The Willpower Instinct: Review

by | Aug 15, 2013 | Book Reviews

Estimated Reading Time: 1 minute, 56s.

Chocolate cake with coffee

Brief Synopsis/Review

The Willpower Instinct is, as you might have guessed, a book about willpower – that mysterious, magical stuff that helps you with self-control. I’ll put it right out there: if you want to get more willpower, you should buy this book. Throughout the book, author Kelly McGonigal dispels countless myths about willpower, and fills you in on the latest, fascinating willpower research in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, medicine, and even economics. She covers topics such as how and why willpower can be depleted, how willpower isn’t a character trait (it’s more like a muscle that gets tired with regular use), why willpower is contagious, and perhaps most valuably, how to get more of the stuff.


The Willpower Instinct is funny, charming, full of great stories, and most importantly, it’s practical. At the end of every chapter are a few willpower exercises you can tackle at home (like being mindful of whether you use your good behaviour as an excuse to indulge), and there are also countless hacks to living a better, more productive life sprinkled throughout the book. (I’ll be writing about what I learned from the book over the next week or two.)

More willpower is something you will surely benefit from, and this book will show you how to get there.

What you’ll get out of it

  • Practical, tactical tips on how to increase your willpower reserve
  • A ton of mind hacks you can employ to get healthier and happier
  • An understanding of what willpower is, and why it’s important
  • An understanding of how you can use willpower to reach your goals

Will it make you more productive?

  • Yes, absolutely. Considering the topic, this book is very practical, and the author has a great way of bringing the subject down to earth.


  • Read only one chapter a week. I read through the entire book in a week or two (ignoring the author’s advice to read only a chapter a week), and I think I would have gotten way more out of it if I had slowed down. There’s a lot of information in this book; make sure you give your mind enough time to digest it all.
  • Actually do the exercises in the book. It’s easy to read about the exercises, think, “oh, how interesting!”, and then move on to the next chapter. Completing the exercises will let you internalize all of the cool stuff in the book.




My last three book reviews: Linchpin; Mindset; RAPT. (I guess I’m a fan of one-word book titles…)

Written by Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity and is the author of three books: How to Calm Your Mind, Hyperfocus, and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in more than 40 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive without hating the process.

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