The Willpower Instinct: How Self Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It.
This book had me at the title. I love the field of health psychology and I love a good scientific explanation for things. Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist who teaches a course on willpower at Stanford University, does a fantastic job of laying out our “I will”, “I want”, and “I won’t” powers – clever and catchy, right?!
Perfectly suited for the new year and everyone hoping to keep their resolutions and meet their goals for the year, I highly recommend this book. Designed to be read over at least 10 weeks, the book challenges you to pick ONE of your willpower challenges to focus on, such as losing weight, being a better spouse, checking your email or phone less often, or quitting smoking. If you want to focus on more than one thing, go through the book again, but only do one at a time. This makes sense to me – divided focus is really no focus at all.
McGonigal recommends reading the book through completely if you don’t have 10 weeks to do it without worrying much about implementing the strategies. Since I had less than 10 weeks from receiving the book to when I was going to write this review, I took that approach. Reading it straight through gives you lots to think about, and got me excited about going through it more slowly with a specific challenge in mind.
This book is full of information on how, why, and when our willpower fails but also stresses that we ALL have the natural ability to exercise willpower. It encourages healthy living habits like exercise, getting enough sleep, and meditation, as increased health, energy, and focus means increased willpower – it’s good to know science supports things like this. It has a lot of the same information I learned in a health psychology class last year, a class which also involved a project with similar attention to regular relaxation sessions and deep breathing – I was sceptical at first, I admit, but I’m a believer now. After minimal practice, I can now lower my heart rate, increase blood flow enough to warm up my usually cold hands and feet, and relieve long-standing muscle tension, all in about 10 minutes. This stuff really works.
While the book is casual and relaxed in its writing style and approach, it also requires commitment and action if you want to see results, with regular challenges and tasks to complete to improve your willpower. While I personally take issue with some of the evolutionary “facts” about our instincts and how they developed, and while I believe no change can be made and maintained purely of our own strength, this book made many excellent points and I’m looking forward to working through the tasks and (hopefully) coming out at the end of 10 weeks as a more patient parent, my first and most important willpower challenge.
Then it will be on to a new challenge, since there are really no shortage of things I need to work on…what would you pick to focus on first?
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*Disclosure: This book review is a sponsored post done as part of the BlogHer Book Club reviewer program. I received compensation for this post and received this book from the publisher. As always, all opinions expressed are entirely my own.