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The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It Hardcover – December 29, 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 598 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"What a liberating book! McGonigal explains the scientific reality of willpower, exploding the myths most of us believe. Stronger willpower--based on inspiring facts, not oppressive nonsense--is finally within everyone's reach."--Geoff Colvin, author of Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers From Everybody Else

"The Willpower Instinct is a new kind of self-help book. Using science to explain the why and strategies for the how, McGonigal has created a must-read for anyone who wants to change how they live in both small and big ways." - Book Page

"Each chapter could stand on its own as something helpful, but taken as a whole, this book could be downright life-altering. If you are trying to lose weight, become more successful at work, rid yourself of toxic habits...heck, if you're HUMAN, you need to read this book." -- Library Thing Review

This book has tremendous value for anyone interested in learning how to achieve their goals more effectively. McGonigal clearly breaks down a large body of relevant scientific research and its applications, and shows that awareness of the limits of willpower is crucial to our ability to exercise true self control. -Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D., co-author of You Are Not Your Brain and author of bestselling Brain Lock

About the Author

KELLY McGONIGAL, PHD, is an award-winning psychology instructor at Stanford University, as well as a health educator for the School of Medicine's Health Improvement Program. She is also the author of Psychology Today's "Science of Willpower" blog and lives in Palo Alto, California.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Avery; 1 edition (December 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583334386
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583334386
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (598 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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.
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified 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.

Two remarks:

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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified 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.
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