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The Willpower Instinct Audiobook

The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It

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Publisher's Summary

Based on Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal's wildly popular course The Science of Willpower, The Willpower Instinct is the first book to explain the new science of self-control and how it can be harnessed to improve our health, happiness, and productivity. Informed by the latest research and combining cutting-edge insights from psychology, economics, neuroscience, and medicine, The Willpower Instinct explains exactly what willpower is, how it works, and why it matters. For example, listeners will learn:

  • Willpower is a mind-body response, not a virtue. It is a biological function that can be improved through mindfulness, exercise, nutrition, and sleep.
  • Willpower is not an unlimited resource. Too much self-control can actually be bad for your health.
  • Temptation and stress hijack the brain's systems of self-control, but the brain can be trained for greater willpower.
  • Guilt and shame over your setbacks lead to giving in again, but self-forgiveness and self-compassion boost self-control.
  • Giving up control is sometimes the only way to gain self-control.
  • Willpower failures are contagious - you can catch the desire to overspend or overeat from your friends­­ - but you can also catch self-control from the right role models.

In the groundbreaking tradition of Getting Things Done, The Willpower Instinct combines life-changing prescriptive advice and complementary exercises to help listeners with goals ranging from losing weight to more patient parenting, less procrastination, better health, and greater productivity at work.

©2011 Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. (P)2011 Gildan Media Corp

What the Critics Say

"This book has tremendous value for anyone interested in learning how to achieve their goals more effectively. McGonigal clearly breaks down a large body of relevant scientific research and its applications, and shows that awareness of the limits of willpower is crucial to our ability to exercise true self control." (Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D., co-author of You Are Not Your Brain and author of best-selling Brain Lock)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Neuron Sweden 05-27-13
    Neuron Sweden 05-27-13 Member Since 2017
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    "Research based guide to improve willpower"

    Everyone thinks that their willpower fails them, often on a regular basis. Those people who say they have a lot of willpower often have the least. Willpower is undeniably good to have and in studies it is correlated with all kinds of positive outcomes.

    Dr.McGonigal thankfully does not teach the reader never to “give in” to the things you like. Rather you should ask yourself what it is that you would like to stop/start doing and then focus on that goal. She refers to these goals as willpower challenges. Typical willpower challenges are to go to bed in time, to exercise more, to work instead of checking facebook updates, eat less snacks etc etc.

    Most people have many willpower challenges. One important lesson from this book is that you do not have unlimited willpower. Therefore you should not take on too many willpower challenges simultaneously, because that will result in failure.

    So what strategies does Dr.McGonigal propose for increasing willpower? This book includes a wealth of advice and I feel pretty confident in claiming that most people will find at least one strategy that helps them. Her first proposed strategy is meditation, which is just not my cup of tea (for me doing meditation would be a willpower challenge on its own). After taking about meditation and breathing exercises she moves on to more obvious candidates: exercise and sufficient sleep. I am sure that you have all heard it before but I will reiterate: exercise is good and getting enough sleep is important for all kinds of things, including willpower. Regarding sleep she also points out that people have started sleeping less in recent decades, and in the same time people have become more obese. In is not inconceivable that the rise in obesity in the recent decades in part is related to reduced willpower which in turn is due to the fact that we sleep less. After all, those evening snacks that we consume in the evening after a stressful day can contain quite a lot of calories.
    Dr.McGonigal introduces plenty more strategies for overcoming willpower challenges. The ones I feel were most useful include the following: (1) If you really want say a snack, wait 10 minutes, and then, if you still want it, go ahead and take it. (2) Thinking more about your future self. People are often prone to ignoring the needs of their future selves I don’t care so much how their actions may affect their future selves. (3) Focusing on what you should do rather than what you shouldn’t do. Don’t think of pink elephants! Hard right? Similarly constantly telling yourself not to eat that snack will draw your attention to it, making it harder to resist. It is better to focus on what you should and do.

    There are many willpower traps. Perhaps the most obvious one is exposing yourself to the thing you try to avoid. If you want to eat less snacks, don’t keep them in the home cause if you are like me you will eat them, sooner or later. Another trap which I personally used to fall into, is rewarding yourself after a strenuous exercise i.e., now that I have exercised so much I deserve to eat several large burgers and some candy after that =). I am not saying that such a reward in undeserved, only that the calorie intake from a large meal is much larger than the calorie output during exercise. Yet another trap is the “what the hell effect”. Having succumbed to temptation many people say to themselves - what the hell, now that I have started eating this snack I might as well eat the rest...

    I sum, this book provides an accessible introduction to willpower, what it is, how it works, and what you can do if you face a willpower challenge. Regardless of whether you decide to utilize any of Dr.McGonigal proposed strategies I believe that merely starting to think and learn about willpower will help you reach your personal goals. It is also nice to know that more or less everyone has willpower issues, and very few (sickly?) people never succumb to temptation.

    94 of 99 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Niv Petach Tiqva, Israel 04-03-12
    Niv Petach Tiqva, Israel 04-03-12
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    "life changing one of the best I read"
    What made the experience of listening to The Willpower Instinct the most enjoyable?

    It is very rare to find books about this subject and even when I did, I didn't know what to expect.I was in the middle of a will struggle on many areas: some personal and some common to many people like loosing weight.I had some success before reading the book but I felt I exhausted and afraid that I'll break and return to my bad habits.After reading the book I got a boost in all areas I see good results (lost 10 KG) and I stopped feeling bad about the few times I do give in to temptation.I learned many simple techniques for controlling the mind and I also liked the simple and powerful analysis of the way we think and the many paths of the mind leading us to prefer short term satisfaction over our long term goals. (all backed up with many researches and explored in a scientific yet simple approach).This knowledge and techniques made me better understand how I used to think, I am now more immune and by simple change of the way I think I can overcome many temptations.I warmly recommend to everyone.


    119 of 127 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sherry Calgary, Canada 03-27-12
    Sherry Calgary, Canada 03-27-12 Member Since 2007
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    "Will, Won't & Want"

    As suggested in the audio book, my intention was to take on the challenges offered before listening further. However the content was so interesting I found myself drawn in...hence lack of will power.

    However, I appreciated the information on studies performed, tasks suggested and results tabulated on willpower.

    I appreciated the personal content from his experience in the classroom teaching this as a course.

    I have a list of challenges that I will be applying some refreshed willpower motivators to.

    Well worth the time and credit invested.

    73 of 78 people found this review helpful
  •  
    MTKim 04-17-12
    MTKim 04-17-12 Listener Since 2009
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    "A lot to think about, but it is already helping"
    What about Walter Dixon’s performance did you like?

    I actually speeded the narration up to 125% (I'm using the audible app to listen to this). At normal speed it is just too slow.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    There is too much information to listen too in one sitting. However, at the same time it was way too interesting to follow the authors recommendation to only do one chapter a week and try out each will power experiment for a week before moving on.


    Any additional comments?

    This book has a great mix of both quick and easy fixes for how you think about your "willpower challenge" (losing weight, spending less, working out more, ect ), as well as some long term changes. The book is structured so that each chapter discusses current research and case studies/success stories before summarizing with a single method/strategy to increase your willpower. The idea is that one or two or ... of the discusses methods will work for you in your particular challenge, while others won't.

    86 of 94 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mykl Devlin Australia 06-08-12
    Mykl Devlin Australia 06-08-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Very practical"

    A very practical book. It switches effortlessly between explaining (in general terms) the neurological basis of what we do and pragmatic methods to change.

    The author suggests that the book is consumed in parts over a long time to bed in the principals that he is giving. I listened to it very quickly, and will be going through it again at a slower rate putting his suggestions to work.

    30 of 32 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matt Parkdale, Australia 05-21-12
    Matt Parkdale, Australia 05-21-12 Member Since 2017
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    "Outstandingly Helpful - Very Easy to Listen to"
    Where does The Willpower Instinct rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    I've read so many self help books, but this is different. It has a certain lucidity and humility to it. Every one of the recommended techniques is backed up by easy to understand, legitimate scientific findings.It's very easy to listen to. It's written for the lay person with an interest in science. It's well read and very accessible. I listened to the second chapter whilst having root canal treatment and hardly missed a word.I've now bought the hard copy too, just so I can dip into it and refresh my memory when needed.I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in any aspect of self improvement.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Most of all I like the new insights into myself that she has given me.It helps me understand the willpower traps I've fallen into throughout my life and given me simple, practical strategies for overcoming them. I've learned all kinds of new, useful and interesting stuff about the way my mind works. She covers a lot of stuff that I've never heard in any other self help book before.Another thing I really like about this book the tone - this writer does not come from the classic high pressure, ra ra "high fives and hype" sales background from which most coaches come . On researching her afterwards, I found out that Willpower is just one of the classes she teaches. First and foremost she's a devoted and highly qualified teacher in the field of health and wellbeing.This book does what most coaches and the writers of most self help books don't seem to understand - it starts from a position that most of us struggle to maintain enthusiasm for longer term goals. It explains what's actually going on when our willpower wanes—that positive thinking alone is not enough. It explains why certain types of positive thinking can actually be harmful.


    What does Walter Dixon bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Good voice modulation, pitch, pace and pausing. He kept me listening.I didn't pay much attention to the name of the author when I bought it. Somehow, when you hear the voice of a man reading, you think it's been written by a man. It gave the learning more about the author afterwards experience a certain wow factor.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes, absolutely. I zipped through it. Now I am listening to it again and have bought the hard copy.


    Any additional comments?

    I was surprised at how young the author is. I have no doubt that she will become a household name in years to come. She is really good at what she does and clearly a very dedicated and humble person. Check out her one hour author's presentation video given to Google staff after you've read the book. Google doesn't invite just any old author to talk to its staff. This is a mark of real distinction. It's a great summary. It's on youtube.

    74 of 81 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ANDREA 03-05-12
    ANDREA 03-05-12
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    "Very Logical"
    Would you listen to The Willpower Instinct again? Why?

    I am going to listen to this audible again. Its got a lot of info and explanations
    for why we seem to have no control, but it gives us a logical, midful way to have willpower.


    32 of 35 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Danny M. 08-13-12
    Danny M. 08-13-12
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    "Applicable and entertaining"

    Professor McGonigal's stories about and advice for strengthening willpower are helpful and thought provoking. Especially interesting is the idea that willpower is inborn in people, and explanations for how our environment sometimes causes it to work against our best interests.

    13 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Melbourne, Australia 07-15-12
    James Melbourne, Australia 07-15-12
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    "Very enjoyable read!"

    I learnt a lot about myself and why we make the decisions that we do...even to our own detriment. Must read.

    10 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Clare United States 02-06-13
    Clare United States 02-06-13
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    "Great book, lame narration"
    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Walter Dixon?

    Kelly McGonigal! It's a huge opportunity lost to have this fantastic book narrated by Dixon's monotonous drone. This book was written by a brilliant woman, and it would add a lot to have her reading it.


    39 of 46 people found this review helpful
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  • M. A. SMITH
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "It kind of works"

    One of my greatest frustrations with myself is the fact that I am so knuckle draggingly unproductive. I've read many self help books to combat this. I always get a short term boast that fades quickly. The same is true of the will power instinct but I have found, in the year since I first read it, that there have been some longs term benefits. Nothing miraculous but procrastination is reduced. Repeat listens required but I would recommend this to fellow carriers of the laziness gene.

    22 of 22 people found this review helpful
  • Ms K L Heath
    11/17/15
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    "Wish this was narrated by the Author!"
    Where does The Willpower Instinct rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Kelly McGonigal is a great speaker! (Hear her Ted Talk) It's a shame this is not narrated by her. A fantastically talented woman and great writer. I hope she narrates future books. Looking fwd to reading more of her work..


    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • katof9tails
    4/21/17
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    "Excellent self-help book"

    This book has really worked for me. My background is in science, so hearing about the research helps me to understand WHY the strategies suggested will work. That gives me confidence in them & for me, I have to believe in something for it to work. There are 10 chapters & the author suggests that you can listen to the whole thing or go through a chapter a week & practice the strategies you like for a week before going onto the next. I'm doing both. I've listened to the whole book (handy journey to London), and am going back through in slow time, allowing for weekly practice. You are assisted in identifying what it is you need to change & how to use strategies for that. You are given a choice of things that you can do & you can pick the one(s) that you are attracted to do. It works if you practice - listening on its own won't do much. Early days yet, but I have seen positive changes already. Different people respond to different ways of doing things, so this won't work for everyone, but it feels really flexible & I would say it is well worth a try as long as you are prepared to put in a bit of work.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Artiom U.
    4/16/16
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    "Very insightful and full of practical tips"

    The book explains in a very scientific way where our will power challenged come from and why we succumb to our impulses and cravings.
    It also has a number of very practical strategies to strengthen the will power.
    These strategies are sometimes counter intuitive and may not always fit with the conventional wisdom, but the are very effective.
    I strongly recommend this book.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Mervyn
    3/28/15
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    "Will Power Is Powerful!"

    Kelly McGonigal has broken down this subject into manageable pieces of information. The book is brilliantly presented and the ideas are strung together in an extremely logical and clear way. The idea that Will is not just Will, but Won't and Want is Awesome! Thank you, but Professor McGonigal! A fantastic "read" Mervyn Barrett

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Santiago
    Madrid, Spain
    10/7/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Amazing content, it is helping me a lot."

    Clear, compelling science based strategies to achieve your willpower challenges.
    The chapter about dopamine and the promise of reward was especially enlightening for me.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Amazon Customer
    7/31/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Amazing book!"

    It teaches you so many techniques you can practice! It's great. I'll keep listening to it until i get the hang of willpower instinct.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Petra
    Lake District, UK
    3/28/17
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    Performance
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    "Excellent book!"

    Very, very interesting, fascinating book. Lots of ideas & suggestions for improving your willpower. Thank you

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Felix
    LONDON, United Kingdom
    12/23/12
    Overall
    "Attention required"

    Great content but not the easiest of listens, good consolidation of research and nothing wrong with the narration, but requires focus, some audio books hold my attention, and I do not find said attention wondering. Not so here. But none the less it is worth the effort. The next step is the application of the material assuming that is your intention....... and good luck with establishing the will power to implement the suggestions required to increase your will power..

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • My Journey...
    8/7/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Fascinating and Compelling"

    If you're looking at why you always seem to give up on a goal listen to this. Without a doubt the most powerful book I've read on my journey to fulfilment.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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