There’s No Power Like Willpower

“Now more than ever, people realize that willpower — the ability to control their attention, emotions, and desires — influences their physical health, financial security, relationships, and professional success.”

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Book cover for The Willpower Instinct: How Self-control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal




Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D.


The Willpower Instinct is based upon Dr. McGonigal’s course called “The Science of Willpower” which she has taught at Standford University for some time now.

The book consists of ten chapters each covering an important aspect of willpower. Dr. McGonigal recommends that you go through the book slowly, taking a week or more to fully explore each chapter and finish the tasks she recommends.

Each rule of willpower is backed up by ample research which she describes in plain language. Underlying each concept are scientific experiments which have been published and replicated in further studies. Dr. McGonigal takes the science and makes it both easy to understand and entertaining.

At the end of each chapter she includes a summary of what you’ve just learned, questions to help you take a look at your willpower and several experiments for you to try. She invites you to test her theories and see which ones work for you and which don’t.

Willpower comes in several forms. You exert willpower to do some things and use willpower to avoid other things. You can also focus your willpower to go after a goal.

Moreover, willpower is finite. Each person only has so much willpower to spend. Once it’s spent, their cup is empty and that’s when many willpower failures take place.

Dr. McGonigal has some good news. Simple meditation can replenish your willpower reserves. More over, like a muscle, if you exercise your willpower, it can grow stronger. The book contains many exercises to increase your reserves and ways to make the most of what you have.

I enjoyed reading The Willpower Instinct. I could see myself in a lot of the anecdotes and scientific experiments.

For example, in one experiment, the subjects answered math problems and then were told to turn in their paper at the end of the hall. However, waiting in the hall was a table with warm chocolate chip cookies. Trust me, you don’t need math problems to wear down my willpower. Just send me within smelling distance of the cookies and I’ll break.

If you find that you enjoy The Willpower Instinct, you may want to also include: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg, How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer, and Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina.

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