The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal is aimed at readers that want to reduce stress in their lives and create positive changes. Throughout the book, the chapters explain why Willpower is important and how important the power of self-control is. In some chapters, mini-experiments to try and challenge yourself were included. Also included in the chapters was something called “Under the Microscope” which were short paragraphs with questions and statements on how to fix the negative habits in one’s everyday life. The book provides readers with new ideas and tips to find that underlying willpower.
One of the chapters I found interesting was Chapter 2, “The Willpower Instinct: Your Body Was Born to Resist Cheesecake”. This is all about how your brain and body feel when it comes to self-control. The chapter’s main points discuss the well-known fight or flight response and pause and plan. Fight or flight in any situation really can really save you. It decides what you are going to do with your energy and how you will act on it. At first, I was wondering how in the world this relates to cheesecake, but after reading through it makes sense. The neurotransmitter in your brain draws attention to that specific thing, in this case, cheesecake. Your brain then wants you to act on it and make a decision. Here is where self-control comes into play, you can make a few decisions. You can say no to the cheesecake, maybe if you were on a diet or you can say yes to the cheesecake as a treat for dieting. It is all about the approach you take to self-control. The experiment that is quite relatable now is “The Five-Minute Green Willpower Fill-up”. This experiment discusses how just five minutes of some type of exercise can boost self-control, decrease stress, and even improve your mood. Something as easy as going for a walk to get some fresh air is really important now since we have been in quarantine.
One of the chapters that I found interesting was Chapter 3, “Too Tired to Resist: Why Self-Control is Like a Muscle”. This chapter discusses how if an individual is exhausted they are more likely to not resist temptation. The biggest point made in this chapter is how one’s Willpower can drain in the day but it depends on the person when their willpower drains. For me, I think my willpower is drained later in the day, after doing assignments all day and exercising. I would say around dinner time, I feel tired and I am ready to relax. There were also willpower experiments to try in this chapter, the first one was the “willpower diet”. This is the idea that your energy will last longer if you have consumed healthy foods. I can definitely agree with this because I know if I eat healthy foods throughout the day I feel like I have energy, however, if I had take-out or something I will feel drained after eating. The next experiment was the “willpower workout”. This experiment challenges you to strengthen that “I will” or “I won’t” of doing things. I actually tried this one out myself, one of them in the “I will” power was recycling items or throwing away things you don’t need. Every day I have been organizing a little bit each day in my room since I moved back home.
Another chapter I enjoyed reading was Chapter 5, “The Brain’s Big Lie: Why We Mistake Wanting for Happiness”. This chapter really emphasizes dopamine and the reward system in your brain. It talks about how some things make your brain react in certain ways. A section in the chapter shares a story of a woman who was procrastinating cleaning a room in her house because of all the clutter and how overwhelmed it made her feel. After the woman read a study about how scents can change your behavior, around Christmas time she had finally decluttered. It took her some time, but since she was in the holiday spirit it had brought her motivation up more. I can relate to this since moving back home to PA, I felt like I wasn’t as organized with my assignments for school as I usually would be. I have a scented lotion that is supposed to make you feel more focused, so I find when I use that I feel more in tune with my assignments and I feel the need to get more organized. Lastly, one of the willpower experiments I found interesting in this chapter was the “Dopaminize your “I will” power challenge”. This challenges you to motivate yourself to get the dopamine in your brain flowing, for example when at school instead of going to the library to do school work I would have a change of scenery and go to Starbucks or somewhere where I could get my work done. I found that it will help me more.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I found that I already do some of these activities to help with stress or lack of self-control. I really enjoyed reading through the experiments and even telling my friends these things to try if they don’t feel motivated, especially now. I wouldn’t really change anything about this book, it was pretty clear and easy to understand. I thought the chapters flowed well together and it was definitely relatable to readers. I will definitely be looking for more books like this to understand motivation and self-control.