Reads: The Willpower Instinct

Well well well, here we are at the starting line to another year. 2013 is here, and once again I find myself surrounded by a flood of social media postings declaring goals and resolutions for the coming year. It’s great to have goals, and though the idea of a “New Year Resolution” can seem a little cliche, sometimes it’s the motivation one needs to actually put an idea on paper and at least try to make it happen.

Now for the ugly truth. Putting a goal down on paper (or on Facebook) is the easy part. Making it happen is where many fall by the wayside. It’s exciting to have something to strive for.. to see that note scrawled on your whiteboard, or to see the deadline for your goal marked in bolt font on your calendar, but how do you reach that point? In her new book, The Willpower Instinct – How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It, Kelly McGonigal explores that very idea. Kelly breaks down the scientific facts behind human impulses and indulgences, and why the desire to resist them and actually resisting them are two very different things.

The obvious example to use when discussing willpower would be the attempt to eat healthy and/or lose weight. It’s by far the most common New Year’s resolution. We all want to have healthy and fit bodies, so why is it so difficult to achieve? The Willpower Instinct describes self-control as a muscle. If you want it to get stronger, you have to work it out. Giving into temptation time and time again is akin to sitting on the couch eating cookies when you want to get yourself into shape. You don’t exercise your muscles because it’s easier to sit on the couch, and as a result, you never get any stronger. Eating the cookie is easier because it is the more pleasant choice than eating the raw carrot sticks. But the more you choose the carrot sticks, the more you choose to go outside and jog instead of sitting on the couch, the stronger your willpower and self-control become.

I appreciated the format of this book. Each book covers a concise topic with an easy to reference summary at the conclusion of each chapter. Load it up with post-it notes or page markers for easy reference as you strive to become stronger, overcome your temptations, and be in better control of your mind.

I reviewed The Willpower Instinct as part of my membership in the BlogHer Book club. All opinions are my own. Click here to see what other book club members are saying!

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