Friday Book in a Page: The Willpower Instinct

The Willpower Instinct by Kelly  McGonigal

If you are interested in the answer to how to be happier, healthier, be more successful, make more money,  live longer and have better relationships  then listening to what this psychologist has to say about willpower might be what you want to do.   This analysis will help you learn how to work your willpower like a muscle, control bad habits and concentrate on achieving long term goals.

Key Messages of the Book:

  • When exerting willpower, don’t just think of what you won’t do.  It will be easier if you have also thought about what you will do and what you want in your life.  i.e. Rather than ‘I won’t binge watch Netflix every night before bed’ you said ‘I will read an hour before bed every night because I want to be well-informed’.

What is your number one long term goal and what is keeping you from achieving it?

  • When you are distracted, you are more likely to give in to temptation.  By meditating you will gain great mind control and your willpower muscle will not become so over-taxed.
  • With reduced levels of stress, we can biologically replace our fight-or-flight reactions with a natural state of pause-and-plan-response where we re-focus instead of reacting
  • Like any muscle, the willpower muscle can be overused and exhausted.  However, you can build up your willpower muscle by regularly performing willpower challenges  - like keeping a forbidden candy jar in sight but you’re never allowed to touch it
  • Do not let your brain succumb to the reward system.  Instead, continue to stay focussed on your long term goals and making doing so attainable.  The release of dopamine with the reward system makes it a HARD system and habit to break.
  • Plan ahead of time what you are going to do to relieve stress when it inevitably arises - exercise or meditation.  At the moment we often choose ‘feel better’ dopamine releases than deplete our will power muscle - shopping, eating bad food, internet binging.
  • Set yourself up for success.  One of the tenants of Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12 step program is ‘if you don’t want to slip, don’t go where it’s slippery’.
  • The buddy system really works.  Willpower is contagious.  So even if you can’t physically be with someone whose willpower you admire, holding an image of them will help.

Focus intently on what you WANT versus what you don’t want.

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