The Willpower Instinct

Kelly McGonigal

The Willpower Instinct



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What happens inside us when we give in to temptation or when we postpone something we know we need to do? How can we turn awareness of our mistakes into strategies for success? Understanding how willpower really works will enable you to develop self-control and greater determination in pursuing important goals. In TheWillpower Instinct, Kelly McGonigal helps us to understand those imperfect (but perfectly human) behaviours common to us all: with a curious and attentive, but non-judgmental approach, we can all monitor our daily actions and at the same time practice improving our self-control.

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Analysis and key concepts


Willpower is made up of three powers which, when harnessed, can help us become a better version of ourselves


To strengthen willpower, you need to be in a psycho-physical state that allows you to channel your energy towards self-control instead of self-defence


Train your self-control by starting small


Willpower should not be viewed as a virtue, but as a tool to achieve results


The promise of happiness makes us act, but we must be careful because what we pursue does not always lead us towards our goals


Self-compassion contributes to increasing motivation and improving self-control


We choose immediate gratification at the expense of future satisfaction


Willpower is contagious and does not depend on individual effort alone


The limits of “I won’t” power: if they tell us not to think about polar bears, it will be very difficult not to!




Take-home message

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Many useful tips to:

  • Help you meet personal goals, such as running a marathon, starting a new project, or avoiding eating sweets.
  • Understand why your attempts at self-control tend to fail.
  • Debunk the myths surrounding self-control and develop a new way of approaching challenges to our willpower.

Kelly McGonigal is a health psychologist, a teacher at Stanford University and a bestselling author of The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It.She is well known for her work in the scientific aid field, which focuses on the formulation of strategies that promote wellbeing starting from intuitions in the field of psychology and neuroscience.She has always been a keen supporter of self-compassion and awareness. Recently McGonigal focused her attention on the positive aspects of stress and on the influence that a change of attitude towards it can have on our health.

Publishing house:

Avery Pub Group