Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Willpower Instinct- Book Review

I headed out for a 50 minute run yesterday after about a 3 week break from running.  I was hit with a terrible virus after the holidays and finally recovered enough to take in the fresh air & sunny winter surroundings.  Some things in my life take very little willpower.  While someone might struggle to get themselves out the door for a run, I crave it.  Keeping my car free of garbage the kids leave behind?  Not so easy.  The run flew by as I gabbed the entire 50 minutes about a book I've been reading by Stanford University psychologist, Kelly McGonigal, titled The Willpower Instinct:  How Self-Control Works, Why it Matters, and What you Can Do to Get More of It.

It's the start of a new year.  Social Media is plastered with it.  Bloggers devote all sorts of energy to broadcasting it.  Yep.  Resolutions.  "I am going to get in shape this year."  "I am going to quit ___________."  "I am going to finish__________."  The gyms fill with new patrons.  Closets get cleaned out.  We start so strong, and yet, so many of us manage to fall back into our same patterns, same history of self-sabotaging behavior, same clutter, same pounds...same failure.  Harsh, but true.

I don't make resolutions.  Kind of the same way I don't give up anything for Lent each year.  It doesn't mean I don't set goals for myself or make changes/additions that I feel will improve my life.  I don't like being asked "what did you give up" or "what are you going to change/improve"?  I always think, "Uhhh...none of your business.'  When it comes down to it, I don't like the accountability- the added pressure of someone checking in on me.  If I want to give in or change course, I don't want to have to explain myself.  Anyone else ever feel this way?

What if you could learn the science behind your behavior to help you stay on track and keep the focus long after the gym clears out, the closet re-erupts or you've lost those first 5 pounds?  Awareness.  Strategy.  Shift your resolutions to make them willpower challenges.  Which do you think you'll be more apt to keep- a resolution or a willpower challenge?  I don't know about you, but a challenge always speaks to my more competitive nature.

I found it really interesting to read the science behind the I'm not the only one who experiences these same road blocks.  Test the Willpower Experiments in each chapter.  Apply them in your own life.  Get real.  Here are a few of my favorite take-aways:

  • 5 Minute Meditation:  Why being bad at meditation is actually good for self-control.
  • Triggers:  Creating an awareness of the triggers that lead us to veer from our goals.
  • Self-sabotaging rewards:  The reward is the progress, the progress doesn't merit a reward.  Yeah, this one really resonated with me.  
  • Self-control is like a muscle:  The more you work it, the more it works for you.  Is your goal overwhelming?  Start with more manageable immediate challenges to work towards the big picture.

What could you improve in your life if you had the proper tools to keep you on track?  Find out how to select your own I Wills, I Won'ts, I Wants.  Read this book! Join the discussion at BlogHer.  I highly recommend this book.  In fact, as the book sits on my desk at work and I wait to hit publish on this post, I've just had an hour long discussion with a co-worker about some of the strategies and how we could implement them into our workplace.

Want more?  Sign up for Yoga Journal's Boost Your Willpower:  28 Days to Create the Change You Want - an exclusive program by author Kelly McGonigal starting January 14th.

I am very happy I was selected to review this book as part of BlogHer's Book Club.  All opinions expressed are my own.

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