Written by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., the book shares insights about self-control and was based on a class taught at Stanford University called "The Science of Willpower." Since I've already set some goals of my own for the new year... and already faced a few challenges in meeting those goals... I found this a very easy read.
The author takes a concept that all of us are familiar with - willpower - and explains successes and failures with science. With discourses on how desire, stress, happiness, cravings, pride and many more emotional responses affect our ability to control our willpower, the author breaks down the body's physical response to these emotional triggers and shows why they challenge your ability to meet your goals.
Taking the conversation a step further, the author asks us to perform “Willpower Experiments” that are meant to help the reader understand our response to certain stimuli and then change our behavior to strengthen our ability to withstand the temptation. One of these approaches is to set a 'daily rule' about what would constitute success toward a certain goal. For instance, one student didn't eat meat until 6 p.m., but then he had 'permission' to eat what he wanted for dinner. This solved his previous behavior issue of 'falling off the wagon' at breakfast and then feeling as if he had already blown the goal for the day. As the author said,
"Using a daily rule also helps you see through the illusion that what you do tomorrow will be totally different from what you do today."The book has many lighthearted interjections about our ancestors’ flight response in the face of a saber tooth tiger or our addictions to today’s technologies and, while it makes the reading more enjoyable, I felt like it took away from the ‘science’ that was supposed to be the focus of the book. Still, I found the book really interesting and have already passed it on to a coworker!
You can learn more about The Willpower Instinct and participate in the discussions about your own willpower challenges through conversations at BlogHer.