Click here to Download The Willpower Instinct PDF Book by Kelly McGonigal Language English having PDF Size 2.2 MB and No of Pages 446.
This led me to create “The Science of Willpower,” a class offered to the public through Stanford University’s Continuing Studies program. The course brings together the newest insights about self-control from psychology, economics, neuroscience, and medicine to explain how we can break old habits and create healthy habits, conquer procrastination, find our focus, and manage stress.
The Willpower Instinct PDF Book by Kelly McGonigal
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It illuminates why we give in to temptation and how we can find the strength to resist. It demonstrates the importance of understanding the limits of self-control, and presents the best strategies for training willpower. To my delight, “The Science of Willpower” quickly became one of the most popular courses ever offered by Stanford Continuing Studies.
The first time the course was offered, we had to move the room four times to accommodate the constantly growing enrollment. Corporate executives, teachers, athletes, health-care professionals, and others curious about willpower filled one of the largest lecture halls at Stanford. Students started bringing their spouses, children, and coworkers to class so they could share the experience.
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I had hoped the course would be useful to this diverse group, who came to the class with goals ranging from quitting smoking and losing weight to getting out of debt and becoming a better parent. But even I was surprised by the results. A class survey four weeks into the course found that 97 percent of students felt they better understood their own behavior.
And 84 percent reported that the class strategies had already given them more willpower. By the end of the course, participants told stories of how they had overcome a thirty-year addiction to sweets, finally filed their back taxes, stopped yelling at their children, stuck to an exercise program, and generally felt better about themselves and more in charge of their choices.
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Course evaluations called the class life-changing. The consensus of the students was clear: Understanding the science of willpower gave them strategies for developing self-control, and greater strength to pursue what mattered most to them. The scientific insights were as useful for the recovering alcoholic as the e-mail addict.
And the self control strategies helped people resist temptations as varied as chocolate, video games, shopping, and even a married coworker. Students used the class to help meet personal goals such as running a marathon, starting a business, and managing the stresses of job loss, family conflict, and the dreaded Friday morning spelling test (that’s what happens when moms start bringing their kids to class.
Still in the savannah of the Serengeti, fleeing the sabertoothed tiger? Sorry about that. I apologize if our trip back in time was a bit stressful, but it was a necessary detour if we want to understand the biology of self-control. Let’s come back to today, away from the prowl of now-extinct predators. Catch your breath, relax a little. Let’s find our way somewhere safer and more pleasant. The Willpower Instinct PDF Book
How about a stroll down your local Main Street? Imagine it now: It’s a beautiful day, with bright sun and a gentle breeze. The birds in the trees are singing John Lennon’s “Imagine,” when all of a sudden—BAM! In a bakery display case, there sits the most delectable strawberry cheesecake you have ever seen. A radiant red glaze glistens over its smooth, creamy surface.
A few carefully placed strawberry slices bring to mind the taste of childhood summers. Before you can say, “Oh, wait, I’m on a diet,” your feet are moving toward the door, your hand is pulling the handle, and bells chime your tongue-hanging, mouth-drooling arrival. What’s going on in the brain and body now? A few things. First, your brain is temporarily taken over by the promise of reward.
At the sight of that strawberry cheesecake, your brain launches a neurotransmitter called dopamine from the middle of your brain into areas of the brain that control your attention, motivation, and action. Those little dopamine messengers tell your brain, “Must get cheesecake NOW, or suffer a fate worse than death.” This might explain the nearautomatic movement of your feet and hands into the bakery. The Willpower Instinct PDF Book
Whose hand is that? Is that my hand on the door? Yes, it is. Now, how much is that cheesecake?) While all this is happening, your blood sugar drops. As soon as your brain anticipates your mouth’s first creamy bite, it releases a neurochemical that tells the body to take up whatever energy is circulating in the bloodstream.
The body’s logic is this: A slice of cheesecake, high in sugar and fat, is going to produce a major spike in blood sugar. To prevent an unsightly sugar coma and the rare (but never pretty) death by cheesecake, you need to lower the sugar currently in the bloodstream. How kind of the body to look out for you in this way !
But this drop in blood sugar can leave you feeling a little shaky and cranky, making you crave the cheesecake even more. Hmmm, sneaky. I don’t want to sound like a cheesecake conspiracy theorist, but if it’s a contest between the cheesecake and your good intention to diet, I’d say the cheesecake is winning. The Willpower Instinct PDF Book
This psychological tendency is difficult to shake. The experimenters tried to prompt more realistic self-predictions by giving some people the explicit instructions, “Please do not provide an idealistic prediction, but rather the most realistic prediction of your behavior that you can.” People who received these instructions showed even more optimism about their behavior, reporting the highest estimates yet.
The experimenters decided they had to give these optimists a reality check, so they invited them back two weeks later to report how many times they had actually exercised. Not surprisingly, this number was lower than predicted. People had made their predictions for an ideal world, but lived through two weeks in the real world.
The experimenters then asked these same people to predict how many times they would exercise in the next two weeks. Ever the optimists, they made estimates even higher than their initial predictions, and much higher than their actual reports from the past two weeks. It’s as if they took their original predicted average seriously. The Willpower Instinct PDF Book
And were assigning their future selves extra exercise to make up for their “unusually poor” performance. Rather than view the past two weeks as reality, and their original estimates as an unrealistic ideal, they viewed the past two weeks as an anomaly. The good news is, not all green acts are likely to inspire conspicuous consumption and guilt-free carbon binges.
University of Melbourne economists have found that a licensing effect is most likely when people pay a “penance” for bad behavior—for example, paying an extra $2.50 to plant a tree to make up for the carbon costs of your home electricity use. The consumer’s general eco-guilt is relieved, increasing the chance that they will feel licensed to consume more energy.
A similar effect has been found with other well-intentioned penalty policies. For example, daycare centers that charge parents a fine for picking up their children late find that the policy actually increases late pickups. Parents are able to buy the right to be late, erasing their guilt. And because most of us would rather pay a little to do what’s easiest. The Willpower Instinct PDF Book Download
These programs license us to pass the buck to someone else. However, when people are given a chance to pay for something that replaces a harmful act with something good for the environment—for example, paying 10 percent more on your electricity bill to use green sources of energy—no such licensing effect is seen.
Why not? Economists speculate that this kind of green act doesn’t so much reduce guilt as it strengthens the consumer’s sense of commitment to the environment. When we pay that extra money to use wind or solar energy, we think, I’m the kind of person who does good things for the planet! And then we carry that identity with us, looking for more ways to live our values and achieve our goals.
If we want to motivate green behavior in others, we would be wise to focus more on strengthening a person’s identity as someone who cares about the environment, and less on giving people the opportunity to buy the right to melt the polar ice caps. The scourge John brought with him? It wasn’t smallpox, tuberculosis, or an STD. It was being out of shape. The Willpower Instinct PDF Book Download
Although it’s hard to believe that physical fitness could be contagious, a 2010 report from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that poor fitness spread through the U.S. Air Force Academy like an infectious disease. A total of 3,487 cadets were tracked for four years, from their high school fitness tests through their regular fitness exams at the academy.
Over time, the least-fit cadet in a squadron gradually brought down the fitness levels of the other cadets. In fact, once a cadet arrived at the academy, the fitness level of the least-fit cadet in his squadron was a better predictor of his fitness performance than that cadet’s own pre-academy fitness level.
This study is just one example of how behaviors we typically view as being under self-control are, in important ways, under social control as well. We like to believe that our choices are immune to the influence of others, and we pride ourselves on our independence and free will. But research from the fields of psychology, marketing, The Willpower Instinct PDF Book Free
and medicine reveals that our individual choices are powerfully shaped by what other people think, want, and do—and what we think they want us to do. As you’ll see, this social influence often gets us into trouble. However, it can also help us meet our willpower goals. Willpower failures may be contagious, but you can also catch self-control.
Humans are hardwired to connect with others, and our brains have adapted a nifty way to make sure we do. We have specialized brain cells—called mirror neurons—whose sole purpose is to keep track of what other people are thinking, feeling, and doing. These mirror neurons are sprinkled throughout the brain to help us understand the full range of other people’s experiences.
For example, imagine that you and I are in the kitchen, and you see me reach my right hand for a knife. Your brain will automatically begin to encode this movement. The mirror neurons that correspond to movement and sensation in your right hand will be activated. In this way, your brain begins to craft an inner representation of what I’m doing. The Willpower Instinct PDF Book Free
The mirror neurons re-create the movement like a detective might reenact a crime scene, trying to understand what happened and why. This allows you to guess why I’m reaching for the knife, and what might happen next. In this simple scenario, we’ve seen three ways our social brains can catch willpower failures. The first is unintentional mimicry.
The mirror neurons that detect another person’s movement prime that very same movement in your own body. When you see me reach for the knife, you might unconsciously find yourself reaching out to lend me a hand. In many situations, we find ourselves automatically mirroring the physical gestures and actions of others.
If you pay attention to body language, you’ll notice that people in conversation start to adopt each other’s positions. One person crosses his arms, and moments later, his conversation partner crosses her arms. She leans back, and soon enough, he leans back, too. This unconscious physical mirroring seems to help people understand each other better, and also creates a sense of connection and rapport. The Willpower Instinct PDF Book Free
One reason salespeople, managers, and politicians are trained to intentionally mimic other people’s postures is that they know it will make it easier to influence the person they are mirroring.) Our instinct to mimic other people’s actions means that when you see someone else reach for a snack, a drink, or a credit card, you may find yourself unconsciously mirroring their behavior—and losing your willpower.
For example, a recent study looked at what happens in smokers’ brains when they see a movie character smoke. The brain regions that plan hand movements became activated, as if the smokers’ brains were preparing to pull out a cigarette and light it. Just seeing someone smoke on screen launched a subconscious impulse to light up, giving the smokers’ brains the added challenge of restraining that impulse.