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

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Editorial Reviews

Based on Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal's wildly popular course The Science of Willpower, The Willpower Instinct is the first book to explain the new science of self-control and how it can be harnessed to improve our health, happiness, and productivity. Informed by the latest research and combining cutting-edge insights from psychology, economics, neuroscience, and medicine, The Willpower Instinct explains exactly what willpower is, how it works, and why it matters. For example, listeners 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.
  • 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, but the brain can be trained for greater willpower.
  • Guilt and shame over your setbacks lead to giving in again, but self-forgiveness and self-compassion boost self-control.
  • Giving up control is sometimes the only way to gain self-control.
  • Willpower failures are contagious - you can catch the desire to overspend or overeat from your friends­­ - but you can also catch self-control from the right role models.

In the groundbreaking tradition of Getting Things Done, The Willpower Instinct combines life-changing prescriptive advice and complementary exercises to help listeners with goals ranging from losing weight to more patient parenting, less procrastination, better health, and greater productivity at work.

©2011 Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. (P)2011 Gildan Media Corp

Product Details

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

425 of 441 people found the following review helpful By D&D TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover
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
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256 of 266 people found the following review helpful By Nobody Here on March 17, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm one of those people who hate the self-help movement but can't stop hoping that the next book is actually going to make a difference, that it's the one that going to make me stop procrastinating and deal with my bad habits. So, I keep on reading books and blogs, only to be disappointed.

Not so with this book.

While the book offers the regular mix of science, personal experiences and tips, it's more down-to-earth than other books I have read. Maybe that's because it's based on a course that actually dealt with people going through the motions described in this book.

Usually, I read a book, highlight what I think makes sense and move on without incorporating what I just noted. In this case, I'm remembering on a daily basis what the author wrote and implementing her suggestions. It might actually be the last self-help book I ever read.
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128 of 137 people found the following review helpful By Deb on March 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
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-send, 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.
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172 of 195 people found the following review helpful By Leah R. Weiss on December 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
As a mom to a 15-month-old trying to reestablish healthy rhythms to my life I found this book incredibly helpful. I've been working with it for several months now (I was fortunate to get an advanced copy). I've been reading one chapter a week (ish) and then engaging with the homework in my daily life. The book has been a huge support in making positive changes in my diet, exercise, and even dissertation writing- I know that it sounds like a big claim but it's true. The information in the book rattles around in my head as I'm making choices all day long and it has had a significant cumulative effect in my life.

I've already recommended the book to a number of my friends and family members and am happy to do the same here.

The writing is clear and funny, the research is interesting and accessible, and the exercises are really useful. Highly recommend!
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