The Willpower Instinct: Review

Estimated Reading Time: 1 minute, 56s.

Chocolate cake with coffee

Brief Synopsis/Review

The Willpower Instinct is, as you might have guessed, a book about willpower – that mysterious, magical stuff that helps you with self-control. I’ll put it right out there: if you want to get more willpower, you should buy this book. Throughout the book, author Kelly McGonigal dispels countless myths about willpower, and fills you in on the latest, fascinating willpower research in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, medicine, and even economics. She covers topics such as how and why willpower can be depleted, how willpower isn’t a character trait (it’s more like a muscle that gets tired with regular use), why willpower is contagious, and perhaps most valuably, how to get more of the stuff.

TWICover

The Willpower Instinct is funny, charming, full of great stories, and most importantly, it’s practical. At the end of every chapter are a few willpower exercises you can tackle at home (like being mindful of whether you use your good behaviour as an excuse to indulge), and there are also countless hacks to living a better, more productive life sprinkled throughout the book. (I’ll be writing about what I learned from the book over the next week or two.)

More willpower is something you will surely benefit from, and this book will show you how to get there.

What you’ll get out of it

  • Practical, tactical tips on how to increase your willpower reserve
  • A ton of mind hacks you can employ to get healthier and happier
  • An understanding of what willpower is, and why it’s important
  • An understanding of how you can use willpower to reach your goals

Will it make you more productive?

  • Yes, absolutely. Considering the topic, this book is very practical, and the author has a great way of bringing the subject down to earth.

Tips

  • Read only one chapter a week. I read through the entire book in a week or two (ignoring the author’s advice to read only a chapter a week), and I think I would have gotten way more out of it if I had slowed down. There’s a lot of information in this book; make sure you give your mind enough time to digest it all.
  • Actually do the exercises in the book. It’s easy to read about the exercises, think, “oh, how interesting!”, and then move on to the next chapter. Completing the exercises will let you internalize all of the cool stuff in the book.

 

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My last three book reviews: Linchpin; Mindset; RAPT. (I guess I’m a fan of one-word book titles…)
  • Ellen Symons

    Your review makes me want to read the book! Good point about having to do the exercises: I tend to read and move on, not take the time to practice. I’m reading a book right now where the author says, if you don’t do the exercises in the book, it’s like reading the restaurant menu instead of actually eating the food. You won’t absorb any of it, and you won’t make any changes.

    • I love that analogy! I think that works for a lot of things, like this site for example. Productivity porn is addictive, but absolutely meaningless unless you act on the things you learn. I think that’s a trap that’s easy to fall into: reading about changes that could make your life better, then feeling better about yourself without actually doing anything different. Well, it’s a trap I fall into at least!

  • Your review makes me want to read the book! Good point about having to do the exercises: I tend to read and move on, not take the time to practice. I’m reading a book right now where the author says, if you don’t do the exercises in the book, it’s like reading the restaurant menu instead of actually eating the food. You won’t absorb any of it, and you won’t make any changes.

    • I love that analogy! I think that works for a lot of things, like this site for example. Productivity porn is addictive, but absolutely meaningless unless you act on the things you learn. I think that’s a trap that’s easy to fall into: reading about changes that could make your life better, then feeling better about yourself without actually doing anything different. Well, it’s a trap I fall into at least!

  • Jon Krop

    Have you read Roy Baumeister’s “Willpower”? (He’s the main researcher, I think, behind the interesting “willpower is a finite resource” findings that underlie most of these recent discussions of willpower.) If so, do you think this book offers enough that’s different to be worth a read if you’ve already read Baumeister’s book?

    • Hiya Jon – I haven’t read Baumeister’s book, but I’d go out on a whim and say that this book approaches the topic from a different angle. McGonigal covers the basics of willpower, but she also dives into a number of interesting ancillary topics, like how we mistake wanting for happiness, the economics of instant gratification, and how willpower is contagious. It’s hard to give a definitive answer without having read Baumeister’s book, but I’d wager a bit and say that The Willpower Instinct is a bit, though not entirely, different. Hope that helps!

      • Jon Krop

        Definitely does — thanks!

  • Jon Krop

    Have you read Roy Baumeister’s “Willpower”? (He’s the main researcher, I think, behind the interesting “willpower is a finite resource” findings that underlie most of these recent discussions of willpower.) If so, do you think this book offers enough that’s different to be worth a read if you’ve already read Baumeister’s book?

    • Hiya Jon – I haven’t read Baumeister’s book, but I’d go out on a whim and say that this book approaches the topic from a different angle. McGonigal covers the basics of willpower, but she also dives into a number of interesting ancillary topics, like how we mistake wanting for happiness, the economics of instant gratification, and how willpower is contagious. It’s hard to give a definitive answer without having read Baumeister’s book, but I’d wager a bit and say that The Willpower Instinct is a bit, though not entirely, different. Hope that helps!

      • Jon Krop

        Definitely does — thanks!

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