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What we're reading (and loving): 'The Willpower Instinct'


Willpower instinct bookNo, I’m not a zombie – I just love everything about the human brain. They are fascinating skull fillers. That’s why I jumped at the chance to review the book “The Willpower Instinct” (Avery, $26) for the BlogHer Book Club.

The book, subtitled “How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It,” is written by Kelly McGonigall, Ph.D, a psychologist who teaches a Stanford University titled “The Science of Willpower.”

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Everyone says they have no willpower and that they need to improve it, but how? This book outlines the “workout” that you need to do to exercise the part of your brain responsible for willpower – the prefrontal cortex, right behind your forehead.

Just like your abs and glutes, your brain can improve with exercise, becoming stronger and more able to flex its “pass up the cookie” muscle.

As I was reading the book, I stuck little hot pink Post-Its on passages that resonated with me.

The book looks like it was attacked by a flock of flamingos.

In addition, I probably yelled out “Oh my God!” about a thousand times.

But it’s not just me – many people have issues with self-control, procrastination, self-awareness,

Having a stronger prefrontal cortex helps you push out the “go shopping/stay up late/destroy the Doritos/screw around on Facebook” urges and allows you to do “the harder thing,” the book says.

And in the past, when I referred to my nighttime eating urges as feeling like a hungry polar bear was inhabiting my being, I wasn’t too far off. That’s just my “primitive brain” fighting the prefrontal cortex for the upper hand.

According to the book, some neuroscientists say that we have two minds or even two people living inside our mind. Remember that Steve Martin movie “All of Me”? There was a fantastic scene where Martin was attempting to walk down the street but his mind and the spirit of Lily Tomlin were pulling him in opposite directions.

That can be what it feels like when you strengthen your willpower muscle (at least that’s my fun visual).

Man, I’ve got some work to do, and it’s not just at the gym.

What are your willpower challenges? Mine are staying up too late (FULLY addressed in the book by the way), procrastinating and, of course, after-dinner foraging. Feel free to join the discussion on this topic at the link HERE at

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club, but the opinions expressed are completely my own.