Month: January 2013 (page 2 of 2)

Book Review: The Willpower Instinct

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

You guys, I loved this book.

I was a neuroscience major for my first three years of college. One of the requirements to fulfill the major was to participate in a weekly discussion group about hot neuroscience topics with the other neuroscience majors and professors. It was one of my favorite academic experiences. We’d argue about things like free will or whether or not people had souls, and we’d geek out over amazing research that I couldn’t believe the rest of the world didn’t seem to know or care about. One of the most memorable books we read and discussed was Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

This book reminded me of all of that. The neuron-popping ideas. The cool research. And much like Emotional Intelligence redefined what it means to be smart, this book changed my thoughts on what willpower really is. It wasn’t so much an “I never knew that” feeling as an “I never looked at it that way” sort of experience.

The Willpower Instinct is designed to be used as if you were taking Dr. McGonigal’s “Science of Willpower” course offered to the public through Stanford University’s Continuing Studies program. There are ten chapters that mirror the ten week class experience (and include real-life experiences from former students). Each chapter introduces a new idea about willpower along with evidence to support the idea, and then follows it up with two kinds of assignments. The first assignment called “Under the Microscope” is a prompt that asks you to simply pay attention and observe the way the idea currently operates in your life, while the second “Willpower Experiment” offers a practical strategy for improving your willpower.

I didn’t have ten weeks to review the book, so I have yet to put it to the test with a true Willpower Challenge, but I’m looking forward to trying it. I can see how some of the strategies I read about were ones that had brought me success in the past, and I discovered ways I’ve sabotaged myself without realizing it. The greatest thing about this book, aside from the cool studies I’ve been forcing my family to hear about at dinner all week, is that it all seems doable. It’s reasonable. And it’s liberating for someone like me who beats herself up and feels like she’s “bad” when she stumbles. It’s not necessarily bad. Maybe it’s biology! It’s much easier to overcome the scientific reality of a natural impulse than the idea that you’re somehow deficient for wanting that doughnut or putting off doing the laundry.

We’ll be talking about willpower over at BlogHer all month. Be sure to check it out and join in.

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own.

I think I have a dirty mind.


Library sign reads:
VIDEOS (in pink neon)
And I think – adult?

Let’s talk about books.

Dave and I agreed that we wouldn’t exchange gifts on Christmas. He broke that agreement.

Of course Dave said I broke the agreement first with the whole 12 Days of Christmas thing. To this I replied, “No, sir. You are mistaken. I didn’t give you those gifts ON Christmas.”

“But they were FOR Christmas.”

“But not ON Christmas. See how that makes me right?”

“You know what? I’m keeping this for myself,” he said taking it back, right after he gave me this.

My Christmas Present from Dave

(And then he smacked me on the butt with it.)

That book is Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore, whom I love, thanks to my friend Amy who introduced me to him when she recommended his book The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror which is awesome. (I also recommend A Dirty Job: A Novel, as it is also awesome. Or anything by Christopher Moore, really. Because I love him. [I’d love to see someone like Kevin Smith make some of his books into movies. Isn’t that a genius idea? It is. Tell Hollywood.])

I’m loving Lamb. It satiates the resentful preacher’s kid in me.

I really just love books. If there’s one good thing I’ve passed on to my kids, it’s that love. Our house is littered with children’s books. We use the library, too, of course – me more than the kids, because I really believe kids need their own books (and lots of them), lying around to be explored and read and read and read again.

I always give the girls a book for Christmas. If ever I could only give them one thing for the holiday, it would be a book. I try to make it special – I mean, they do get books all year (our local Goodwill stores sell children’s books for 25 or 50 cents each and I load up there regularly), but at Christmas, they get a book that is brand new.

This year, we gave Julia the first three volumes of The Sisters Grimm series.

Julia's newest books

My hope is she’ll love them and we’ll complete the series. The jury is still out. Right now she’s nose-deep in a classic series and enjoying the likes of Heidi, Pollyanna, and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. The Sisters Grimm is on the wait list.

Phoebe's newest book

Phoebe got a mirror book called Imagine Me As a Cow and Other Farm Animals because, well, look at her.



Sneaky peek

She’s all about peek-a-boo books and this one, if I’m being honest, was on sale. She loves this book. But it’s no competition for her current 50 cent favorite Rumble in the Jungle – a book I’ve read six times today already.

Phoebe's favorite book

She likes the “lalilla.”

She loves the "lalilla."

Where I really struck gold was with Lucy. I gave her Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You.

Lucy's newest book

There’s a space inside that child of mine the very size of this book and we filled it up on Christmas morning. This book was written for a kid like Lucy. The kid in that book? It is Lucy. I wish I’d written it. Damn, I wish I’d written it for her.

Meanwhile, I have three library books on my nightstand waiting to be finished: The Ghost in the House: Motherhood, Raising Children, and Struggling with Depression by Tracy Thompson, Bossypants by Tina Fey and Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman.

Oh, and I just finished Mindy Kaling’s book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) which is absolutely adorable. And The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women by Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels, which is not adorable, but something I’d wish I’d read when it came out (which was the year Julia was born).

What are you and your kids reading?

(By the way, this isn’t a sponsored post, but the book links are affiliate links. A girl’s gotta read. I thought you’d want to know.)

The people? Yeah, we just sit on the floor.

This is a terrible picture of our two calico cats in our blue chairs

we have two blue chairs
we have two calico cats
who love our blue chairs

Phoebe feels similarly about my walls.

It's just begging to be run through.

a blank, white canvas
blankets our front yard and I
am itching to paint

“Is this a sibling thing?” asks the only child.

My kids are pretty decent people and are pleasant most of the time. But there’s this thing they’ve been doing lately that goes something like this:

Phoebe (or Lucy or Julia. Their names are interchangeable in this scenario.) sits quietly enjoying a bowl of popcorn. (Also, you should realize that “bowl of popcorn” could be replaced with ANYTHING. Yesterday, it was a towel.)(And I use the term “enjoying” loosely.)

Lucy sees the popcorn. Lucy wants the popcorn. Lucy takes the popcorn.

Phoebe screams. Phoebe cries. Phoebe assaults Lucy.

Lucy retaliates.

I intervene.

I remind the girls that their sisters are reasonable people and suggest that Lucy politely ask Phoebe if she may have some of her popcorn.

Lucy regains her composure and asks, “Phoebe, can I please have some popcorn, too?”

Phoebe turns off the tears and agrees, “Sure! Here ya go.”

Happiness ensues.


Now, if we were in public or with anyone outside of our family, there’d be no taking of the popcorn bowl, screaming, crying or violence. They know, in any other situation, that the right thing to do is use kind words and manners. But at home and to each other? They’re riled up for a fight like guests on The Jerry Springer Show. And we’ve been going through this so often, I could program a robot to step in and handle it for me, which is tempting, because REALLY KIDS? THIS AGAIN!?!

They really are reasonable kids. 90% of the time, when asked, they will willingly share. 100% of the time, when one of them rips something out of the hands of another, something bad happens. They’re smart kids. Why can’t they get those odds?

Do your kids do this? Tell me they do. And if they don’t, tell me about something they do that will make me feel better.

You think? We’ll see.

It’s a brand new year.
The (Sometimes) Daily Haiku
should make a comeback.

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