"While we are reading, we are all Don Quixote." ~ Mason Cooley

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Willpower Instinct ~ by Dr. Kelly McGonagal

"Everyone struggles in some way with temptation, addiction, distraction, and procrastination."
                                ~Dr. Kelly McGonigal

Dr. Kelly McGonigal, health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University, is a leading expert in mind-body research.  Her book is written in ten chapters to parallel her popular ten-week course, The Science of Will Power.  Using relevant research from psychology, neuroscience and biology, Dr. McGonigal delivers on her promise to provide greater insights into the human struggle with willpower and a set of strategies to support the reader with the particular challenges that led him or her to the book in the first place.

Just reading that everyone struggles in some way with willpower challenges was reassuring.  Her definition of willpower - "the ability to do what you really want to do when a part of you doesn' t want to do it - immediately resonated.  My particular challenge - distraction.  I can get off-course in a moment simply by going into a different room and spotting something to be put away or cleaned, that magazine I've been wanting to read, etc., etc. .  I can get lost for hours in a book or worse, a computer game. Simple interruptions can derail me. And now retired, without work appointments and deadlines as boundaries, it is far too easy to lose hours to distractions and then, wonder where the day has gone.  To feel guilty and once again chastise myself for not having more self-control.

Hence the siren call of this title - The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It.  I could wish that I had found this book years ago, but I'm not sure I would have been motivated enough to choose it nor fully aware of how easily I can be distracted (and it was only published two years ago anyway!)  But if you are motivated to examine your willpower or lack thereof , I highly recommend this book.  Not only is the content grounded in research, but Dr. McGonigal's writing style is very accessible. She relates several anecdotal examples throughout the book and has a delightful sense of humor..  As the review in USA Today Book Review so aptly wrote, McGonigal "combines the braininess of a Malcolm Gladwell bestseller with the actual helpfulness of an Idiot's Guide to not being lazy."  I read it cover to cover in two sittings - well, I am retired. 

The true test of any self-help book, however, is  whether the information and the suggested activities can be applied by the reader and....that they produce a desired result.   If it, indeed, does help.  For this reader, it has.   Yup, wish I'd read it years ago.