The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It - by Kelly McGonigal



my notes:

To say NO when you need to say no, and YES when you need to say yes, you need a third power: the ability to remember what you really want.

Like an eager student, the brain is remarkably responsive to experience.

Meditation increases blood flow to the prefrontal cortex, in much the same way that lifting weights increases blood flow to your muscles.

Being ‘bad’ at meditation is exactly what makes the practice so effective.

Describe your two competing selves: what does the impulsive version of you want? What does the wiser version of you want?

Heart rate variability is the body’s ‘reserve’ willpower—a physiological measure of your capacity for self-control.

People with higher heart rate variability are better at ignoring distractions, delaying gratification, and dealing with stressful situations.

Trying to control every aspect of your thoughts, emotions, and behavior is a toxic strategy. It is too big a burden for your biology.

The human brain has, at any given time, a very small supply of energy.

Modern humans are more likely to take any kind of risk when they’re hungry.

The important ‘muscle’ action being trained is the habit of noticing what you are about to do, and choosing to do the more difficult thing instead of the easiest.

If you can imagine a time when saying no will be second nature, you’ll be more willing to stick out the temporary misery.

When you feel like a saint, the idea of self-indulgence doesn’t feel wrong. It feels right, like you earned it. And if the only thing motivating your self-control is the desire to be a good enough person, you’re going to give in whenever you’re already feeling good about yourself.

Remembering the ‘why’ works because it changes how you feel about the reward of self-indulgence.

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

Once you start looking, it’s impossible not to see the many traps that have been laid to ensnare you, your dopamine neurons, and your money.

Dopamine’s primary function is to make us pursue happiness, not to make us happy.

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.

The pursuit of reward is the main goal, and dopamine is never going to give you a ‘stop’ signal—even when the experience does not live up to the promise.

When people pay attention to the experience of their false rewards, the magical spell wears off.

The thing we were seeking happiness from was the main source of misery.

Stress points us in the wrong direction, away from our clear-headed wisdom and toward our least helpful instincts. That’s the power of the one-two punch of stress and dopamine.

The goal to feel better trumps the goal of self-control.

Buying things makes us feel optimistic.

If you think that the key to greater willpower is being harder on yourself, you are not alone. But you are wrong.

Be kind and supportive to yourself, especially in the face of stress and failure.

Our brain’s reward system did not evolve to respond to future rewards.

How much more is your happiness today worth than your happiness tomorrow?

Make choices in advance and from a clear distance, before your future self is blinded by temptation.

We think about our future selves like different people.

Thinking about someone with good self-control can increase your own willpower.

If we find ourselves in the majority, all our tribal brain hears is “What a relief, I’m just like everyone else.”

Each choice we make serves as an inspiration or temptation for others.

We estimate how likely or true something is by the ease with which we can bring it to mind.

Focus on what you want to do, instead of what you don’t want to do.

It is impossible to control what comes into our mind. All we can do is choose what we believe and what we act on.