The Willpower Instinct: Non-Spoiler and Detailed Review

About the Author

Kelly McGonigal is a psychologist from Stanford University who is one of the biggest names in the field of “science help.” This article will review the book The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal.

She has written many books and articles about the latest scientific findings in psychology and neuroscience to help people overcome various issues that they face in life.

McGonigal aims to use these scientific findings and create actionable plans for people so that they can improve themselves. Her book The Willpower Instinct examines the latest research on temptation, procrastination, and motivation. It also advises how to change your habits, complete your challenges and succeed.

Review of The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal

Willpower and self-control are something we all struggle with-in this day and age. Endless access to the entertainment available on the internet has made us all slaves to our desires.

It is far too tempting to watch another episode of a series we are watching on Netflix or keep scrolling mindlessly through the feed of Instagram or Facebook.

The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal

But all this entertainment keeps us from working, and that causes guilt. In order to get rid of the guilt and become productive members of society, we look for guidance to change our ways. This is where The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal comes in.

Optimistic About Self-Control

You will first notice how the book is optimistic about self-control. While most books on willpower state that willpower is a resource that can be depleted by factors like stress, McGonigal tells us how we can improve our willpower and not let it deplete in the first place. She writes that willpower is like our muscles. The more we use it, the stronger it will get.  

Practical Recommendations

The second most important feature of the book is that it is filled with practical recommendations.

Since Kelly McGonigal is a professor of Psychology at Stanford, her work is based on actual science. She not only writes about various experiments conducted on the topic but also translates the results of those studies into action strategies. You are encouraged to be a scientist yourself and try those experiments to find the measures that suit you best. 

Willpower And Why It Is Essential

The book begins by defining willpower and why it is essential. McGonigal writes that our challenge comes either in the form of “I will” or “I won’t”. The former stands for something good that you will do, while the latter is for something that you are supposed to avoid.

There is also “I want” for important goals that we want to accomplish. McGonigal says that all three of these powers have to be harnessed so that we can reach our goals. 

Willpower is essential as it is something that a lot of people these days are struggling with. They feel like failures because they do not control their own lives.

Lack of willpower is why many fail to achieve their goals in different areas of their lives like career, health, relationships, and time management.

Useful Lessons That Will Help Us Strengthen Our Self-Control

The book is filled with beneficial lessons that will help us strengthen our self-control.

Chapter 4 discusses moral licensing (how we justify doing something we shouldn’t do because we did something good).

Chapter 6 gives us tips on overcoming the diet trap known as the What the Hell effect. This effect makes us want to continue down the wrong path just because we are already on it.

In chapter 8, McGonigal argues that willpower is contagious. If we spend our time with people who lack it, we will suffer as well. On the other hand, if we spend time with people who are driven and have strong willpower, this will, in turn, improve our willpower.


The Willpower Instinct is a powerful book that will help you reverse the negative patterns in your life and help you strengthen your willpower so that you can accomplish all your goals in time.

But merely reading it will not be enough. You will have to actually perform the exercises given in the book if you want a real result. Studying this book can be a life-altering event if you do it correctly.

It is important to focus on your goals and not get distracted by the mindless entertainment available 24/7.

Sarah Farroukh Sarah is a content writer with two years of experience specializing in educational content. She has a passion for writing informative pieces that are both engaging and thought-provoking. In her free time, she enjoys reading and experimenting with recipes.