366 of 379 people found the following review helpful
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. While I preferred the deeper "Willpower" by Tierney and Baumeister (who has studied contradictory human behavior for decades), 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. Another excellent book is "Willpower: The Owner's Manual - 12 Tools for Doing the Right Thing" by Frank Martela PhD.
(Note: the paperback and kindle versions are called "Maximum Willpower")
211 of 220 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified 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.
89 of 96 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2012
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.
***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.)
153 of 174 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2011
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!
68 of 76 people found the following review helpful
on September 16, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
The book, using an assortment of studies from psychology and neuroscience, makes a case for strengthening pause-and-plan which enhances willpower to help modulate one's impulses. Unlike many self-help books, the author does focus on lessons gleaned from meaningful studies (she calls it "science-help") and, as such, the message conveyed is overall sound.
1. The book's writing could be improved. It also follows a self-help formulaic messaging format. She gave a lecture at Google (also on youtube) where she makes an effective case.
2. The part where this book is weak: how to improve willpower in the long run. The author goes through a laundry list that includes slow breathing, meditation, exercise, getting sufficient sleep, relaxing, etc.
Many of the studies she mentions are interesting, but of mixed value as the behavior modification results are related to the short-term, at the time scale of months. Meaningful changes are measured in years. Dieters know this very well. And the long-term failure rate high.
Bottom line: what the author recommends -- being more aware of one's impulsive tendencies and training oneself to be less susceptible -- is well-intentioned and useful. However, it is the difficulty implementing them in daily life, under real-life conditions, in the long run, that is the vexing problem. And on this front, the book falls short.
72 of 81 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I have read every self help book ever written (ok, that's a slight exaggeration, but you get my point) trying to figure out why I can't conquer my weight /food issues. This is truly the first book that gives answers that not only make sense but are easily implemented. It isn't specifically about weight loss, though she does use that as an example of how people try but fail and blame it on a lack of will power. For the first time I understand how the brain works and how and what will power really is. No psychobabble about "self sabotage," or your childhood, no spiritual guidance (not that there's anything wrong with spiritual solutions). Already I have stopped rewarding myself for being "good," which I have always done in the past. Her writing is breezy and easy to u derstand even when she is explaining very complex subjects, like the parts of the brain, and what part does what. Why did the sales of Big Macs increase at MacDonalds when they added salads to the menu? The answer is here and it will surprise you. I can't say enough about the impact this book has had on me. Whatever you are struggling with, stopping smoking, curbing your spending habits, losing weight, this book will help you to understand will power and provides many tools and insights that are invaluable. This is a game changer for me, I'd give 10 stars if I could.
36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
The book starts off terrific. After the first 2 chapters, I felt I was about to read one of the greatest and life-altering books I have ever read (and I read a LOT). The rest of the book, unfortunately, are not nearly as good or useful.
The author is a PhD in Psychology and teaches at Stanford (she received her PhD from Stanford as well). As an academic, she doesn't venture far from the empirical psychology but provides plenty of insinuations on how we can improve our willpower. As I was reading this book, I must have seen at least a dozen PhD dissertation worthy topics being explored but not quite made concrete mainly due to lack of empirical evidence.
The book, however, does provide two concrete and empirical based suggestions on how we can often substantially improve our willpower: regular exercise and meditation. I felt these two suggestions alone were worth the price of the book.
After reading this book and trying its precepts for couple of days, I already feel my daily willpower getting stronger (I exercise regularly but I also added meditation to my regimen). If you read between-the-lines, you will also gather many subtle Psychological methods into gaining higher degree of control over your behavior and emotions.
I recommend this book.
37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Everything you thought you knew about willpower, how you make decisions, and the best ways to keep your resolutions is wrong. At least that is what it feels like after reading this book. McGonigal goes over research on willpower and reveals the various traps we put ourselves in and why we find it so hard to keep certain goals and break certain habits.
Each chapter outlines an area of research and gives several ideas on how to gain a better understanding about your own particular weaknesses and how to overcome them. This is not a typical "self help" book that promises you success if you follow a certain plan. Instead, McGonigal offers suggestions on how to face our inevitable failures and how to make it more likely that we will meet with success.
The book is entertaining and easy to read. If there is a weakness, it is that McGonigal sometimes tries too hard to be humorous. There are notes in the back of the book that cite the research she employes, but sometimes it isn't easy to tell what research goes with which anecdote. These are minor caveats, though, to a very interesting book.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Trying to make a habit of using one principle taught in this book each week. Some explanations of our motivations very memorable, like the one describing how dopamine makes us think what we want will satisfy us. Little phrases keep coming to mind when I want to eat something that I know is not good for me - especially "would you eat that same thing every day all week?" Helpful book, but only if you can discipline yourself enough to apply the principles in it every day.
32 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2011
In the introduction, the author asks us to take the approach similar to that of a scientist, a nonjudgmental and curious observer. She does this because she wants to guide us through our real world/real life willpower experiments where some strategies work and others fall flat(and as she notes, failures in lab study are rarely discussed).
The book is organized to follow the author's 10 week Stanford course and provides us with an opportunity to take class each week from the comfort of our home. Every chapter contains opportunities to 1) REFLECT on what we already know and understand about our willpower and 2) PRACTICE an "experiment" and how it applies in our own lives.
The book is well-researched and the writing is clear and funny. The scientific explanations are accessible and they help me maintain a nonjudgmental position even as I contemplate my own moments of weakness and reflect on my past experiences with temptation and failure. While I haven't had the book very long, I feel as though I have a funny and knowledgeable friend by my side who is gently and humorously awakening me to several "aha" moments. More importantly I am learning how to find and use motivation to develop my willpower.
This book is for people who want to understand human behavior (including your own) and ways to practice changing this behavior. It is also for people who want to learn basic information or catch up on the most recent brain science as it relates to the psychology of behavior.
I've been anticipating the book's release and I look forward to putting its lessons into practice! I've recommended it to others, including friends and researchers, and I'm happy to recommend it here too.