TWO - The Willpower Instinct: Your Body Was Born to Resist Cheesecake The willpower instinct: how self-control works, why it matters, and what you can do. ONE - I Will, I Won't, I Want: What Willpower Is, and Why It Matters. TWO - The Willpower Instinct The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters. [PDF] Download The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It PDF Format Click.

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Based on Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal's wildly popular course "The Science of Willpower," The Willpower Instinct is the first book. Editorial Reviews. Review. "What a liberating book! McGonigal explains the scientific reality of .. Summary of 'The Willpower Instinct' by Kelly McGonigal Ph. D. (2 Summaries in 1: In-Depth Summary and Bonus 2-Page PDF.)site Edition. The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why it Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. Kelly McGonigal. Penguin, Reviewed by Leland.

But when both groups had to make a decision in a hypothetical hiring situation, it was paradoxically the students who disagreed with the highly sexist statements who were more likely to discriminate against female candidates than the students from the group who had agreed to the milder versions.

And the exact same pattern emerged when racist statements were used.

This is because when we feel we are being virtuous enough, we see less need to control ourselves. And this is exactly what happened in the experiment. After the students proved to themselves that they were not sexist by rejecting a statement, they then paid less attention to their actual behavior in the hiring task.

Lesson 1: There are 3 kinds of willpower.

However, this is counter-productive: giving yourself a reward which undermines your long-term goal is not a promising strategy for success. Otherwise you might find yourself nullifying your progress by allowing your self-indulgent behavior.

The Willpower Instinct Key Idea 6: When the reward system of your brain takes over, temptation becomes almost irresistible. And why do we do it again and again, despite knowing better?

So what exactly happens in the brain when you crave something? First you see or smell something you desire — and just that is enough to activate the reward system in the brain. The system releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine which activates the areas of the brain responsible for attention, motivation and action.

These dopamine releases can be triggered by anything we have associated with feeling good: a percent-off sale sign at a mall, the smell of a rib-eye steak or a vegan burger , or an attractive face smiling at you. This is why we engage in activities that seem to be irresistible at first glance, but afterward leave us feeling guilty and dissatisfied.

Our prehistoric ancestors, however, were not troubled by this reward mechanism.

In fact, being attracted to sweet things was to their advantage, as sweet fruit and berries were a crucial part of their diet. Our ancestors were also more free to pursue sexual impulses without modern-day societal constraints.

So what can you do? You can actually make this weakness your strength by combining unpleasant tasks with something that gets your dopamine firing. The Willpower Instinct Key Idea 7: Feeling bad undermines willpower by triggering cravings and high expectations. Stress is a common source of unhappiness. It can be caused by professional or personal worries, but also by external events, like bad news in the media.

Stress is one of the biggest threats to your willpower because it induces dreaded cravings. Stress makes you feel bad about yourself, which motivates you to do something to make yourself feel better. For example, losing money at the casino can make you feel so upset that you continue gambling in order to win a game — and thereby relieve the stress.

But this impulse might actually lead you to greater and greater risks, and eventually lose you a fortune.

So how can you overcome this? Instead try out stress-relief strategies that have a more sustainable effect, like exercise or meditation. These activities might involve more effort, but will leave you with a feeling of satisfaction, not guilt. When people reach a low point in their lives, like facing an enormous mortgage, they often decide to drastically change their life. For example, we might resolve to cut back all our expenses by 25 percent to get our finances back on track.

This boosts our self-confidence. However, this can backfire, for the higher we set our goal, the more difficult it is to stay on track.

the willpower instinct

Failure to meet our expectations then leads us to frustration, guilt and self-doubt, and soon we typically abandon our efforts altogether. Just forgive yourself and try again.

The Willpower Instinct Key Idea 8: When we are too focused on the present moment, we make bad long-term decisions. Do you ever overcommit yourself to responsibilities and later find yourself overwhelmed?

Do you sometimes regret your past choices when confronted with their actual costs? Both phenomena are caused by our inability to imagine the future clearly — and especially to imagine our future selves.

Our brain perceives them as strangers due to our inability to observe their thoughts and feelings. This can lead to us putting off tasks, hoping that our future-self will have more willpower to deal with them — or even worse, racking up debt and hoping our future selves will be able to pay. These hopes lead nowhere because your future-self is not different from your present self, and will also struggle when facing challenges, be it mustering the willpower to do an unpleasant task or balancing the budget.

So what can we do? A good method for becoming more familiar with your future-self is visualization: imagine your future-self thinking back on the decisions you are making today and their consequences. So what else makes us neglect our future selves? You resist the temptation to go to a bar with coworkers on Wednesday, you get through your gym workout the day after, and are highly motivated to lose those extra pounds.

So on Sunday, what do you do? This is the worst thing you could do. Some of us coach. Giving yourself a reward that drives you away from your long-term goal is counter-productive and not a good strategy to win. The message is to be aware of your attitude, because when you do well, you get lazy.

Dividing willpower into the 3 kinds has been an eye-opener and game changer for me.


Where Spartan Up calls you to take action and leave your comfort zone, this will prepare you for it. Highly recommended summary! Readers will learn: People who have better control of their attention, emotions, and actions are healthier, happier, have more satisfying relationships, and make more money. Also by Kelly McGonigal. See all books by Kelly McGonigal. Product Details.

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We are experiencing technical difficulties. Please try again later.And this is exactly what happened in the experiment. Some ways to stock up your willpower to the maximum are: Meditating for as little as 11 hours over several sessions.

The Willpower Instinct

So what makes you able to exert self-control in these situations? So why does overusing your willpower cause you to run out of it? This state is called the pause-and-plan response, and as its name suggests, it is very different from the fight-or-flight response: While the fight-or-flight response heightens your awareness of an external threat and increases your speed to avoid the tiger , the pause-and-plan response shifts your focus to the internal conflict between your rational and impulsive selves, and slows you down to help control your impulse to avoid the cookie.

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