chapter is to meditate for five minutes every day, which I did not do (yes, yes, everyone recommends meditation to solve all ills, but actually doing it really sucks) and which perhaps set the tone for not doing the rest of the “assignments.” At any rate, I think this is a good book to read if you want to make changes in your life. With the caveat that you should probably read it when you have the bandwidth to put some time and energy into making those changes, because while simply reading a book can make you more aware of some things, it probably isn’t going to break a bad habit or instill a good one all on its own. I do plan to come back to it at another time. Also, yes, the author is Professor McGonigal. Har, har.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Emma Sea

    Excellent book, that many before me have already reviewed wonderfully. I recommend this review for a succinct summary of the book. Keep in mind I found the first 25% of the book was waffly generic lead-up that I really didn't need. I was about to give up when suddenly all the useful good stuff began. Please note it did not take me 5 weeks to read because it was a boring book, rather that the author suggests you read a section and put it into practice for a week before you read the next section. I Excellent book, that many before me have already reviewed wonderfully. I recommend this review for a succinct summary of the book. Keep in mind I found the first 25% of the book was waffly generic lead-up that I really didn't need. I was about to give up when suddenly all the useful good stuff began. Please note it did not take me 5 weeks to read because it was a boring book, rather that the author suggests you read a section and put it into practice for a week before you read the next section. I went just slightly faster than this, but it was still a paced approach that I found worked great.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Madalina Lacatis

    This book helped me understand better the science of why sometimes it comes easy to do certain actions while other times it doesn't (like spending less time on social media or doing more sports, for example). It tackles subjects like: - why doing meditation or taking deep breaths helps you calm down and crave less; - what's the role of sports in making better decisions; - how breaking habits in smaller pieces makes you more aware of what you're doing and ultimately helps you change them; -what's This book helped me understand better the science of why sometimes it comes easy to do certain actions while other times it doesn't (like spending less time on social media or doing more sports, for example). It tackles subjects like: - why doing meditation or taking deep breaths helps you calm down and crave less; - what's the role of sports in making better decisions; - how breaking habits in smaller pieces makes you more aware of what you're doing and ultimately helps you change them; -what's the role of imagination in setting future goals; - why we postpone things; - why the brain doesn't understand negations (don't think of a blue elephant); - how negative news affects us. I read the book one chapter per week as the author recommends. Each chapter contains theory and an exercise to practice during the next days. I stuck to the plan most of the weeks (at least some days), and I felt that it helped me be more aware of my actions. I consider this book a useful read. Highly recommend.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    Ok, I admit it. I am not going to be able to do this book justice: I read it in one of those ghastly self-destructive reading binges that find me struggling to keep my eyelids open at midnight, knowing that I'm going to be fucked for the morning, but driven on to turn the pages (even as I take Big Blinks) and extract every last nugget from the book. You probably won't experience this book in quite the same way, so I won't pretend that my experience is predictive of yours. (Unless you are a narco Ok, I admit it. I am not going to be able to do this book justice: I read it in one of those ghastly self-destructive reading binges that find me struggling to keep my eyelids open at midnight, knowing that I'm going to be fucked for the morning, but driven on to turn the pages (even as I take Big Blinks) and extract every last nugget from the book. You probably won't experience this book in quite the same way, so I won't pretend that my experience is predictive of yours. (Unless you are a narcolept, in which case feel free to keep reading this review when you come to) "The Willpower Instinct" comes from a course McGonigal taught at Stanford, over the course of which students were able to change their habits. Unlike the "The Power of Habit", which broke down habits into three basic phases and showed you how to reprogram yourself, this is more a grab-bag of techniques to explore over a few weeks and (on the course of the journey) learn what works for you. I have to admit that even though I know that "going on a journey" is the right way to change one's self, I still get frustrated with the idea that there's no quick fix. I lust for the quick fix. I am the King of the Demesne of The Quick Fix. I'm a programmer, my code is just a workaround for an empty file. Ok, we've established that I like quick fixes, let's move on. My biggest beef with the Willpower Instinct is that I never got the sense that there was a single consistent message about How We Work and What Works and How to Change and all that stuff. Instead there's a bunch of things that work for people and might work for you. Sometimes they felt contradictory, where small goals are good at one point but not another (I think that was the example: my copy is back in the library and I'm foolishly writing this review in retrospect so take with pillars of salt), and they never felt like they meshed well together. I'd love to see a "Visible Learning" type reduction of studies and efficacy to talk about what works and what doesn't. I've long wanted to improve my procrastination and general fuckuselessness. Somehow I seem to have managed that over the last six months: I've lost weight, I'm doing things that need to be done, and I'm generally more useful than I was before. I'm still reading these bloody self-help books, though! Perhaps that's the habit I should change ...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    I think it's indisputable that the ultimate measure of the worth of a self-help book is... whether it helped. This book did not help me. If I'd hoped to acquire a great deal of rudimentary knowledge of psychology, neurophysiology, cognitive science, and the mechanics of meditation that I didn't already have -- then this book would have been an epic fail, because I already knew all of that, and knowing it had never in any imaginable way helped me before. If I'd been woefully and spectacularly ign I think it's indisputable that the ultimate measure of the worth of a self-help book is... whether it helped. This book did not help me. If I'd hoped to acquire a great deal of rudimentary knowledge of psychology, neurophysiology, cognitive science, and the mechanics of meditation that I didn't already have -- then this book would have been an epic fail, because I already knew all of that, and knowing it had never in any imaginable way helped me before. If I'd been woefully and spectacularly ignorant of all these things to begin with, then I'd perhaps have emerged content that I'd learned a few stray facts through the medium of incessantly condescending pedagogical story-telling about sabertooth tigers and my fight-or-flight syndrome, but I remain convinced that it still wouldn't have changed my life. The author begins with a self-congratulatory account of how this inspired a multitude of continuing education students at Stanford to solve every conceivable problem in their lives, how it had been just the most popular course ever ever, and how every technique had been thoroughly beta-tested and debugged by legions of human guinea pigs so that the reader could embark on the venture with utter certitude of being imbued with all those numinous and wonderful "I-will," "I-won't" and "I-want" powers they'd hitherto somehow utterly failed to acquire -- and certainly, conditioning someone to expect a benefit may help her to derive one, so let's give Dr. McGonical a pass on the rhapsodic self-promotion -- but the content just didn't deliver. Well... it didn't for me. Your mileage, of course, may be measured in kilometers or parsecs, so who knows? The mere effort of forcing yourself to read this may so inspire you never again to wish to be subjected to so tedious and fruitless an undertaking, that you'll suddenly develop immense self-control.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ieva Gr

    Was it easy to read: Averagely so. It is a serious book, but written well and doesn’t burden the reader. What I liked about it: It seemed scientific enough to feel credible. I liked how each chapter was structured – some scientific facts, stories to illustrate them, questions to help notice similar things in your own life. The last words and summary at the end of each chapter was a great idea – I listened to the audiobook, so couldn’t make highlights. But then got back to the last part of each ch Was it easy to read: Averagely so. It is a serious book, but written well and doesn’t burden the reader. What I liked about it: It seemed scientific enough to feel credible. I liked how each chapter was structured – some scientific facts, stories to illustrate them, questions to help notice similar things in your own life. The last words and summary at the end of each chapter was a great idea – I listened to the audiobook, so couldn’t make highlights. But then got back to the last part of each chapter and wrote down some things based on that. Overall I think the book really did help to notice patterns in my behaviour and willpower failures. What I disliked: Maybe dislike is a strong word for that, but the parts where the author was trying to be cute (things like “oh, I left you in the prehistoric days with the saber-toothed tiger, sorry for that, lets get back to present day”) made me sort of smile-cringe. Ideas/ Quotes: When we fail willpower challenges our mind and body is most likely in a bad state for self control e. g. suffering from chronic stress. Good tools to relieve it: exercise, reading, spending time with friends and family, walking, meditation, creative hobbies. We need to feel like the kind of person that wants to do the right thing – we shouldn’t frame our willpower challenges in moral terms. Otherwise being good will give us permission to be bad (self-indulgence shouldn’t be seen as reward) Trying to suppress thoughts backfires. Instead of suppressing thoughts we should allow ourselves to feel what we feel, but don’t believe everything we think. We should accept the thoughts but not necessarily act on them.

  26. 5 out of 5

    sleeps9hours

    Good little book with recent research on willpower. Not a lot of surprises, but nice to peruse when thinking about changing some habits. p. 50 Relaxing—-even for just a few minutes--increases heart rate variability by activating the parasympathetic nervous system and quieting the sympathetic nervous system. It also shifts the body into a state of repair and healing, enhancing your immune function and lowering stress hormones. Studies show that taking time for relaxation every day can protect your Good little book with recent research on willpower. Not a lot of surprises, but nice to peruse when thinking about changing some habits. p. 50 Relaxing—-even for just a few minutes--increases heart rate variability by activating the parasympathetic nervous system and quieting the sympathetic nervous system. It also shifts the body into a state of repair and healing, enhancing your immune function and lowering stress hormones. Studies show that taking time for relaxation every day can protect your health while also increasing your willpower reserve. p. 137 The most effective stress-relief strategies are exercising or playing sports, praying or attending a religious service, reading, listening to music, spending time with friends or family, getting a massage, going outside for a walk, meditating or doing yoga, and spending time with a creative hobby. (The least effective strategies are gambling, shopping, smoking, drinking, eating, playing video games, surfing the Internet, and watching TV or movies for more than 2 hours.) p. 219 Feel what you feel, but don’t believe everything you think. The opposite of suppression is accepting the presence of the thought—-not believing it. You’re accepting that thoughts come and go, and that you can’t always control what thoughts come to mind. You don’t have to automatically accept the content of the thought. In other words, you might say to yourself, “Oh well, there’s that thought again—worries happen. That’s just the way the mind works, and it doesn’t necessarily mean anything.”

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michael Foley

    TERRIFIC ADVICE. I am a serial resolution maker and breaker so this book really spoke to me in a lasting way. Throughout this book I had a recurring thought that the author has been listening to my thoughts for the past 20 years because the scenarios were so eerily spot-on. I have been employing the mechanisms taught by the author and I've never felt more in-control and calm about my decision making. I learned things like how I lie to myself and why those lies are so darn convincing. Most importa TERRIFIC ADVICE. I am a serial resolution maker and breaker so this book really spoke to me in a lasting way. Throughout this book I had a recurring thought that the author has been listening to my thoughts for the past 20 years because the scenarios were so eerily spot-on. I have been employing the mechanisms taught by the author and I've never felt more in-control and calm about my decision making. I learned things like how I lie to myself and why those lies are so darn convincing. Most importantly, I learned how to overcome temptation in a practical, non-"hippy" way. For example, this book mentions how we need to recognize how un-trustworthy we really are. We tend look to our future selves as someone more in-control and better than our present selves. "Tomorrow I'll have a salad but not today" is a bold-faced lie. If Today self doesn't want to eat a salad, then tomorrow self won't either, because they are both THE SAME FRIGGIN' PERSON. To avoid relapse, be totally honest with yourself. Realize that a burger today means a burger tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. That burger is not your friend, it is a threat. Eat somewhere else. We will use the past (I've been good today, I deserve a treat) and we will use the future (I'll work out tomorrow) and we will use the present (I'm too depressed, I need to cheer up) in order to have our way. This book points out every phase and what to do about it. I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who struggles with willpower. So....yeah everybody.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Eugene

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. good and easy reading based on the series of lectures in Stanford Continuous Studies by the author. Great addition to "Stranger to ourselves" book. My highlights from the book: people are thinking about their future selves as about strangers so not making good predictions, before you react to a temptation make pause, wait for 10 minutes, try to switch to a breath. Also great to find references to researches that meditation is actually changes the blood flow inside the brain. There are lot of dil good and easy reading based on the series of lectures in Stanford Continuous Studies by the author. Great addition to "Stranger to ourselves" book. My highlights from the book: people are thinking about their future selves as about strangers so not making good predictions, before you react to a temptation make pause, wait for 10 minutes, try to switch to a breath. Also great to find references to researches that meditation is actually changes the blood flow inside the brain. There are lot of dilemmas in how our brain is working and it is a little bit outdated for the modern world. that is why understanding the psychological traps is important and the book is the very good work that with a very easy language explains all these things and how to walkaround them.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Michael Hughes

    2.5 I cautiously recommend this book on the basis of its evidence-based advice for everyday failures of willpower, but it's hurt by an ingratiating, chummy prose style that I found condescending. I appreciate McGonigal's attempt to write a fun and approachable book, especially given the serious willpower challenges that some of her readers might have. But her breeziness evinces a lack of faith in the material, which is inherently interesting. Every page seems to feature a parenthetical nudge in t 2.5 I cautiously recommend this book on the basis of its evidence-based advice for everyday failures of willpower, but it's hurt by an ingratiating, chummy prose style that I found condescending. I appreciate McGonigal's attempt to write a fun and approachable book, especially given the serious willpower challenges that some of her readers might have. But her breeziness evinces a lack of faith in the material, which is inherently interesting. Every page seems to feature a parenthetical nudge in the ribs or some other colloquial appeal meant to liven up the proceedings, but the effect is to lessen, not increase the enjoyment of reading. This is a book to be skimmed.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mehrsa

    This was among the better books in the general genre. He offers some "willpower hacks" if you will. The book explains how your willpower works and when it is likely to not work and offers help in avoiding some willpower traps. This was among the better books in the general genre. He offers some "willpower hacks" if you will. The book explains how your willpower works and when it is likely to not work and offers help in avoiding some willpower traps.

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