Personal Project, Willpower

The Willpower Instinct Project – Introduction

As I’ve said numerous times I decided late last year that I planned on spending 2014 focusing on my mental health. I, being who I am, went immediately to my comfort zone and started gathering books around me to work on the things that I immediately felt I wanted to address/discover more about. So far this year that includes The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler, somewhat shockingly Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running and most recently Overcoming Passive Aggression by Murphy and Hoff Oberlin (the last two scheduled for later this week).

McGonigal, Kelly - The Willpower InstinctIt has definitely been an interesting journey so far and I can only imagine how much more interesting it will get this year. I rapidly discovered that I can read as much as I want, but unless I take the time to implement the tips and tricks that the numerous authors suggest, very little will come of it, seems kind of obvious right? Well thinking about that and reading the introduction of this book inspired me to try this project.

I started reading The Willpower Instinct two weeks ago and McGonigal laid out the perfect opportunity for me to do a more in-depth read and experiment, thus answering my issues with reading the self-help books and not necessarily taking in what I’m reading. Written from a ten week course she taught, the book has 10 chapters and I’m going to follow her instructions:

“Although you could read this whole book in one weekend, I encourage you to pace yourself when it comes to implementing the strategies. Students in my class take an entire week to observe how each idea plays out in their own lives. They try one new strategy for self-control each week, and report on what worked best.” (7)

So for the next ten weeks I plan to read a chapter and then spend the week reading a chapter a week and using the experiments/processes that she recommends and then reflecting on them in a Sunday blog post. I’ve chosen to do this on my blog for a few reasons:

  • As this is open to the public I’m hoping it will continue to hold me accountable to this project. Even if I struggle or fail with the project what I learn about myself will be incredibly valuable.
  • I’ve always been better at expressing myself through writing than through talking, so taking the time to type out a reflection on the week and my thoughts/experiments will truly help me in this process.
  • I don’t want to be that person that harps on about the self-help books that they’re reading. If my friends express interest in it they’ll reach out to me (Sorry Caroline, you get stuck with all my brainstorming :-D). Don’t get me wrong if it goes great I’m sure I’ll start proselytizing, but let’s just see how it goes first.
  • And mostly because they people I’ve interacted with through this blog are some of the most supportive people I’ve ever met! I’ve not met a single person and yet I feel like I know many of you better than I know people I’ve known for ages. So I’m using my resources wisely, I think.

Now as part of the introduction I’m supposed to pick our willpower challenge. I’m going to go with the same broad challenge of getting healthy that I’ve been working on for the past year. I may, as I read, have to narrow this down because I don’t know which is more detrimental at the moment not going to the gym as often as I should or my eating habits. I plan on putting the emphasis on the gym and keeping an eye on the food at least for now.

So without further ado, I’m going into Chapter One: I Will, I Won’t, I Want: What Willpower Is and Why It Matters and I’ll see all of you next Sunday with my reflections.


17 thoughts on “The Willpower Instinct Project – Introduction”

  1. I have very little will power, apart from when something presses my stubborn button and I get a bee in my bonnet! I have always been a little… apprehensive of reading self-help books because I’m so bad at actually following what advice they say. It is often advice I already know would help if I followed it… it is the doing it. I guess that’s where willpower comes into it.

    Good luck with your reading of this book and I look forward to reading your updates,


    1. That’s what I’ve discovered too. I actually am aware of a lot more than I expected, it’s just the implementation that’s been the problem. Hopefully this’ll set me up for success in the future regardless of how this one works out the first time.


  2. I’m excited to see how you like this book because I’d love to work on having more willpower myself. I’ve found self-motivation the hardest part of being a grad student, so if you find this helpful, I’ll definitely think about picking it up myself 🙂 You can do it!


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