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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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4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  9,075 ratings  ·  696 reviews
The first book to explain the new science of self-control and how it can be harnessed to improve our health, happiness, and productivity.

After years of watching her students struggling with their choices, health psychologist Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., realized that much of what people believe about willpower is actually sabotaging their success. Committed to sharing what the
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Hardcover, 275 pages
Published December 29th 2011 by Avery (first published 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Wendy Yu
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Caroline
This is basically a book for people in the thrall of a compulsion, habit or addiction they wish to change..... Me? I'm on a diet. And in fact much of the book was geared towards people dieting. It's range however covered a wide range of compulsions, and it could be utilized by anyone who wants to give up or change a behaviour.

My enjoyment of the book was greatly enhanced by my sister reading it with me. We followed the author's suggestion to read only one chapter a week, the better to mull over
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Lindsay
I thought this was going to be another "do-what-I-did" type self-help books. Boy, was I wrong. I am so glad I read this book.

The Willpower Instinct is based off of a 10-week academic-style class taught by the author. It uses the latest information from neuroscience to explain what exactly your brain goes through during a thinking or decision-making process and how to use that process to your advantage to increase your sense of self-control. That may sound boring or technical, but McGonigal has a
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Mike Tiernan
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 pom
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Sergei_kalinin
Я крайне скептически отношусь к словосочетанию "сила воли". Неказистый этот термин появился в психологии ещё в самом начале 20 века, после чего среди учёных мужей ведутся бесконечные дискуссии - а существует ли она (пресловутая "сила воли") вообще?

В нашей стране, кстати, существуют весьма достойные наработки по этой теме ещё со времен М.Я.Басова (1920-е). На сегодняшний день в отечественной психологии господствует точка зрения о том, что "сила воли" - это миф)))) Точнее, это концепт обыденного
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Sasha
This book is immensely valuable, and very much needed by most people. It isn't even that the book itself is so fantastic, though it is definitely a good book, clearly written, good ideas, well executed. The topic matter is so absolutely pertinent that a thorough and adequate treatment of the subject automatically becomes enormously helpful.

It's somewhere in between a readable review of the science, and a well structured self help book. In terms of the order of the chapters, there are a few fairl
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Alex Kenjeev
I'm now reading this for the second time. It has a lot more science, and a lot less self-help nonsense, than you might expect. And yes, it is OK to admit to reading it -- nobody's perfect when it comes to willpower!

Here's a sampling of what I learned from Dr. McGonigal's book.

1. Willpower is centered in a specific region of the brain (within the prefrontal cortex). It uses more energy than almost any other brain region, and therefore it gets tired after prolonged use each day. It's also like a
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Rift Vegan
I thought I had promised myself: No more self-help books about procrastination. Unfortunately, when it comes to books, I have no willpower! haha! Fortunately, this book is totally different from all those other worthless books I've read. There are lots of interesting scientific experiments, mostly on humans (except the one rat study was terrible and I really wish it wasn't stuck in my brain :( ). The book starts out with very basic advice, eat better, get better sleep, get some exercise and star ...more
Mark
I think it's indisputable that the ultimate measure of the worth of a self-help book is... whether it helped. This book did not help me. If I'd hoped to acquire a great deal of rudimentary knowledge of psychology, neurophysiology, cognitive science, and the mechanics of meditation that I didn't already have -- then this book would have been an epic fail, because I already knew all of that, and knowing it had never in any imaginable way helped me before. If I'd been woefully and spectacularly ign ...more
Grumpus
Meh. I enjoyed the science most but the majority of this information seemed intuitive to me. Still, I can see how this could be helpful to those whom need a boost in the willpower department. I was looking for a little more as I begin an exercise program as a New Year's resolution. Fortunately (and a little surprisingly), my willpower and desire to succeed has thus far been strong.
Mario Tomic
Very insightful and interesting content. Decided to listen to the audio book which normally I don't find very easy to focus on but with this one I didn't have any problems. Although I was already familiar with some of the concepts mentioned here still learned a lot especially on understanding how one can strengthen will power. Definitely check out this book if you're interested to find out why our mind craves so many things that are unhealthy in the long run.
Mohammed H
Thank you for taking the time to read my review

I believe we all have willpower, some of us rely on it and make it stronger some of us don't know how! Its crazy to think of it as a muscle! But thats what it really is! This book looks at willpower from a scientific point of view and how it evolved with our brains. It shows you ways of strengthening your willpower. It also shows you how your brain plays tricks on you to make you do things you don't necessarily want to do. If you cannot complete a d
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Daniel Ionson
I'm combining the reviews for both the Baumeister/Tierney and McGonigal books into one because they are so similar (and both even reference each other).

These were both important books for me. I detest "self-help" books for their fluff, but (like the rest of us) need external help to evolve. So, these were the perfect mix of reliable, empirical data and practical application for the strengthening of my own willpower.

(I've pasted this from my website, which focuses on writers, but the principles
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Deb
**Putting down the book presented a willpower challenge**

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-sent, and it's just that good. You'l
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Nathan
Ok, I admit it. I am not going to be able to do this book justice: I read it in one of those ghastly self-destructive reading binges that find me struggling to keep my eyelids open at midnight, knowing that I'm going to be fucked for the morning, but driven on to turn the pages (even as I take Big Blinks) and extract every last nugget from the book. You probably won't experience this book in quite the same way, so I won't pretend that my experience is predictive of yours. (Unless you are a narco ...more
Russ
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 ho
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Michael Hughes
2.5

I cautiously recommend this book on the basis of its evidence-based advice for everyday failures of willpower, but it's hurt by an ingratiating, chummy prose style that I found condescending. I appreciate McGonigal's attempt to write a fun and approachable book, especially given the serious willpower challenges that some of her readers might have. But her breeziness evinces a lack of faith in the material, which is inherently interesting. Every page seems to feature a parenthetical nudge in t
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Laura
This book was very helpful for me. It helped me to get off of every kind of sweetener, which for a former junk food junkie was no snap, and also reinforced a current goal to start and maintain a meditation program. She uses numerous studies and real-world cases to illustrate her points and methods. There is a lot to be gained here. If you're interested in either starting or stopping any kind of behavior, this book is well worth your time.

Note: The Audible audio performance didn't blow me away,
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Prabhat
Ok...please ignore the most embarrassing cover of this edition. Not at all as cheesy as it sounds. McGonigal is funny, but packs some serious insights. If you're a long time WP challenged (but hate to admit you need help), get a copy. Don't tell anybody, but do experiment as the book says! Who knows - you may really help yourself!
زينب
هذا الكتاب يجب أن يقرأه الجميع فقد يكون سببا في تغيير حياتك. إنه ليس كتابا من كتب ا التنمية البشرية التي لا تعتمد على أي أدلة بل على علوم مزيفة، وكل ما فيه مستند لبحوث علمية رصينة. الكتاب عملي ومقسم لتسعة فصول تمثل تسعة أسابيع وتعطيك الكاتبة تمارينا عملية لكل أسبوع.
القراءة كانت شيقة وخفيف
انصح بقراءته بشدة
André Bueno
Excellent book. Filled with tons of knowledge.

*Still need to edit these notes but here's the raw version:

NOTES*
INTRODUCTION
This book is based on a Stanford class
People cite lack of Willpower (WP) as one of the number one things holding them back
The best way to improve self control (SC) is to see/understand why you lose control
Being overly optimistic is bad because you cannot objectively judge your own flaws and predict times of difficulty
True/Honest self knowledge is the foundation of good self
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Nicholas
Three Reasons to Read The WillPower Instinct

The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal is a fabulous primer for turning current research in neuroscience and behavioral psychology into practical changes to increase one's self-control. It's really well done and you should read it. Here's why.

REASON ONE: It is an excellent example of popular writing from current research.

The Willpower Instinct is excellent popular writing about contemporary research. What I mean by this is that the prose is clear,
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Michael Foley
TERRIFIC ADVICE. I am a serial resolution maker and breaker so this book really spoke to me in a lasting way. Throughout this book I had a recurring thought that the author has been listening to my thoughts for the past 20 years because the scenarios were so eerily spot-on.

I have been employing the mechanisms taught by the author and I've never felt more in-control and calm about my decision making. I learned things like how I lie to myself and why those lies are so darn convincing. Most importa
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John Martindale
I typed 6 pages of reflections concerning the material presented in this fascinating book. I thought about trying to abridge what I wrote and shorten it into a lengthy review, but... sigh... I gave up. So yeah, I'll just write a brief blurb.
I have lots of experience trying resist, escape and flee temptation and yeah, I also have given in countless times. A lack of self-control has been my Achilles heel and if a genie came out of a bottle, an infinite unfailing source of will-power would likely
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Joseph McBee
I really enjoyed this FASCINATING book.

Who among us has never struggled with a lack of self-control? Whether it is in the area of diet and exercise, or getting rid of harmful habits, we have all wrestled with our ability to stop doing something we know is bad for us, or start doing something that is good. All of us are thrashing about in the waters of frustration in our personal and professional lives because we just don't have the willpower to get "it" done.

That's where McGonigal's book comes i
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Morgan Blackledge
Lately, it has become very fashionable (particularly for neuro-sceensters) to bash the the outdated notion of free will. And for good reason. That shit is a fairy tale. It just plain doesn't exist. At least the hokey ol' folk psychology notion of "uncaused" behavior a.k.a. contra-causal free will. a.k.a. classical dualistic free will i.e. the belief that there is a component (call it a soul or what ever) to human behavior that is something more than the unavoidable consequences of the genetic an ...more
sleeps9hours
Good little book with recent research on willpower. Not a lot of surprises, but nice to peruse when thinking about changing some habits.

p. 50 Relaxing—-even for just a few minutes--increases heart rate variability by activating the parasympathetic nervous system and quieting the sympathetic nervous system. It also shifts the body into a state of repair and healing, enhancing your immune function and lowering stress hormones. Studies show that taking time for relaxation every day can protect your
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Jennifer Shreve
To struggle with willpower is to be human, as Kelly McGonigal makes abundantly clear in this excellent book. This is a thinking person's "self-help" book; firmly rooted in science it seeks to help the reader change their ways not based on platitudes or rules, but by shedding light on the reasons we do the things we do and how to use our natural way of being to a different, better result. As a yogi and sometimes practicing Buddhist, I was struck by how much of the advice aligned with mindfulness ...more
Afnan Aldimasi
I wish this was(is) taught at school, at least as a simpler version of the book(course). The book brings up so many self-control experiments that very well explain and support the self-control theories. The author writes a lot of how her students have dealt with their willpower challenges. She also provides a variety of practical (experiments) that the reader(student) could apply to their own challenge.

This book has fascinated me really, and I couldn't stop talking about what I've been learning
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Michelle
I must be the only person in the world who thought this was a terrible read. Seriously, I made it through only halfway (after several months) before I threw in the towel. The insights don't seem profound, and the voice is grating. But it seems most everyone who has read this got a lot out of it, so perhaps I should just chalk up my inability to follow this through to the bitter end to a lack of willpower. Ba dum swish!
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Kelly McGonigal, PhD, is a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University, an award-winning science journalist, and a leading expert on the mind-body relationship. Her teaching and writing focus on the applications of psychological science to personal health and happiness, as well as public policy and social change.

She is the author of The Upside of Stress (Penguin Random House/Avery 201
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More about Kelly McGonigal...
Yoga for Pain Relief: Simple Practices to Calm Your Mind and Heal Your Chronic Pain The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It The Neuroscience of Change: A Compassion-Based Program for Personal Transformation Maximum Willpower Yoga Sparks: 108 Easy Practices for Stress Relief in a Minute or Less

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“The biggest enemies of willpower: temptation, self-criticism, and stress. (...) these three skills —self-awareness, self-care, and remembering what matter most— are the foundation for self-control.” 43 likes
“The is a secret for greater self-control, the science points to one thing: the power of paying attention.” 16 likes
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