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The Willpower Instinct Summary – June 2022

Author: Kelly McGonigal

Short Summary
The Willpower Instinct (2011) offers an introduction to the field of self-control and then goes on to break down willpower into three categories:

Part 1: The Biology of Self Control
Part 2: Developing Discipline
Part 3: Putting It All Together

If you are already familiar with the basics of self-control and willpower, you can jump right into Part 2.

Part 3 provides several specific “tools” you can use to improve all three types of willpower.
the willpower instinct
Source: amazon.com

Detailed Summary

The Willpower Instinct is a self-help book by Kelly McGonigal, one of the leading experts on willpower. The book is easy to follow, making it easy to apply what you learn. McGonigal breaks down willpower into three components:

  • Sustained focus (like focusing on your work without distractions.
  • Self-control (like resisting temptation for momentary pleasure.
  • Motivation (like staying focused when it isn’t exciting or fun.

McGonigal then shares the latest research, ideas, and strategies to overcome these problems. She explains that willpower is a skill you can build, and gives systems to improve your self-control and willpower, break bad habits and choose long-term goals over instant gratification.

A lot of the research on willpower is pretty newly discovered stuff. The book gives you some mind-blowing insights into how willpower works, how you can improve it, and how to use it to your advantage to achieve your long-term goals.

The Willpower Instinct Key Points

3-Categories of willpower

Willpower is the ability to control what you do and what you don’t do. But, it’s also a whole lot more than that. As Stanford psychologist Kelly McGonigal explains. Willpower also comes in three different shapes and sizes.  So, let’s dig a bit deeper into each of them.

“I won’t” power is the most commonly used, and it’s necessary to keep us out of trouble with unhealthy habits: the willpower to not eat the whole carton of ice cream, or not spend your rent money on a shopping spree.

“I will” power is the ability to do something you don’t necessarily want to do: like go to the gym after work, clean your room, or start a new project you know will be difficult.

“I want” power is a bit more subtle – it’s not the same as having a burning desire for something, but rather a feeling of contentment about what you already have.

The first kind of willpower is what you probably think of. You can say no to things: a doughnut, a cigarette, a late-night TV binge. Your second kind of willpower is what you use to push yourself to do things: to stick with the new diet, go to the gym, or work on your business plan. The third kind of willpower is about forging positive habits: meditating, flossing, and calling your grandma every week. An effective strategy for building willpower is to use all three kinds at once.

Fight and flight response is your biological willpower

The fight-or-flight response is an evolutionary survival mechanism that we all experience. In stressful situations, the amygdala responds by activating the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus releases the hormone adrenaline, which increases your breathing and heart rate, and suppresses other nonessential body processes, such as digestion. This response allows us to think more rapidly and act more quickly to deal with our situation.

The fight-or-flight response has been developed over thousands of years to protect us from dangerous situations. If we’re stressed, our brains and bodies release adrenaline, which prepares us to either fight or run away, while endorphins increase our pain threshold to help us deal with many situations. But these days, in the city that never sleeps – New York – we hardly have time to pause and plan before making decisions with our actions, especially when it comes to working.

But when you’re not in such a situation, your willpower instinct can also be called the pause-and-plan response. It is there to help you make better choices and avoid situations that trigger your fight-or-flight response.

Don’t use your past behavior as an excuse for present behavior

In our daily lives, we are constantly surrounded by other people’s attitudes and behavior. We also tend to think that what’s worked for us in the past will work for us again today.

For example, You’ve gotten out of bed every morning at 6 a.m., gone to the gym, and then experienced great results. So the next time you want to get up and try something new, your attitude may be: “Oh well, I got up early yesterday and felt great, so I can do it again today.” Your behavior with others may also have contributed to this attitude. You treat others with kindness every time you meet them.

But when something goes wrong, we may tend to bash ourselves. We don’t reprimand ourselves as much as we should. To avoid beating yourself up today when things don’t go your way, try being consistent today with the positive behavior that you exhibited yesterday. Let me ask you this: How do you feel about your last project? I’m sure you are proud of how hard you worked, and how well it turned out. What you may not realize is that by allowing yourself to get lazy, you have hurt your chances of future success.

Be aware of your attitude, because when you do well, you get lazy. When you’re first starting, you’re at the bottom. You go and get a job and you start up, but as you get up—when you climb the ladder—you stop giving as much as you are taking. If you do well today, there’s no excuse for your to fail tomorrow.

The Willpower Instinct Quotes

“There is a secret for greater self-control, the science points to one thing: the power of paying attention.” –Kelly McGonigal

“Meditation is not about getting rid of all your thoughts; it’s learning not to get so lost in them that you forget what your goal is. Don’t worry if your focus isn’t perfect when meditating. Just practice coming back to the breath, again and again.” –Kelly McGonigal

The Willpower Instinct Review

This book is loaded with valuable information and knowledge that will help you in many ways. It is a much-needed book in today’s world as we explained three categories in The Willpower Instinct Summary. You all should check out this book if you want to know about how the mind works and craves many things that are not healthy in long run. Highly recommended.

To whom I would recommend The Willpower Instinct Summary?

  • Anyone who is working his best but not getting the rewards.
  • Any person who is going to retire.
  • Anyone who wants to learn about willpower.

Link: https://amzn.to/3Sckdlr