Stanford graduate, psychologist, and author of The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It, Kelly McGonigal provides breakthrough ideas about how our minds interpret and act upon things in daily life. McGonigal is an advocate for willpower and seeks to help others harness the inherent quality of self-control that we all possess but sometimes do not know to shape or wield – whether it comes to managing addictions or maintaining discipline. Many things in life are addictive and the mind’s impulse will play tricks on you and do whatever it takes to attain its goal of immediate gratification. McGonigal created a very clear path of instructions that can help individuals to overcome and understand addictions, anxiety, depression, self-control, acting and more.
Below are a few of the major points of her guidelines to developing and maintaining willpower:
Neuroscientists talk about how we have one brain and two minds. We have a mind that acts on impulse and seeks immediate gratification, and we have another mind that controls our impulses and delays gratification to fulfill our long-term goals. We face willpower challenges when the two minds have competing goals. Various study groups were created to test the results of McGonigal’s process of intervention. One major component learned is that when we decide we need “that “smoke or “that” drink, we need to stop, listen, and not act.
We need to wait a few minutes and see if that desire to act upon impulse still lingers in your mind. The outcomes to date suggest that this process of delay has an 80%+ success rate. The smoker who wants to quit does not need any expensive tablets, gums, patches, hypnosis, or mediation from professionals to do so. Try this for yourself, it works! Believe it!
As a nicotine gum user for over two years, waking up one day and starting to play close attention to my wants, needs, and thoughts is exactly how one can manage to get over addictions. The simple act of shutting off immediate gratification is not easy. The sensations and feelings of addiction are literally 24/7. This becomes extremely obvious when you start to pay close attention to your thoughts.
Addictions come in many different aspects. The thrill-seeker is looking for that adrenaline rush, the foodies are looking for that experiential flavour sensation, the hobbyist is looking for that calm and excited adrenaline rush, the list goes on and on. Addictions can come in any shape or form. The frequency and rate at which any act is performed, constitutes an addiction problem.
“Neuroscientists have discovered that when you ask the brain to meditate, it gets better not just at meditating, but at a wide range of self-control skills, including attention, focus, stress management, impulse control, and self-awareness. People who meditate regularly aren’t just better at these things. Over time, their brains become finely tuned willpower machines.”
– Kelly McGonigal, The Willpower Instinct
You have to ask yourself, what does she mean by “willpower machine”? Well, when you meditate you are paying close attention to everything and anything around and inside you. You notice every tiny fleck, speck, and thought. Anything that could possibly influence you in any way whatsoever during the day is observed and analyzed. This is an extremely powerful tool for any person.
The sheer act of realizing that you have two separate brains that each serve a separate purpose is the first key to “self-control”. Kelly McGonigal herself practices yoga as a means to connect to her mind, body, and spirit. These new strategies and others are discussed in her book, The WillPower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It, as part of the Authors@Google series. Topics include dieting/weight loss, health, addiction, quitting smoking, temptation, procrastination, mindfulness, stress, sleep, cravings, exercise, self-control, self-compassion, guilt, and shame.
3. Stress Relief
When you start to pay close attention to everything in the present, you start to gain insight as to how you should proceed forward in life. No person in their right mind should be avoiding anything that brings them happiness. Presentations are a perfect example of “avoidance”. The positives gained from a great preparation, research, execution, communication, etc. all outweigh the negatives. Any discomfort a person may feel before, during, or after a presentation dissipates in the wake of the all of the good things that show up to take its place.
Scientists have demonstrated that dramatic, positive changes can occur in an individual’s life when they face extreme situations. The stress catalyzed positive psychological change and repaired psychological distress, a process different from post-traumatic growth but with similar outcomes. Successful post-traumatic growth (PTG), or benefit finding, refers to positive psychological change experienced as a result of adversity and other challenges in order to rise to a higher level of functioning.
For more from Kelly McGonigal, visit http://kellymcgonigal.com/.
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