BlogHer, book, book club, book review, willpower

{book review} The Willpower Instinct

I am no stranger to willpower – or the lack of willpower. I’m sure we can all agree that willpower is strongest when things are going well, when you are in control of your environment. When we lack control – or when stress prevails – the willpower goes out the window. We don’t often think about the fact that there is science behind willpower. The Willpower Instinct was a wonderful insight into something I – and many of us – struggle with.




In her book, Kelly McGonigal,Ph. D., explains that willpower is actually three powers… “I will” power, “I won’t” power, and “I want” power. “I will” and “I won’t” power are the two sides of self-control, but they don’t alone constitute willpower. To say no when you need to say no, and yes when you need to say yes, you need a third power: the ability to remember what you really want.

I really enjoyed this book. Admittedly, I do not read self-help books on a regular basis. With The Willpower Instinct, I liked the layout, the explanation of each topic, and the summary at the end of each chapter. This book could absolutely be a great reference tool as you encounter difficult situations where you may struggle with willpower.

Other topics you will learn in The Willpower Instinct:

  • Willpower is not an unlimited resource. You only have so much of it, and too much self control can actually be bad for your health.
  • Willpower is a biological function that can be controlled through mindfulness, better sleep, and even what we eat.
  • Guilt and self-criticism undermine willpower, but self compassion improves willpower.
  • Giving up control is sometimes the only way to gain self-control.
  • Willpower is contagious – you can catch temptation from your friends, but you can also catch self-control from the right role models.

While my struggles with willpower generally revolve around weight loss and emotional eating, everyone has a different struggle. Money, spending, smoking, drinking, infidelity, and more. Willpower may seem very complicated, but it boils down to a simple question when you are faced with it. If you are trying to lose weight and someone offers you a slice of cheesecake, it is your choice whether or not to have it. Sure it will taste amazing, but will you feel guilty afterwards? Do you need it? And then you remember that as good as it tastes, it will never feel as great as seeing the numbers go down on the scale. You have the power to choose.

A favorite thought of mine in the book is:

Sometimes our strongest motivation is not what we think it is, or think it should be. If you’re trying to change a behavior to please someone else or be the right kind of person, see if there is another “want” that holds more power for you.

For me, my struggles with weight loss are not always about the numbers on the scale. Sometimes thinking about what the scale will say is not always the motivation I need to avoid a dessert I shouldn’t have. But if I focus on how I will feel better in my clothes, it brings on a whole new side to my goals.

If you are interested in reading more, I highly recommend this book. You can also read more about it on the BlogHer Book Club page and participate in discussions about the book.

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

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