The Willpower Instinct, written by Kelly McGonigal, is all about willpower. Willpower is being able to fight off temptation. It is the strength of your willpower that is able to have self-control. Kelly McGonigal breaks it into three different categories and uses science to explain each. The three different categories are “I won’t” power, “I want” power, and “I will” power. Throughout the book, she gives a lot of great information on improving self-control, breaking bad habits and choosing long term goals over instant gratification. She also includes questions or experiments to try and help your willpower.
The first chapter is the most important. It explains what the 3 categories of willpower are. The first one is the “I won’t” power. This is what you use when you are resisting something. An example of this would be resisting to eat a piece of cake if you’re on a diet or resisting the urge to go out shopping if you’re trying to save money. A question that McGonigal says to ask yourself is what habit do you have that is hurting your health, happiness or career. Whatever that habit is, you should try to use your “won’t” power as best as you can. The “I will” power is what makes you do something that might be uncomfortable but will help you reach your goal. An example of this would be going to the gym because you want to lose weight to be healthier. This might be uncomfortable for some, but it is necessary to reach your goal. The question to ask yourself here is which habit should you do everyday to reach your goal. The last power is “I want”. This is what makes you remember your long-term goal when you need it the most. This would be used when you want to give up and eat the cookie or skip the gym. This is what keeps you going. The question to ask yourself here is which of your goals do you want to spend the most time on. Out of the three, the most powerful one is the “I want” power. McGonigal explains that it is all about having a reason why waiting for the gratification is worth it.
The next chapter that I found to be important is chapter four titled, License to Sin: Why Being Good Gives Us Permission to Be Bad. This chapter is all about how being good makes us think it is ok to do something bad. An example of this would be if someone is trying to stop buying so much and save money, goes on a shopping trip and resist the urge to buy clothes or something that they didn’t need. When they get home, they decide to reward themselves with a piece of cake for doing so good resisting the urge. Maybe one of their other goals is to eat healthy but because they did one good thing, they think they deserve a reward. I found this interesting because I have found myself doing things like this in the past. It’s not something I realized I even did until reading this. McGonigal explains that even though you’ve been good, you have to focus on the consequences that one bad choice might have.
The chapter that I found the most interesting is chapter 7 which is titled, Putting the Future on Sale: The Economics of Instant Gratification. This chapter is all about how we put off our goals hoping that a future us will want to do it. I found this to be very realistic because I have done it myself. I put off what I want to do because I feel like I don’t have the willpower to complete it and hope that later in life I will have the willpower to do it. The chapter also talks about how it is hard to stick to something that might not happen for a while. This is where the instant gratification comes in. It is easier to give into something that we will get gratification from right away rather then have to wait to reach our goal. One of the experiments that McGonigal said to try was to write a letter to your future self. I feel like this could really help because once you reach the goal and reread the letter, you realize that it is something you worked hard for and should be proud of yourself. This was my favorite chapter out of the book.
I think this is a book that everyone should read. We are all human and struggle with reaching our goal. This has actually helped me reset my goals and use my willpower to achieve them. There is so much helpful information and it might inspire you to reach a goal you never thought possible. There will be times when you want to give up but now after reading this, I feel like there are so many tips to help you use your willpower and resist the urge to give up. I highly recommend this and really enjoyed it myself.