Don't Delay

Understanding procrastination and how to achieve our goals

Willpower 101: A Gift for the Class of 2016

What I would give to a son or daughter heading to college this fall

Cover of
http://kellymcgonigal.com/willpowerinstinct/
If you ever struggle with procrastination - and face it, who doesn't? - you'll want to read this book. In fact, I will recommend it as a "must listen," and that makes it an ideal gift for sons or daughters as they head off to college and university this fall.

Last night, I attended a "Parents' Dinner/Reception" on our university campus. This event provides an opportunity for parents to relax with some of the faculty and staff of the university after a busy weekend of helping their daughters or sons move into residence. Over a very good meal, I got to listen to the hopes and concerns of these parents as their children entered their first year of study.

Not surprisingly, "work ethic" was a common theme. Parents worried that their children were not prepared for the workload ahead of them with their studies. They worried about the risk of procrastination. The thing is, most parents also said something like, "he [or she] doesn't listen to me!"  Given this pretty normal gap between parents and their kids at this age, everyone seemed at a loss about how to help.

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I want to recommend that parents consider a recent book by Dr. Kelly McGonigal. Kelly teaches an acclaimed course at Stanford University, "The Science of Willpower," often called "Willpower 101" by students. On the basis of this science and her students' feedback, Kelly has written an excellent book, The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why it Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It.

A book? Do you think that my kid is going to read a book right now?

No, probably not. But, they might just listen to it.

I bought a copy on Audible (your first book is free with Audible, even if you don't continue with a subscription). I'm a big fan of audiobooks, and this one is a good listen.

Kelly has many compelling examples and interesting real-life anecdotes that help explain the science of willpower. Of course, I would argue that everyone would benefit from reading this book, so plan on reading or listening to it yourself so that you can discuss it as a family. 

The book is full of practical strategies that Kelly's students try out after each of her classes at Stanford. Readers/Listeners are encouraged to do the same thing in each chapter of the audiobook. In the end, each of us can discover which strategies best fit our own willpower challenges.

Procrastination may be a common problem, but there are solutions. I've been writing about these for years here on the PT "Don't Delay" blog. Kelly has taken one specific aspect of this thorny problem, our failing self-control, and she helps us understand how we can more effectively meet our own goals.

I can't think of a better gift for our children as they head off to school. The demands for effort and self-control are extremely high. This book will help them meet the challenges ahead. 

Blogger's Note:
Check out Dr. McGonigal's Psychology Today blog, "The Science of Willpower"

Timothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D., is an associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, where he specializes in the study of procrastination.

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