Book Review: The Willpower Instinct

When BlogHer proposed the book The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal (who is, by the way, a Professor. How Harry Potterish!) for their book club, I had to snort. I have no instinct for willpower. None. I did achieve two of my little resolutions for last year, but they were teensy and not very life-changing. The big ones like losing weight, not being a procrastinator, not spending so much money blah, blah, blah continue to mock me. I’m a flop. I could learn a thing or ten about improving my willpower.

So what does Professor McGonigal have to say? Quite a lot. And it’s really good. Here you’ll find your excuses totally busted (“I’ll be really good tomorrow” is my personal favorite). But this book isn’t about silly platitudes and moronic suggestions like, “imagine what you’ll look like when you lose that 30 pounds!” ┬áIt’s backed up by science and facts. It’s also well written (Kelly McGonigal has a nice sense of humor, it turns out).

There are some suggestions like trying meditation for five minutes a day (initially I rolled my eyes). But there is proof and evidence of why this works. This book is about showing you why your willpower is crap and finding concrete ways to change that. It’s not new-agey and cozy; if that’s the kind of book you like, this isn’t for you. The Willpower Instinct is about getting to the bottom of your dumb ideas (and, yes, we all have dumb ideas. Which is why you need to lose weight/pay bills on time/manage your anger/stop smoking) and how to turn your thinking around. Although it’s got a scientific vibe to it, it’s really quite hopeful. For the first time in forever I feel like success is really a possibility where my goals are concerned.

This book is incredibly thought-provoking and full of ah-ha! material. It’s not the kind of thing you power though, but take in bite-sized chunks. I’ve already used several of the strategies in this book to help with my New Year’s Resolutions (which are: 1. Do an hour of creative activities every day. 2. No sugar. Eeek! 3. No fried foods. Double eeek!) It’s been nine days so far and I’m doing surprisingly well. I can only guess that the things I’m learning from The Willpower Instinct are actually working.

Honestly, I can’t think of a single person who wouldn’t benefit from this book. I find myself talking about it to everyone I meet. I sound like some sort of willpower missionary! Cheesy, but there is a lot of powerful information in The Willpower Instinct. I highly recommend it. If you’d like to join in BlogHer’s discussion of the book just click over here.


I was compensated by BlogHer for this review but the opinions in here are truly my own. You guys know I don’t like bossy people telling me what to say.

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4 thoughts on “Book Review: The Willpower Instinct

  1. I may be a procrastinator extraordinaire (my Christmas decorations are still out, ahem) but I didn’t waste any time in reserving this book at the library. Sounds like something I NEED! Thanks for the tip.

  2. I can honestly say I have fantastic will-power. At least when I make my mind up. The trouble is, I have to REALLY make my mind up. Somtimes I just choose not to. (That’s not one of the excuses in her book, is it??)

  3. This sounds excellent. I’m not usually a huge proponent of willpower per se, but this seems like a different approach. I’m going to have to check it out.

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