Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Logan Avena // Book Report

Logan Avena
Book Report
The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal
The Willpower Instinct is a novel by Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist and health educator for the School of Medicine’s Health Improvement Program. The Willpower Instinct aims to tackle the misconceptions about willpower in order to stop self-sabotage. She hopes to give sound advice for how to improve your live physically and mentally. The layout of a chapter is that she will discuss a misconception about an aspect of willpower, then gives advice and examples on how to tackle it correctly. Each chapter also includes “willpower experiments” that causes the reader to answer thought provoking questions and do challenges that change their way of thinking. Overall, this novel covers topics like food cravings, finances, happiness, failure, and more.
An interesting topic is addressed in chapter 2, which ranges from pages 30 to 54. This chapter is titled, “The Willpower Instinct: Your Body Was Born to Resist Cheesecake”, and covers the biological instinct involved in willpower. McGonigal discusses craving and self-control, giving the example that while a cheesecake could derail your calorie goals, you are the one to pick up the fork and eat it. We have a natural self-monitoring system that makes us pause before making decisions based on craving. She also describes that everyone has a different “willpower reserve”, which is the amount of willpower you are able to use when resisting temptation. This explains how some people easily ignore junk food while others suffer with binge eating. One of the willpower experiments given in this chapter is to help restore your willpower reserve by lying down, breathing deeply, and allowing relaxation to kick in when you are stressed from temptations.
Lie #4: Willpower is Always on Will-Call - One Step at a Time Blog ...
 Another important topic is discussed in chapter 3, which ranges from pages 55 to 80. It is titled, “Too Tired to Resist: Why Self-Control is Like a Muscle”, and covers the highs and lows of willpower and how to push past feelings of exhaustion. McGonigal explains how using too much willpower will drain it to the point that we do something impulsive. Instead, self-control should be exercised like a muscle, meaning that creating small, consistent self-control goals can help strengthen your self-control muscle. It is also important to strength both the “wants” and “won’ts” self-controls. She also asserts that exhaustion when exercising might not be actually exhaustion, but instead the brain playing tricks in order to prevent exhaustion. If this is true, we are able to actually push past these feelings of exhaustion and keep pursuing goals. A willpower experiment given in this chapter is to track something you normally do not in order to strengthen your self-control muscle.
In addition to food and exercise, McGonigal tackles happiness in chapter 5, which ranges from pages 107 to 133. Food, exercise, and happiness are probably what most people are looking for advice about in self-help style books, so I thought it was important to include these three chapters. This chapter explains how we think that getting certain rewards will guarantee happiness, often leading to disappointment. The pleasure centers of our brains seem to gravitate towards wanting things so intensely that it is hard to say no. And with a modern world of instant gratification, this desire for rewards becomes almost like an addiction. The author explains that it is important to slow down and be a “detective” to see through false allusions of rewards equally happiness. This mindfulness is the key to cutting back on instant gratification seeking. One willpower experiment is to mindfully indulge in something you believe will make you happy, such as online shopping, and ask yourself if you truly feel happy afterwards.
I personally enjoyed reading this novel and I am glad I chose it for this project. The novel is fairly easy to read and gives plenty of real-world examples. The chapters covering food, exercise, and happiness were particularly motivating to me. Trying out some of the willpower experiments was also a huge plus, as I was able to apply the advice to my own life. One thing I disliked about the novel is that some of the chapters seemed a little redundant. For example, she mentioned instant gratification in multiple chapters. It felt like some of them could have been combined to make a more succinct novel. Overall, I would recommend this novel to anyone looking for advice in any areas regarding willpower.

Works Cited
McGonigal, Kelly. The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. Avery, 2013.

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