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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 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 (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"The Willpower Instinct is a new kind of self-help book. Using science to explain the why and strategies for the how, McGonigal has created a must-read for anyone who wants to change how they live in both small and big ways." (Book Page)

"Each chapter could stand on its own as something helpful, but taken as a whole, this book could be downright life-altering. If you are trying to lose weight, become more successful at work, rid yourself of toxic habits...heck, if you're HUMAN, you need to read this book." (Library Thing)

“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, MD, co-author of You Are Not Your Brain and author of best-selling Brain Lock)

What listeners say about The Willpower Instinct

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Techniques that worked for me

Before I listened to the audiobook, I had watched the author's presentation on willpower through a Google Talk that was posted on YouTube. So I knew of the book long should. I took a lot of the information in that presentation to heart, and used it to help me cultivate a approach to eating that helped me lose over 110lbs over a three year period.

Then something changed. Along my journey -- motivated by my success and new information I learned about nutrition -- I wanted to get even better with my willpower. My mindset became more aggressive in what I was trying to accomplish, something more akin to a perfectionist. I wanted to mold myself into a "health nut," if you will. But what I didn't realize at the time is that in doing so, I was falling into several willpower traps. I started slowly gaining weight. A few months later, I hit a stressful part of life; without going into details, circumstances caused me to become much more exhausted. That's when things started to spiral. I was binge eating again, a habit I thought I had kicked years before. In total, I gained about 60 lbs back.

Needing to get my self control back --and fast -- I bought this book, knowing how helpful McGonigol's Google talk had been before. It was the best thing I could have done. Immediately I was reminded of the techniques that were working for me, and quickly made aware of the traps that I stepped into when I changed my routine. Virtually every chapter of this book is something I connected with. And it helped me plan and prioritize what I needed to do to right the ship. I'm happy to say I am back on track with my personal health journey.

I don't know if the advise here will work for everybody, but I will attest that they absolutely work for me. The material does seem to emphasize food habits over other temptations like smoking or social media addictions, but I think the ideas should translate easily enough. If you're on the fence, check out the aforementioned Google talk and see if it might apply to you.

For me, I loved this book so much, I bought a physical copy to study. These are concepts and techniques I don't just want to know, but want to master.

19 people found this helpful

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WOW-Awesome! Play@.9X speed narration-It's perfect

ONE OF MY TOP FIVE FAVORITE AUDIBLE BOOKS FOR SURE...
Loved this-So much information, observations, anecdotes and actionable recommendations presented in a not-overly-scientific way and with some humor thrown in. For me, it was exactly what I needed to hear and feel so motivated and empowered with this new information. I listened in one day and will purchase the book for note taking and go through the chapters again. I agree the narrator sounded like a cold computer and spoke way to fast. I slowed it down to 0.9X and he sounded normal and quite easy to listen too. I wonder if they recorded a higher speed in error. Don't let that takeaway from a gem of a book like this.

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What’s up with the narrator?

I hope I can find another copy of this book with a different narrator who sounds human. I can’t listen to this for 8 hours. Bummer!

9 people found this helpful

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Narrator sounds like a robot

Kelly should have narrated this herself. The narrator sounds like a robot and it is distracting and takes away from the book's content.

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Most People Use the Opposite Method than Effective

I love this book. I noticed Kelly McGonigal a few years ago, noting just how normal she makes neuroscience, and how easy it is to understand it when she talks about it. Reading this book first on paper, and now returning to it with a good narrator, I started thinking of willpower as a muscle. In her usual manner, Kelly McGonigal pairs science with easy to understand examples. I love her idea that there is both "will power"; and "won't power"; and her facts about limits to both, and ways to exercise and build these muscles.

In my memory, success in willpower is quite counterintuitive for most. The best way to improve self control is to know how and why you lose your control, and furthermore, if you are kind with yourself in a change, you actually do better! I love the paradox in this!

In this book, Kelly McGonigal follows a course that she taught at Stanford, I think, on the subject of Willpower. So this is definitely applied science, in that she has had numerous students try out her method.

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gGood listen

I had to come back to it at diffetent times but pretty bland voice and tone when it came to listening but i had to get use to it if i was going to be able to learn something from this book.

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Lots of great willpower tips

Very interesting and made me think differently about a few things. I’ve unknowingly used some of the ‘techniques’ offered in the book in the past to kick bad habits (I ditched Facebook to learn a new language as an example) so I can attest that at least some of these tips really do work. Great read for anyone trying to stop overeating or procrastinating. As a former smoker, I’m a little more dubious about strategies to overcome any type of drug addiction (with the exception maybe of substitution strategies...but the author cited studies suggesting they work so worth a try for many out there.

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Skip it

This is all common sense put to scientific studies. Not worth buying. Definitely skip it

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Overall good

I struggled to finish this book because of the way is set up, with a lot of reasearch studies and statististics that make it hard to keep engaged for long. But this is just my personal preference, however I still enjoyed most of it, and helped me a lot to have more self awareness

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So good.

As someone who struggles with self-control and impulsiveness, this book was absolutely incredible. The studies are relevant and really change the way I think about why I feel certain ways. I will listen again, and might buy the print copy!