Thursday, January 10, 2013

Weekend Reading: The Willpower Instinct

The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal

This is a very appropriate book to kick of 2013.  Since so many people start off the year with lofty resolutions that seem to peter off, it behoooves us to take a look at the notion of willpower and see if we can harness a little bit more and actually meet those resolutions.

Personally, I went into this book a bit skeptical but also intrigued.  Since I'm the type of person who hates feeling out of control but still frequently gives into temptation, I was not really convinced that this book would do anything for me.  I pleased to report that I was pleasantly surprised.  I'm certainly no saint for having read this book, but putting into practice some of the ideas may actually work.  Unfortunately, it's too soon to tell, but I'll keep you posted.

Best takeaways:

  • Willpower is controlled by the prefrontal cortex region of the brain, so everyone has willpower, but some are better at tapping into it than others.
  • When people encounter sugary snacks, the reason the treats are so hard to resist is because our blood sugar actually drops in anticipation of eating the snack.  This is so that if we do actually eat it, we don't go into a sugar coma, but it actually makes resisting that much harder.  It's true!  It's not (as much) your fault!
  • Willpower and self-control are finite, and you can run out, but you can also exercise your self-control muscle and gain better willpower endurance.  Meditation apparently helps in this regard, and the more skeptical you are about meditation, the better the result (though I still don't really want to try it out, but I might).
  • When we are 'good' and recognize that we're good, we give ourselves much more permission to be bad.  Studies have even shown that thinking about giving money to charity--not even actually doing it increased desire to buy something extravagant.  Thankfully, by knowing this and thinking about it, we can quell those urges and get back on track.
Overall, I'm glad I read this book.  I don't typically read books that seem like self help, but this is much more rooted in science, which makes it feel less like self help and more just like logic.  This is not a book to just sit down and plow though.  Even the author says that you should read one chapter at a time and try the techniques mentioned before going onto the next one.  So I'm going to sit down with it again and try that out--I'll keep you posted.

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

1 comment:

  1. hey nice post meh, I love your style of blogging here. this post reminded me of an equally interesting post that I read some time ago on Daniel Uyi's blog: Improve Your Willpower .
    keep up the good work friend. I will be back to read more of your posts.