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340 of 351 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars practical, research-based solutions for improving self-control
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...
Published on March 23, 2012 by D&D

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56 of 63 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not a bad book
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.

Two...
Published 14 months ago by Jaco's Friend


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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Willpower is easier than you think., December 30, 2011
This review is from: The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It (Hardcover)
I highly recommend this book! It is a practical, grounded guide to empowerment through self-awareness. You are invited to be a gentle observer of your own life: how you talk to yourself, what temps you, when do you procrastinate, and how you judge yourself. Then using compassion and self-forgiveness, you can choose actions that support the life you desire. Everyone can use a book like this!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous, wonderful book!, January 13, 2012
This review is from: The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It (Hardcover)
There are a million self-help books out there. I can only think of two that are based on solid scientific evidence: 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman (highly recommended) and this one. Whatever your issue is, the author helps you understand why your brain wants to overeat, overshop, cheat on your spouse and gives helpful exercises for you to stop the behavior.

I read this book in a couple of sittings, but I'm going back through the way she recommends: a chapter a week to fully work through the exercise(s) I chose. I can't say this book has been life-changing for me; I've only had it a week, but I'm optimistic. The author teaches a class on willpower at Stanford, and she mentions that some people take it multiple times, and people bring their kids and spouses and co-workers in to it. I can believe it. This book is well-written and fun to read.

It's an empowering book-and since it's based on facts and science instead of pithy sayings and unusual if inspiring anecdotes-is more likely to get you to improve your life-with actual lasting results- than most self-help books out there. Seriously, stop reading the books that just tell you to wish upon a star and only reference motivation speakers to back up their claims. Start reading the books written by people who use concrete evidence for their claims. Sorry, Tony Robbins and Brian Tracy, but I'll go to Richard Wiseman and Kelly Mcgonigal and the scientists whose studies they reference.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get ready to change, June 20, 2013
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I've read everything I can find about procrastination, self-discipline and changing an unwanted habit, including The Power of Habits by Duhigg. Duhigg's book is better than most, but I give it C+ for how helpful it was to me. I didn't think I'd find anything new on the topic, but Willpower Instinct is a cutting-edge research-based book and a real eye-opener. What's more, it is actually practical and very, very helpful. It goes far beyond the usual (which is make lists, prioritize, reward small steps, figure out what is motivating your unwanted behavior and find a more desirable way to meet that need - all of which one needs willpower to do). I've sent Willpower Instinct to my sister and she loved it also. I wish I could take the author's course.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A self-help book that ACTUALLY helped me., January 10, 2013
This review is from: The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It (Hardcover)
What perfect timing! Everyone always spends January resolving to change every perceived fault, so why not read a book that will teach you how self control works, why it matters, and what you can do to get even more of it?

Thanks to the BlogHer Book Club, I started off my new year (and the end of the last one) reading The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. Dr. McGonigal teaches a groundbreaking course at Stanford University called "The Science of Willpower". This course has "helped hundreds of people achieve their goals by understanding the science behind why we give in to temptation, and how we can find the strength to resist."

The first thing I learned was that willpower is about harnessing the three powers of I will, I won't, and I want to help achieve your goals. Harnessing these power challenges can be used towards any goal, whether it be losing weight, quitting smoking, or pulling back on the excess spending. I started off the book by notating what the willpower challenge was that I wanted to focus on.

I will eat healthier.

I won't eat crap.

I want to lose weight.

After Thanksgiving I had already made a bit of a resolution to stop drinking soda. Except for one splurge on New Years Eve, I've been caffeinated soda free since. I wanted to take that a step further and encourage myself to eat better on a regular basis. My weight has been slowly climbing and I am now at the heaviest I've been without being pregnant. It's not just the number on the scale, but the way I feel about my body. My self confidence is pretty low right now. So, I wanted to learn how to strengthen my willpower when it came to making choices towards my goal.

What I really liked about McGonigal's book, was her style. The writing is very casual, with a little humor thrown in to keep it fun, and even when she's talking about what the parts of the brain do and how they affect your self control, it's in a way that doesn't make it sound like a textbook. It gave me the feeling that McGonigal would be a very fun person to hang out with.

One of the primary things I took away from The Willpower Instinct, was how important it is to train my brain to focus. I have difficulty with focusing on one thing at a time, and McGonigal attempted to teach me how to properly meditate. When I used to try, I always got frustrated that my mind kept getting away from me. I couldn't clear my mind. What McGonigal explains, is that meditating doesn't have to be about focusing perfectly on your breath and getting rid of everything else. What it's really about, is catching yourself moving away from the goal (concentrating on `inhale', `exhale') and bringing your thoughts back there. So even when I started wondering about how much time had past, what I was going to write in my review, things I needed to finish for work, what's for lunch, that was not a sign of failure. Instead, I succeeded in reminding myself to go back to the breath each time I caught my mind wandering. I'm still finding 5-10 minutes every day where I can just close my eyes and get back to my focus training.

Reading this book also helped me make not only smarter choices (towards my eating healthy goal and others), but also helped make me more aware when I am faced with a choice that could derail me from my goals. Shortly after finishing one chapter, I reached for an orange rather than a chocolate cookie. When took my lunch breaks at work, I was more conscious of my choices. More often than not, I chose to read a book with my lunch rather than mindlessly surfing the internet. I also learned to forgive myself each misstep (like when I had ice cream for dessert), and not use it as an excuse to abandon my entire goal.

I'm the type to pick out self help books, read a couple of chapters, and then eventually give up. There was something about McGonigal's writing that really kept me interested in the subject. If you're looking to read about self control and how you improve your own, you should really check out The Willpower Instinct. The difference in the way I look at my actions and my thoughts regarding my long-term goals will stay with me long after this book gets put on the shelf.

[This review originally appeared on Unintentionally-Brilliant.com]

-----------------------------

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for this review. As a member of the BlogHer Book Club, I will be compensated for my review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing read!, December 29, 2011
By 
ClaudiaC (Palo Alto, California) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It (Hardcover)
I expected this book to be more filled with scientific facts, but instead I found it delightfully balanced with sample cases of real people and guidance techniques that can help anyone with specific issues e.g. motivation, eating, exercise. It is highly recommended for people who want to understand the biological reasons for our behavior.
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28 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read for anyone making new years resolutions, December 30, 2011
This review is from: The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It (Hardcover)
Kelly's writing style is fluid and easy to understand even when she's dealing with complex topics. Her claims and conclusions are backed up by real research which makes them much more powerful and believable. Her step by step approach allowed me to apply the concepts to my own life, particularly during this time of the year (holidays) when willpower can be especially hard to find. There area many laughs in this surprisingly humorous take on such a serious topic. Would make a great gift for anyone struggling to resist that second (or third) helping!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable for developing willpower; pursuing goals, July 8, 2012
By 
William R. Drake (Nevada City, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It (Hardcover)
This book is based on a course in willpower the author (Kelly McGonigal, PhD) teaches for Stanford University. McGonigal is a good writer with a very good sense of humor and her book relies on solid scientific research related to the psychology of willpower. In the beginning, she encourages the reader to come up with a "willpower challenge" or behavioral change to work on during a ten week "home course" related to the book's ten chapters (studying one chapter per week). (And, of course, one could read the book all the way through first, if they prefer.)

Most of the chapters focus on particular psychological challenges (one per chapter) related to willpower and one's efforts to create a new habit, or change an old habit. In these chapters, she explains the psychological mechanisms at play (often related to how we sabotage ourselves) and shows how they could be overcome. Numerous tips and exercises are offered to help the reader. This forms the heart of the book and the insights offered are priceless for anyone who wants to develop more willpower and be more successful at pursuing their goals. To me, this material is worth "5 stars."

Thanks to this book, after reading it straight through, I have resumed a daily meditation practice and resumed doing yoga. And I look forward to other positive changes as I work with it more methodically.

One weakness of the book relates to the "willpower challenge" the reader is instructed to come up with in the beginning. For one thing, people who need help in creating a goal and designing a plan for achieving it (with short term goals, etc), are not given such assistance. A brief description of such things could have been put in an appendix, since this assignment was to serve as a background for the "course". Furthermore, throughout the book, there should be more references to this challenge, with the reader being encouraged to reflect on his/her overall progress with it (perhaps in a "willpower journal" or "willpower challenge journal"). The challenge, and how the reader progressed with it, are not even addressed in the summary questions on the last page. (For an excellent book that has everything one needs to know for creating and achieving goals, read Succeed by social psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson.)

One thing I have difficulty with is the author's idea of looking at your "self" that is motivated toward positive future goals as the "real you" vs the impulsive part of you which would therefore not be the "real you." (page 104) In my opinion, this is bad psychological advice. While certainly one wants to emphasize the part of oneself that is oriented toward positive future goals, the sort of "judgmental split" that the reader is encouraged to create could result in denying or suppressing one's "undesirable" impulsive nature, which could make it less conscious and therefore more powerful ("what you resist persists"). Paradoxically, only when one is able to open up to, and fully accept, their impulsive nature (or any other part of themselves they have resistance to), without trying to make it go away, is it likely to transform or diminish. (In another part of the book, Chapter 9, the author does encourage accepting unwanted thoughts and feelings, which is the "right" psychological approach for things you don't like about yourself.)

I would also have liked for McGonigal to have included a bibliography (ideally an annotated one).

In addition to this book, I read two other books related to willpower. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg gives a simple but valuable presentation of the basic mechanism behind habits. (cue that triggers a habit or routine > the routine > the reward which one learns to crave) He then shows how to use this "habit loop" to create a new habit or overcome a "bad" habit. He also gives some helpful information on willpower based on research studies. Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength is co-authored by Roy Baumeister, one of the foremost researchers on willpower, and John Tierney. This book has numerous insights on willpower and how to develop it, as well as insights and tips related to setting goals and changing habits. The authors of this book have a good sense of humor.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Guide to Improving Your Life, April 24, 2012
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This review is from: The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It (Hardcover)
We generally think of ourselves as one body and one mind ... a single unit working together. But according to Kelly McGonigal, the author, "...we've seen again and again that we are not one self, but multiple selves. Our human nature includes both the self that wants immediate gratification, and the self with a higher purpose." This is what makes self-control or willpower so difficult, we are actually fighting against ourselves.

The benefits of self-control are significant. "People who have better control of their attention, emotions, and actions are better off almost any way you look at it. They are happier and healthier. Their relationships are more satisfying and last longer. They make more money and go further in their careers."

The Willpower Instinct is a guide for improving your self-control. It is based on the award winning class which Ms. McGonigal teaches at Sanford University. Her writing style is very conversational and entertaining. She has a keen sense of humor which shows up throughout the book. While she is a college professor, the book was written for the general public in easy to understand language.

Many of the concepts in the book are counterintuitive. We think the warning on cigarette packages should work to deter smoking. They actually have the opposite effect. "Frightening cigarette warnings can make smokers crave a cigarette, economic crises can make a person shop, and the nightly news can make you fat."

The book is filled with examples of how and why we have willpower failures and ways we can work around these failures. "Self-control is a matter of understanding these different parts of ourselves, not fundamentally changing who we are. In the quest for self-control, the usual weapons we wield against ourselves - guilt, stress and shame - don't work." What does work is self-awareness. Paying attention to what is going on inside and realizing that there is a difference between thinking about something and acting on those thoughts.

This book will give you a lot of insights into why we do the things we do, where our willpower fails us and why. You will also find many exercises which will help you strengthen your willpower. There is a lot of information in this book. I doubt that you will be able to absorb all of it in one reading. But it is very entertaining and should be studied and referred to often to help you build and strengthen your willpower. It will have a significant impact on your life.

Excellent resource for improving your willpower and your life.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Willpower is no longer a 4 letter word, May 16, 2012
By 
Shadrach Smith (Kansas City, Missouri USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It (Hardcover)
I am doctor that focuses on preventive medicine. Since the medical literature lacks effective strategies to help patients change, I read self-help books in search of realistic methods to help motivate patients for healthy change. Most of these books only tell me what I already knew- People know what to do (eat right, exercise more, go to bed earlier, etc) but lack the consistent motivation to do it. This book takes a different approach. It explains through science and real world examples, why people act against their long term interest. Then it goes to the next level and provides many different strategies to overcome the most common willpower challenges.

Probably the most surprising thing that came from reading the book was I immediately became more sympathetic to the failure of my patients to meet their healthcare goals. Next, I was able to provide them practical advice on what they could do increase their chances of success. While it it too early to tell the long term effects on the patients' in my medical practice, I have already noticed improvements in my own Willpower challenges (Procrastination).
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93 of 124 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A How-To book with examples backed by scientific research, March 3, 2012
By 
Judy Lee "Judy" (Mountain View, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It (Hardcover)
The book explores various aspects when a person loses self control or willpower. I am interested in this topic because of my frustration with not reaching my goals in life. Why do I put off pursuing my dreams? Although in the end, I don't think it was the lack of self control that gets in the way, I got insights of why I would procrastinate in certain things. The followings are interesting to me:

Self control is limited because it is like a muscle. If you over-use self control, you will deplete your willpower. Kelly mentions that by giving your brain more energy using sugar, you will be able to be stronger mentally. It is a simple trick I will use at around 4:00 pm in my office.

The second insight is the function of dopamine. Dopamine gives a promise of reward. It is the key for a person's motivation. If it is used smartly, the promise of reward can be used when we face mundane tasks. However, the promise of reward does not guarantee happiness. Having the motivation towards a desire (chocolate cake) does not mean it will lead us to happiness (healthy lifestyle).

What-The-Hell effect is interesting. It explores why people sabotage themselves even more, after they lose willpower. People feel guilty after they indulge in their vices; they feel guilty, but they refuse to stop right there. They go, "What the hell" and continue to do more (e.g. ambling, etc). In this case, practicing self-forgiving is important.

I am so glad that Kelly brought up the topic of hyperopic. I can relate to that. I am one who would delay instant gratification until forever. Unlike most people, I feel that I can't enjoy the presence. I wish there was more analysis on this topic. I don't think it is a problem of self-control though. I suspect it is about self confidence...I like the the websites suggestions Kelly gives to help with self control, for example, FutureMe.org.

Last but not least, what drives home for me is the topic of thought suppression. It is a big problem for me that I have been trying to solve. I learned that we can't suppress our thoughts and feelings. Doing so will amplify your feelings. Two years ago, I had a crush on a guy. My feelings got stronger every month as I was secretly wishing there was something more to happen. yet, I was suppressing my feelings. I didn't want to admit it and to tell him my feelings. Suppressing my feelings led me to occupy my mind with images of him, and prevented me from seeing other guys. If I have read this book about suppression, I would have gone through the exercises of accepting and let go. It will save me confusions, anxiety, and shame...

The reason I gave it 3 star is that I don't feel there is a tight integration among all the theories to make it one central point. Or, is there no one central point? I found myself jumping from one topic to another and then trying to analyze my situation using the different concepts.
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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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