The Willpower Instinct

” **** out of four.” – USA Today Book Review

The Willpower Instinct is a new kind of self-help book. Using science to explain the why and strategies for the how, McGonigal has created a must-read for anyone who wants to change how they live in both small and big ways.” - Book Page

“A fun and readable survey of the field, bringing willpower wisdom out of the labs.” – TIME magazine

The Willpower Instinct combines the braininess of a Malcolm Gladwell bestseller with the actual helpfulness of an Idiots’ Guide to not being lazy.

If you are trying to lose weight, train for an athletic event, become more successful at work, rid yourself of toxic habits…heck, if you’re HUMAN, you need to read this book.” – Library Thing

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Articles/Book Excerpts

Bad Habits? My Future Self Will Deal With That. New York Times February 24 2012. The problem, said Kelly McGonigal, author of the “The Willpower Instinct” (Avery, 2011) and a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University, is that there is a disconnect between how we think of ourselves now and how we think of ourselves in the future.

Lent and the Science of Self-Denial. February 23 2012. “Both exercise and meditation lead to greater neuron density in the prefrontal cortex,” says Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist at Stanford University and author of the new book The Willpower Instinct. It’s in that region that executive skills such as impulse control and judgment live — making it a very good place to be adding neuronal connections.

Revive Your New Year’s Resolutions. Parade Magazine February 19 2012. Willpower is not the brute strength to resist temptation, but “the ability to do what you really want to do when part of you ­really doesn’t want to do it,” says Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist at Stanford University and the author of The Willpower Instinct. “It’s remembering what you really want, your bigger goals, in the face of your immediate desires.” And it’s a skill you can strengthen.

You Say You Made a Resolution New York Times January 8 2012. While there were no self-announcing resolution-makers in the crowd the other night, there was — by coincidence — a Stanford University psychologist, Kelly McGonigal, celebrating the publication of “The Willpower Instinct,” her scientific study on the nature of self-control.

Control Freak Out Elle Magazine December 2011. The basic problem, McGonigal ­argues, is getting your goals tangled up with vice and virtue. Moral ­licensing “convinces us that self-­sabotaging behavior—whether breaking your diet, blowing your budget, or sneaking a smoke—is a ‘treat,’ ” ­McGonigal writes. “It’s an incredibly powerful trick of the mind.” Indeed, the treat seems more like a trick when the credit-card bill comes or the extra pounds pack on.

How Willpower Works Boston Globe November 2011. While we all give in to sinful urges on occasion, berating or shaming ourselves into getting back on course may actually be counterproductive, said McGonigal, leading to more slip-ups down the road. “If we want to have more willpower, we have to learn to be a friend and mentor to ourselves,’’ said McGonigal, “rather than equating self-control with self-criticism.’’

Make Over My New Year’s Resolutions O! The Oprah Magazine January 2011. To help reader Jennifer Wastrom make 2011 the year of living…resolutely, O brought in Kelly McGonigal, PhD, a psychology lecturer at Stanford University, whose courses, such as the Science of Willpower, cover tactics for personal change. She identified the shortcomings of Wastrom’s previous goals and introduced her to the finer points of successful resolution-making.

All About Willpower: Why It’s Not Enough to Say No Stanford Magazine October 2011. Early in Kelly McGonigal’s eight-week  course on the science of willpower, a middle-aged woman sitting in the large auditorium raised her hand and questioned whether the willpower challenges the instructor had been discussing were all that widespread. “We all get up in the morning and generally do what needs to be done. It doesn’t seem like all that many of us have a problem with willpower,” she said. To which McGonigal responded, in what sounded like playful indignation, “You are wrong!”

Supersize Your Self-Control Fitness September 2011. We all know a friend who seems immune to the siren song of cocktails, cupcakes, and canapes. Wouldn’t you like to know her secret? Shh…She’s found a new muscle to flex: her willpower. That’s right. Researchers have found that you can chisel your self-control just as you do your quads or biceps.

6 Ways to Boost Willpower U.S. News and World Report April 27 2010. Unfortunately, bad habits are really hard to break. That’s why 90 percent of us fail to keep our New Year’s Resolutions. So what can we do to increase our willpower? Actually, quite a lot, say psychologists.

Out From Under: Escaping the Burdens of Debt Stress Experience Life March 2009. The worry, distraction and shame associated with debt can take an emotional and physical toll on our health. Here’s a look at the confounding factors that make debt such an oppressive source of stress, and some tips [from Kelly McGonigal’s Science of Willpower course] on how you can break free.


Book talk at Capitola Book Cafe, 1/11/2012. Dr. McGonigal describes five strategies for keeping your New Year’s resolutions to get healthy, break a bad habit, or build a new one. Based on her course “The Science of Willpower” and upcoming book The Willpower Instinct.