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4.6 out of 5 stars35
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 23 March 2012
Formerly called "The Willpower Instinct", in this book McGonigal brings together the newest insights about self-control from psychology, economics, neuroscience and medicine to build willpower. She is a health psychologist at Stanford School of Medicine where she teaches a course called "The Science of Willpower" that quickly became the most popular classes ever offered by Stanford. Course evaluations call the course "life-changing".

The book's 10 chapters reflect her 10-week course, written in an interesting and easy style, without any "academic pompousness":

1. effective willpower - just noticing what's happening is key
2. the willpower instinct - anything that puts a stress on your mind or body can sabotage self-control but too much willpower is stressful
3. self-control is like a muscle - it gets tired from use but regular exercise makes it stronger
4. why being good encourages bad behaviour - we use past good behaviour to justify indulgences
5. why we mistake wanting for happiness - even false promises of reward make us feel alert and captivated, so we chase satisfaction from things that don't deliver
6. how feeling bad leads to giving in - self-compassion is a far better strategy than beating ourselves up
7. we discount both future rewards and future costs - we consistently act against our own long-term interests and we illogically believe our future selves will (magically) have more willpower
8. why willpower is contagious - humans are hardwired to connect and we mimic and mirror both willpower failures and willpower successes of our social network
9. inner acceptance improves outer control - attempts to fight instincts and desires ironically make them worse
10. final thoughts - the aha moment

Each chapter makes use of fascinating paradoxes to dispell common misconceptions about self-control. While I preferred the deeper "Willpower" by Tierney and Baumeister (who has studied contradictory human behaviour for decades), this book is way ahead of any others I've read on the subject, for its wide range of down-to-earth and practical strategies for greater success. Another excellent book is "Willpower: The Owner's Manual - 12 Tools for Doing the Right Thing" by Frank Martela PhD.
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on 29 January 2012
Never before have I really been aware of the physiological basis of how stress can affect willpower. This book is extremely liberating, realising that you can actually change your physiology to a state where willpower is more accessible is empowering. This book should be ready by every GP, health care professional and those caring for 'troubled' children, in fact everybody! It wont be the answer to everyones troubles, but it may help them get their physiology ready to receive other help.

The only thing not so good about it is its title, it doesn't show just how full of help the contents are!

READ IT! Worth every penny!!
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on 30 January 2012
I bought this as I wanted to have more willpower when it came to food. I found the book very enlightening and it has helped me understand better why I lack willpower! It has given me a few strategies to improve my willpower and as a result I have resisted some temptations and lost weight. What I have found more surprising is that it has affected other areas of my life in that I am not procrastinating as much; I've tidied out my garage, cleaned my kitchen cupboards and sorted out my wardrobe. I'm certainly pleased I bought this book and strongly recommend it. I would have given it 5 stars but found it a bit long winded in parts.
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on 2 June 2012
So glad I bought this. I'm only halfway through but already I've learned lots of good strategies for improving my willpower (or, more accurately, to avoid having to do the right thing by sheer, brute force of will). Well worth the money.

All of her recommendations are based on results from psychology experiments and there are some fascinating, and very counter-intuitive findings.

It's also very engagely and entertainingly written. Glad to give it five stars.
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on 27 March 2012
I have read various books on improving willpower, and this one is truly outstanding! For me personally, the best part is that she focuses on small changes that make a big difference - whereas other books tend ask you to do difficult or time-consuming things - which isn't easy when willpower is in short supply. For a good overview of the content, search youtube for the "authors at Google" talk she did in January 2012.
Edit: I bought the book on 21-Mar-12, and completed the first reading on 03-Jun-12. I intend to read it several more times. I could name at least five other books on the subject, most of which I didn't complete, none of which helped - and neither did keeping a diary for months. This one has helped - my willpower has increased substantially (admittedly from a low base). If you're a weak-willed person who wants stronger willpower, this book can work where all else has failed.
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on 17 May 2012
This book is so clear and helpful that I have sent copies as gifts to friends with problems from self-esteem to dieting, as well as simple stress. I bought it to tackle my depression, and found it's working in the underlying areas of procrastination and weight control. Because that's one of the important points: you have to look at the problems behind your problems. The author begins by saying there is no magic bullet, but I've now been following the course for six weeks and I have restored relations with an old friend I thought I was losing, tidied my study, and (drum roll) been able to draw my belt in two notches (cymbals, applause).
One thing: you might think (as I did) that the book is padding around what should be a pamphlet. It isn't. I've gone back to revise the first few chapters, and been surprised by how much deeper my understanding is second time and third time around.
I bought this on Kindle, but because you will need to refer back and forth I recommend the paperback.
Finally, this is a long haul: I accept that changing my life for the better can't be done in the few weeks this course takes. When I've finished it I'm going back to the beginning. This book won't change your life, but if you follow it, it will help you to.
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on 10 October 2013
I had first read the Chimp Paradox which I thought was excellent for its presention of the two selves in a simple but very powerful and relatable way. This provides a useful (necessary) primer for Maximum Willpower because it doesn't explain this "we all have two selves" challenge when really everything about behaviour management is anchored in learning to better handle the emotional self who lives alongside our rational self.

This book makes a great companion book because it builds on this and presents many studies and theories about how our mind's work and lots of good techniques to try for particular problems. (I particularly liked the section about your future you - that we put off or indulge in things today because we imagine our future self will have more time, information, health, money etc and will be able to cope better with the consequences).

I got a lot of intriguing insights out of this book along with some tools to help think and behave more productively. It's well written, the material is accessible and eminently actionable.
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on 10 June 2013
A good self help book, but lots of common sense, so feels a bit of a repeat of stuff you probably know. Loved the science/clinical side of it though, gives it great depth and help understand so much!
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on 28 April 2014
I originally got this book in digital, but when I seen it for such a good price on Amazon, I got it in physical too !

Around a month ago, I painfully reflected on my whole life and admitted to myself that the upset and depression that I was now experiencing was all down to my severe lack of self-control.

I investigated ways to improve my self-control on google, and maximum willpower by Kelly McGonigal popped up in the search. I have read, tested and studied only a 3rd of the book so far, but I am very impressed. Every page was an awakening for me !

This book is based on science and is very reliably accurate, it has helped me enormously. I can see my life changing daily !

Before I started reading this book, I realised that " self-control is the measure of success " and this book is my way to evolve.

Thanks Kelly McGonigal
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on 17 January 2014
This book is beautifully written and provides very practical tips to help you develop more willpower. I find it very interesting how our body and mind work together. I'm on my second chapter 2 and I like it very much so far.
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