I have been reading a lot about willpower and how it works lately, and I found myself very astonished because I thought that it was something easier to control if you have… well, if you have enough willpower to control it 😉

the willpower instinct by kelly mcgonigalI loved the approach of this book – it has been written by a psychologist after teaching a workshop about willpower, and she decided to address this subject in the way she teaches her students: she explains one fact about willpower, bringing up scientific experiments and data, transferring them to “normal” life, and proposing some willpower exercises to test it by your own during the week. So at the end of a chapter, you are supposed to do it for a few days, and then read the next chapter. I decided to listen to the whole audiobook once, and then I started again, doing some of the exercises proposed.

I have learned a lot thanks to the audiobook. For example, I had read over a million times that meditating improves your willpower, but I think this is the first book that actually explains that that by meditating you are exercising your prefrontal cortex (the region of the brain where the willpower is “generated”), bringing more blood to that area and making it bigger. These are the kinds of things I love to learn.

By the way, I have tried meditation and I find it extremely difficult – focusing on one single thing only for five minutes. I have no idea if it is working for me (these last weeks have been specially productive but I don’t know if this is caused by other things that affect me at this moment), but what I can say is that I have vivid dreams every single night now that I do it. Isn’t it weird?

Back to the book, most of the exercises proposed are based on being aware of what you feel at every moment when it comes to your willpower threat; others try to make the challenge manageable by using some tricks when the threat comes, like thinking first about your long-term goal, because your brain doesn’t refuse easily to the first thing it comes to mind – reaching your ideal weight vs. eating those cookies right now.

There are also lots of facts that we all have experienced and see them as positive, but they aren’t! For example, the author talks about those moments when you are really down and you resolve to change and make things better, imagining yourself doing it and finally getting your big goals… This happens to be only a survival mechanism your brain uses when you need to feel better, but it doesn’t mean you are finally changing. So bad for this blogger, who daydreams all day about how things should be, but I actually do nothing about it.

Well, I could talk about this book forever, so the only thing I can do now is tell you to read it if you feel interested in the subject. You won’t get disappointed.


The willpower instinct
Kelly McGonigal
Avery (Penguin Random House)
275 pages

Non-fiction reading challenge: 3/10