Willpower Challenged

10865206I have always thought I have horrible willpower and zero self-control.  I have always been amazed by my friends who announce they are going to lose weight and get healthy and then actually do.  Scratch that, I also get immensely jealous.  I want to do that too.  I do.  But I figured because I keep NOT doing it, I must not want it bad enough.

I believe that until, you know, I am a crying mess.  And I am telling Cortney that I just don’t know why I can’t do it.

Why don’t I have the self-control to not suggest McDonald’s when he asks what we should have on a random Sunday night?  Why don’t have the willpower to turn down the donuts in the staff lounge?  Why don’t I have energy or the willpower to get my ass to the gym and move like I know I should?

I’m not usually into self-help books, but when I had the opportunity to read and review The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why it Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It, I thought, “why not? what do I have to lose?”

I was sure it would be dry (it has “the science of willpower” written on the front.  “Science” of something is usually a bit…boring, ammiright?), but I also figured that since reading all the science behind eating real food made me make a LOT of lifestyle changes for our eating, maybe this could help too.

I was pleasantly surprised that Kelly McGoniagal has a very conversational writing style.  She talks about teaching most of what is in the book as a class, and it’s evident she has learned what works and what doesn’t in the class and giving the readers the best of the best.

The book operates as if you are in her class.  You choose a goal–in the book she breaks goals down into three categories: “I want,” “I won’t,” and “I will”.  I actually chose two goals: “I won’t procrastinate” and “I will be healthier”.

Her class is a 10 week class, and guess what! The book is 10 chapters!  I didn’t take 10 weeks to read the book, but if I had had the luxury to do so, I would have loved it because the techniques and activities and exercises she suggests really fit a 10 week program.  Each task is really quite small, but the explanations and what the tasks provide are huge.

One of the things I learned about myself was that some of the things I thought were “I won’t” goals, were really “I will” goals.  And that the motivation I THOUGHT I had, wasn’t really it.

For instance, I started with “I won’t eat crap.” But soon realized it was bigger than that.  After realizing my motivation was to feel better about myself, my goal turned to “I will be healthier.”

Sometimes our strongest motivation is not what we think it is, or think it should be.  If you’re trying to change a behavior to please someone else or be the right kind of person, see if there is another “want” that holds more power for you. (page 76)

I loved this quote because it reminded me of when Cort quit smoking.  His dad died of lung cancer in 2005, but he didn’t quit smoking until 2007.  He caught SO much grief for smoking, but every time he tried to quit to please others, he failed.  It was only when he did it his way for himself that it worked.  And he has kept that self-control up for almost six years!

Interesting science + useful, helpful tips + conversational writing = a winner of a book in my opinion!

I leave you with another of my favorite quotes:

We all have the tendency to believe self-doubt and self-criticism, but listening to this voice never gets us closer to our goals. Instead, try on the point of view of mentor or good friend who believes in you, wants the best for you, and will encourage you when you feel discouraged. (page 151)

Next time I want to beat myself up for being a quitter or a slacker, I am going to try to hear the voices of those who love me telling me that I can do it.

Want to see what others are saying? Visit the BlogHer Book Club to find out!

What do you think? What is your willpower challenge?


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by BlogHer, but the opinions are my own. I read the book, yo.  And I liked it.

About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. Oh My Gosh… I must get this book. I am cheering for you Doll! I too have been motivated finally to lose this extra load. I joined a great program that is giving excellent results. For my first week I have lost 5.2 pounds. Check my blog out if you haven’t yet;-) http://2slenderizeme.blogspot.com/

    Keep in touch I would love to hear about your journey!

  2. Procrastination. And drinking. And exercising. I wait and wait until it’s the last minute and I can say oh, well, it’s too late now; maybe next time. I drink sometimes even when I don’t want to. I stopped going to yoga BUT I walk at work and early weekend mornings. I am trying, I am doing. I just have to, you know, continue. Life be hard.

    I like how you say the book isn’t boring (it’s a pretty boring blah blah title.) And I’m glad you learned skills from it.

  3. I have willpower issues too. On the exercise front, I always find it easier to stick to if I have a goal. I run, so I will sign up for a 10K, or last fall it was a half marathon. Since the half marathon ended, I have been slack!!! I’m also pregnant now, that icky first trimester could have something to do with it. But now, I’m signing up for a 10K in the spring and finally feeling my motivation return.

    Anyway, point is, I always need to be working towards somthing to keep my willpower in check. Maybe try signing up for a 5K. Even if you don’t run currently, you could work up to it. Or if running is not your thing, pick something that you do enjoy.

    Good luck!

  4. I agree with Jaime — the goal of being healthier is great, but for me, If I commit to something (say a race/event) I will be more likely to do it. So I always have the next event on the books.

    And face it, “will power” is a LOT easier with a buddy. Whether it’s my husband and I who have a pact against fried food — or the friend waiting for me on the corner for a run, one is named “will”, the other “power”. 🙂

    I do believe you can do anything you set your mind to (if put into the right context — as the book says).

    Thanks for the review. Looks like a good read.

  5. p.s. love the new look.

  6. Oh wow, I really need this book. I feel like I have the worst willpower on the planet. Glad to hear it’s working for you.