The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal Ph.d. makes a big promise on the cover. To teach you not only how self control works but how to get more of it in your life. The premise is that the “I will” power and the “I won’t” power are managed by the “I want” power. There is a comical component to the book if you can manage some self-honesty and admit that you believe this basic tenant. That we all perceive the future me to have more time, more focus, more desire and more willpower than the present me. Why a diet would work better next month or why next January is a better time to start reading the Bible through is better than starting today is a mystery. We see it that way, but in reality, it’s a myth. The future me will be more of the present me unless immediate modifications are made. The three components of willpower are;
1. I will power is the power to do what you should do even when you don’t want to.
2. I won’t power is the power to resist the thing you shouldn’t do no matter how tempting it is.
3. I want power is the power to remember the thing that you really want in life which drives and manages the other two.
Most willpower battles are the battle between the present and the future. The desire portion of the brain is in constant search of satisfaction (reward) and will take a lesser reward now rather than a greater reward later. That is one of the willpower challenges. The loud voice shouting reward now is louder than the faint voice saying bigger reward later. The section on Olds and Milner’s rats and the discovery of how dopamine works on the brain is worth the time to read the whole book. If you study the Bible you will see science is finally catching up with what the Bible has said for thousands of years about normal human behavior. Of course, the scientists discovered it.
The book has very good advice for coming to terms with the fact that your future you (the one you imagine has infinite willpower and total self control) cannot be trusted to act as nobly as you imagine he/she will. You will learn great willpower tools that are both effective and doable. Getting to the “I want” of your life will require willpower and willpower will require knowing what force is at work challenging your “I want” and how to disable it before it wrecks something.