The Science Behind Willpower

We all have that tiny list of books that change who we are and how we function.  From Omnivore’s Dilemma to It Starts With Food, Class Matters to Nickel and Dimed, I have a small little section on my bookshelves devoted to these game changers.

The Willpower Instinct now resides with these honored books.

the willpower instinct review

Dr. Kelly McGonigal (she won points just for her last name) has taken her acclaimed class “The Science of Willpower” and put in print for all of us unable to visit Stanford University.

Did you even know there was a science behind willpower?  Did you know your biology plays enormous role in willpower?

From the opening pages I was hooked.  McGonigal has an ease with words that is difficult to find in science writers and I flew through this book like it was a paranormal romance.

The Willpower Instinct takes us back to the beginning of willpower, its evolutionary basis and the challenges it presents in modern times (when we are not running from massive sabertooth cats).

As I spent the month of December struggling with unhealthy eating choices and a serious addiction to sugar, The Willpower Instinct helped me understand where my cravings were coming from, why I had difficulty ignoring them, and why I often caved with a “to hell with it” attitude.

The book also gave me chapters and chapters of hints and tips for building my willpower muscles.  From daily willpower exercises, deep breathing, meditation, to the fishbowl technique, I now feel like I have the arsenal necessary to beat my cravings and addictions.

So how have I used the tools in the book?

I have daily willpower traps set up at my desk, where I will most likely cave.  Two Hershey’s kisses that cannot be eaten no matter what.

I have attempted to meditate several times a week, as well as add deep breathing exercises throughout my day.

And I have implemented the fishbowl, successfully used by AA groups.

I have a glass fishbowl on my night stand.  It is filled with 30 pieces of paper.  Most of those papers simply have inspirational words written on them.  Others have tiny rewards like at inexpensive Kindle book or $1.  One has a “no chore day” designation.  One has the words “new workout tank”.

Each day I stay on plan I get to pull a piece of paper out of the fishbowl to get my reward.  It is amazing what I will do just for the chance at that new tank or afternoon at Smokey Row.

I am so thankful I read this book and I cannot wait to see how the next few months go as I continue to incorporate these tools into my daily life.

Be sure to join in the discussion of The Willpower Instinct at Blogher.  Tell us what your willpower challenge is.

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

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  1. says

    Interesting concept with the fishbowl.. I think that I don’t struggle with willpower, but I do know it’s all too easy to buy little things here and there that can significantly add up! Might be good to control my urge to spend and reward myself with a small item for not spending lol
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    • Jacki says

      It is really shocking to me as a 37 year-old, how excited I can be to pull something from that fishbowl. I feel like a kid again, with my fingers crossed and eyes squished shut, hoping I get the good toy in the box. But pulling out motivation words doesn’t leave me disappointed, but wanting to keep on trying.

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