“The Willpower Instinct” Quotes

Here’s the quotes I found most interesting from “The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You can Do to Get More of It” by  Kelly McGonigal. I consider this a comedy book because so many of us wish we were more consistent about writing and doing other comedy related things. This book explains some of the usual tricks our mind plays on us to keep us from doing what we really want. I highly recommend it. So if you find the quotes interesting, please buy the book here.

“Neuroscientists have discovered that when you ask the brain to meditate, it gets better not just at meditating, but at a wide range of self-control skills, including attention, focus, stress management, impulse control, and self-awareness.” (24)

“Heart rate variability is such a good index of willpower that you can use it to predict who will resist temptation, and who will give in.” (38)

“Anxiety, anger, depression, and loneliness are all ssociated with lower heart rate variability and less self-control.” (39)

“Heart rate variability steadily increaes as your breathing rate drops below twelve per minute.” (40)

“If you tell yourself that you are too tired or don’t have the time to exercise, start thinking of exercise as something that restores, not drains, your energy and willpower.” (45)

“Because self-control also demands high levels of energy, some scientists speculate that chronic self-control – like chronic stress – can increase your chances of getting sick by diverting resources from the immune system. You heard it here first: Too much willpower can actually be bad for your health.” (49)

“Obesity rates are much higher among those who sleep for less than six hours a night, in part because sleep deprivation interferes with how the brian and body use energy.” (53)

“People who are on a diet are more likely to cheat on their spouse. It’s as if there’s only so much willpower to go around. Once exhausted, you are left defenseless against temptation – or at least disadvantaged.” (56)

“It was as if every act of willpower was drawing from the same source of strength, leaving people weaker with each successful act of self-control.” (57)

“Boosting blood sugar restored willpower.” (60)

“People with low blood sugar are also more likely to rely on stereotypes and less likely to donate money to charity or help a stranger. It is as if running low on energy biases us to be the worst versions of ourselves. In contrast, giving participants a sugar boost turns them back into the best versions of themselves: more persistent and less impulsive; more thoughtful and less selfish.” (61)

“Studies show that diet soda consumption is associated with weight gain, not weight loss.” (63)

“To prevent starvation, the brain shifts to a more risk-taking, impulsive state. Indeed, studies show that modern humans are more likely to take any kind of risk when they’re hungry. For example, people make riskier investments when they’re hungry, and are more willing to “diversify their mating strategies” (cheat) after a fast.” (64-65)

“The mere promise that practice would improve performance on a difficult task helped the students push past willpower exhaustion.” (74)

“If you think that not smoking is going to be as hard one year from now as it is that first day of nicotine withdrawal, when you would claw your own eyes out fo ra cigarette, you’re much more likely to give up. But if you can imagine a time when saying no will be second nature, you’ll be more willing to stick out the temporary misery.” (74)

“When you tell yourself that exercising, saving money, or giving up smoking is the right thing to do – not something that will help you meet your goals – you’re less likely to do it consistently.” (87)

“While most of us believe that making progress on our goals spurs us on to greater success, psychologists know we are all too quick to use progress as an excuse for taking it easy.” (89)

“Studies have shown that making progress on a goal motivates people to engage in goal-sabotaging behavior.” (89)

“Progress can be motivating, and even inspire future self-control, but only if you view your actions as evidence that you are committed to your goal. In other words, you need to look at what you have done and conclude that you must really care about your goal, so much so that you want to do even more to reach it.” (90)

“When people are asked, “How much progress do you feel you have made on your goal?” they are more likely to then do something that conflicts with that goal, like skip the gym the next day, hang out with friends instead of studying, or buy something expensive. In contrast, people who are asked, “How committed do you feel to your goal?” are not tempted by the conflicting behavior.” (90)

“When McDonald’s added healthier items to its menu, sales of Big Macs skyrocketed.” (92)

“We wrongly but persistently expect to make different decisions tomorrow than we do today.” (93)

“Using a daily rule also helps you see through the illusion that what you do tomorrow will be totally different from what you do today.” (97)

“Evolution doesn’t give a damn about happiness itself, but will use the promise of happiness to keep us struggling to stay alive.” (113)

“A study found that playing a video game led to dopamine increases equivalent to amphetamine use – and it’s this dopamine rush that makes both so addictive. The unpredictability of scoring or advancing keeps your dopamine neurons firing, and you glued to your seat.” (115)

“We will find that the promise of reward can be as stressful as it is delightful. Desire doesn’t always make us feel good – sometimes it makes us feel downright rotten. That’s because dopamine’s primary function is to make us pursue happiness, not ot make us happy. It doesn’t mind putting a little pressure on us – even if that means making us unhappy in the process.” (125)

“When we find ourselves in a similar state, we attribute the pleasure to whatever triggered the response, and the stress to not yet having it. We fail to recognize that the object of our desire is causing both the anticipated pleasure and the stress.” (126)

“The promise of reward doesn’t guarantee happiness, but no promise of reward guarantees unhappiness. Listen to the promise of reward and we give in to temptation. Without the promise of reward, we have no motivation.” (131)

“The brain, it turns out, is especially susceptible to temptation when we’re feeling bad.” (135)

“According to the American Psychological Association, the most effective stress-relief strategies are exercising or playing sports, praying or attending a religious service, reading, listening to music, spending time with friends or family, getting a massage, going outside of ra walk, meditating or doing yoga, and spending time with a creative hobby. (The least effective strategies are gambling, shopping, smoking, drinking, eating, playing video games, surfing the Internet, and watching TV or movies for more than two hours.” (137)

“Studies show that being reminded of our mortality makes us more susceptible to all sorts of temptations, as we look for hope and security in the things that promise reward and relief.” (140)

“Reports of death on the news make viewers respond more positively to advertisements for status products, like luxury cars and Rolex watches.” (140)

“The worse a person felt about how much they drank the night before, the more they drank that night and the next.” (144)

“It’s forgiveness, not guilt, that increases accountability. Researchers have found that taking a self-compassionate point of view on a personal failure makes people more likely to take personal responsibility for the failure than when they take a self-critical point of view.” (148)

“Research shows that predicting how and when you might be tempted to break your vow increases the chances that you will keep a resolution.” (154)

“Brain-imaging studies show that we even use different regions of the brain to think about our present selves and our future selves.” (175)

“Both bad habits and positive change can spread from person to person like germs, and nobody is completely immune.” (186)

“You can’t catch a brand-new goal from a brief exposure the way you can catch a flu virus. A nonsmoker is not going to catch a nicotine craving when a friend pulls out a cigarette. But another person’s behavior can activate a goal in your mind that was not currently in charge of your choices.” (191)

“We’ve been trained since birth to do it our way, to stand out from the crowd, to be a leader, not a follower. And yet our cultural obsession with independence cannot suppress our human desire to fit in. Our society may praise being above the influence of others, but we cannot separate ourselves from our social instincts.” (197)

“When it comes to social proof, what we think other people do matters even more than what they actually do.” (200)

“Surrounding yourself with people who share your commitment to your goals will make it feel like the norm.” (201)

“Research shows that being kicked out of the tribe drains willpower.” (205)

“When you try to push a thought away, and it keeps coming back to your mind, you are more likely to assume that it must be true.” (213)

“If we want to save ourselves from mental suffering, we need to make peace with those thoughts, not push them away.” (216)

“You’re accepting that thoughts come and go, and that you can’t always control what thoughts come to mind. You don’t have to automatically accept the contest of the thought.” (219)

“Dieters who suppress thoughts about food have the least control around food.” (223)

“If there is a secret for greater self-control, the science points to one thing: the power of paying attention. It’s training the midn to recognize when you’re making a choice, rather than running on autopilot. It’s noticing how you give yourself permission to procrastinate, or how you use good behavior to justify self-indulgence. It’s realizing that the promise of reward doesn’t always deliver, and that your future self is not a superhero or a stranger. It’s seeing what in your world – from sales gimmicks to social proof – is shaping your behavior. It’s staying put and sensing a craving when you’d rather distract yourself or give in. It’s remembering what you really want, and knowing what really makes you feel better. Self-awareness is the one “self” you can always count on to help you do what is difficult, and what matters most. And that is the best definition of willpower I can think of.” (237)

If you liked the quotes, please buy the book here.

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