Thursday, January 10, 2013

Book Review: The Willpower Instinct

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

The irony of receiving a book about willpower right before the holidays wasn't lost on me. I intended to let my guard down a little. I mean, how could I say no to all the chocolate, cookies and other treats whispering at me to eat them?

Come to mama...Photo from kakisky at Morguefile.

You can say that I started reading The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. for the BlogHer book club as a skeptic. The timing was bad. I had no interest in willpower. 

I rolled my eyes as I read the introduction. Willpower has always felt like a herculean effort. It's something I've had to psych myself up for. Right before the holidays is not the time to become reacquainted with this old enemy. I didn't want to pass willpower on the street, much less be in the same room with it. That's the kind of thing I always thought about after the new year. 

But, then, something happened as I plodded along in McGonigal's book. I realized her advice wasn't about forcing a steely will on myself. It was about forgiving myself.

The truth is, I made it through the holidays without indulging much beyond the norm. Anytime I failed to resist the lure of holiday treats, I forgave myself. Is there some kind of magic between the pages of this book? I'm not sure, but here's an example:

Almond bark is, hands down, my favorite holiday treat. It's made by my husband's coworker, Pat. She sends two boxes home for us every year. Usually, both boxes are gone long before the stockings are stuffed. Yet, this year, we still have one box left. If you'd seen me inhaling almond bark in years past, you'd know this is a miracle.The difference: I wasn't beating myself up about it when I did indulge.

McGonigal's other tips rang true, as well. She claims willpower is contagious. If my experience with running is any indication, I'd say she's right.  I think I "caught" the running bug from all my running pals, both near and far, because of their enthusiasm whenever they posted about it on Facebook. It seems I know a lot of runners and part of me wanted to join their club, even if I had always declared myself a non-runner.

By the end of the book, I was a fan. McGonigal had won me over.

Now I'm thinking about other willpower challenges I can tackle. Is this the time to defeat my sugar addiction? Or, maybe I could say good-bye to gluten once and for all. Or, perhaps I can use some willpower techniques on my kids. Can I get them to treat each other better? Reduce their screen time? 

What are your willpower struggles?

Hop over to the BlogHer Book Club for more content on The Willpower Instinct.


  1. I think tackling one thing at a time and seeing success in that area works for me. Did she talk about that? Also, I like the idea of having others in on change, but I am an extrovert and that may not work for everyone.


  2. Nice review Barb. I am working on procrastination; I waited until the 6th to start working on the book.

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