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August 5, 2019

Podcast #531: How to Best Harness Your Willpower

Many of our goals in life — from losing weight to saving more money — require willpower. But what is willpower anyway, why does it feel like it fails us so often, and what can we do to make better use of it

My guest today explores the answers to these questions in her book: The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. Her name is Kelly McGonigal, and she’s a psychology professor at Stanford. We begin our discussion discussing what exactly willpower is, how it can be described as an instinct, and what goes on in your brain when you utilize it. We also unpack the idea that there are really three different types of willpower: I won’t power, I will power, and I want power, and how these powers can be increased. 

We then spend the rest of our discussion digging into the limitations of willpower, so we can avoid putting ourselves in situations where it’s likely to fail us. We talk about how shame, the people who surround us, and even, ironically, making progress with our goals, can all lead to the sapping or loosening of our willpower. We end our conversation with Kelly’s best tips for getting the most out your willpower.

Show Highlights

  • Why is willpower an instinct?
  • What’s going on in our brain when we exercise our willpower?
  • Why we usually associate willpower with “won’t” power 
  • The individual nature of willpower strengths and weaknesses
  • So, can we strengthen the weak parts of our willpower?
  • The willpower challenges of parents and caregivers (and why it’s not always noticeable)
  • The power of exercise and diet (and the chicken and egg problem those present) 
  • Why your mindset matters so much when it comes to your willpower 
  • How does our willpower sow the seeds of our failure? 
  • Why does moralizing sometimes hurt us? 
  • De-mythologizing self-compassion 
  • A couple things you can start doing today to better manage your willpower 

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

Connect With Kelly

Kelly’s website

Kelly on Twitter

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Read the Transcript

Coming soon!