Scheduling an Event

My speaking, consulting, and corporate events are managed by The Leigh Bureau speakers’ agency. To arrange a talk, event, or keynote, please contact them directly at  1-908-253-8600 or, or fill out this form. If you would like to set up a local or smaller event, such as a book signing, workshop, or fundraiser for a non-profit/charity, please follow this link to fill out an event request.

Arranging an Interview

I am happy to speak with the press about my books or research. Please fill out the interview request form below. (or click here for inquiries in Japanese).

For inquiries about my Stanford classes that are open to the public, check my Courses page or updated schedules and registration information at:

Stanford Continuing Studies (quarterly public courses in psychology; registration required)

Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism (compassion cultivation trainings and other public events)

All other messages and requests:

I always appreciate hearing from readers and others interested in psychology, compassion, mindfulness, healthcare, and service/outreach. Please understand that I am not always able to respond to individual inquiries/questions. You can email me through the interview form above, or start a conversation  through my Facebook page or on Twitter (@kellymcgonigal).


Leave a Comment

  1. In your interview on NPR January 1, 2010 you mentioned a study about exercise changing a variety of behaviors. What was the study & where can I access it?
    Murray Neale

    • You’re probably thinking of: Oaten, M., & Cheng, K. (2006). Longitudinal Gains in Self-Control from Regular Physical Exercise. British Journal of Health Psychology, 11, 717-733.

      There’s lots of other evidence for the benefits of exercise on self-control — my book covers it in a few chapters and provides citations. 🙂


  2. I just watched your talk at the Stanford Happiness Conference 2011 on youtube and it was very fascinating. I’m currently writing a thesis on self-compassion and several of the studies you mention would be helpful for my literature review. However, I couldn’t read who the research was done by. Do you happen to have a link to those studies? Many thanks, and I look forward to studying your work more.

  3. Just finished reading your book ‘The WIllpower Instinct’ and it was so helpful, informative and frequently quite funny. I borrowed it from the library since I’m an epic frugalist (wondering if I have hyperopic tendencies) but might actually consider purchasing it. I’m wondering if your ‘Science of Willpower’ course is ever offered in an online format and – failing that – whether you’ve ever given any consideration to creating a workbook that people could use in a group setting to proceed through the material in the course and in your book in a ‘study circle’ type format (like people do with voluntary simplicity for example). Thanks again for writing such a great book.

  4. Dear Dr. McGonigal; Hiya. I’m 20 pages from finishing your book. I guess I didn’t have the willpower to wait till I finished it to write you. I kid. It’s a great book. A Tour de’ Snickers. Figured I should shoot this e-mail off before I forget. I read Baumeisters book . You site him and his research. Obviously yours is more comprehensive and filled with more helpful real life info. I got one thing from his book, that willpower depletes and by the end of the day you have less or none. I’m not sure you agree with that, but that fact helps me with my eating challenge. I was wondering. I’m a wonderer. Since you give a class in this. Might you have a cheat-sheet, a hand-out, a kind of over-all chart – that’s a thumbnail, at-a-glance over-view, that might have highlights like dopamine, halo-effect, wait-ten-minutes, meditation…There’s just so much you bring to the table in the book and it’s a lot to take in, and it’s all important. I plan on going back and scanning and highlighting to create my own, but I’m a one man business and just so busy, as things are a real challenge now. I heard you on Joe Cooper on WLRN in Miami, and bought your book. I have some profound challenges, that understanding and implementing your willpower research could really make the difference for me. Thanks again. – Jonny Katof

  5. Hi Kelly. You were my editor on a couple of pieces way back when. I am now training at Duke Integrative Medicine — specifically in integrative health coaching (taught as a standardized intervention for lifestyle change). They have limited studies on it so far but I can send you the literature if you want. The intervention (not far from MI model, but predicated on a mind/body practice as “cornerstone of change”) exemplifies the use of mindfulness & awareness of vision/long term goals to sustain new behaviors. Hope you’re well! Take care, Susanna PS Bought the book & love it.

    • So glad to hear you are doing the integrative health coaching! I wrote an article about Duke’s program for Shambhala Sun and I’m glad to hear they will have you as a resource.

  6. I listened to your interview on CBC’s Spark yesterday. I really enjoyed, not just the substance of what you said, though that spoke to me strongly, but your personableness and humour.

    A few of the things you said – particularly about how important awareness is – made me wonder if you’re familiar with the Inner Game books by* Timothy Gallwey. He didn’t have the science to back him up at the time, so he had to go on empirical observation and experiment, but he had many similar things to say, even back in the 70s.

    *as co-authored, in some cases, like The Inner Game of Music, which is mostly by Barry Green.

  7. Great book! Are you planning to train other trainers to conduct “Science of Willpower” courses? I would certainly be interested. Also, as clinical director of an outpatient addiction treatment center I would love to be part of a multi-site study on the benefits of your program when added to standard addiction treatment.

    • Kelly, to follow up on my earlier comment: During our training as psychologists we are steeped in the scientist/practitioner ideal, but for those of us working with clients every day it’s easy to fall into relying on “common sense” and “clinical wisdom” (some of which is certainly misguided). Continuing education training for therapists (perhaps like what you do with teachers but on the “Science of Willpower” topic) would be a real boon to practitioners, particularly those like me in the addiction field. Of course, counselors in all areas of specialty will find the material compelling and extremely practical. If you’d consider certifying or subcontracting other psychologists to do the course, I would be interested. I have taught continuing education courses throughout the U.S. and I think a course on this topic would really bring in participants.

  8. I am an Irish Stanford Biz School grad. Found you self compassion talks very relevant given my experience growing up in Ireland. Also, as a person diagnosed with ADHD I find your self control/willpower insights to be excellent and appropriate for my life. Have bought your books, and CD from sounds true site.
    THANKS for the great difference in my life and speaking about things of universal importance and application.

  9. Hi there,

    I was particularly interested in the Feb. 24 New York Times article on bad habits and identifying with Your Future Self.

    I’ve got a project I think you might be interested in: — in which your future self sends you questions to be answered via email. Until reading the NYT article I hadn’t thought about how identifying with your future self might help change habits…

      • Sure thing — send an email to canton[at] so I know where to email the code (or click the request link on the home page at My Future Self.)

  10. Hi Kelly. I am Anna. Your Willpower book is superb and I can’t put it down. That does not happen to me too often. I am only sad that you did not include references for the studies you cite. I am currently working on a chapter for professional mental-health audience, on the topic of willpower during the ‘terrible twos’. The studies you cite on p.92 by researchers at Baruch College in New York (re: Big Mac effect) would be most helpful to me. Would you be able to take the time to send me the reference?

    Thanking you in advance…. Anna Hall

    • Hi Anna,
      All the references for every study are in the book’s endnotes, by page number. What version do you have that the references aren’t included?

  11. Kelly.

    Thank you for your quick response. I had overlooked the Notes section at the end of the book. I now looked in your Notes for page 92, which is what I need, but there is no citation for it. I need the study by marketing researchers from Baruch College, that simulates the McDonald situation when they first introduced salads into the menu. Can you find me that reference?

    You do have a reference designated for pg. 93 by Kahn and Dahr, and I looked up that research, but they are addressing the temporal aspect of choice and self-control, which seems to me is different from the essential meaning of what the ‘Mc Donald study’ illustrates.

    Sorry for bothering you so. You seem like an extraordinarily busy person. How can you answer our questions so quickly and do it so well?


  12. Hello! I just finished your book (I absolutely loved it! The first self-help book that makes sense to me…) and I have two questions:
    1. Are there any guided meditation CD’s that you can recommend to me?
    2. Like the comment left by Jonny Katof on 3/7, I too am wondering if you have any chart where you have all the suggestions organized. I’d love to take your class, but I am on the East Coast!
    Many thanks!

      • Thanks so much for your quick reply! I will check out the CD’s/MP3’s, and start designing my own chart…I have half the book highligted, so it will be a little tricky! I am so hopeful that I will finally be able to acheive lasting success in my I will/I won’t challenge. (I’m trying to change my I won’t into an I will)
        Take care,

  13. I am writing from Madrid, Spain. I read with great interest your book entitled “The willpower instinct”. I found it impressive. It is more interesting than any other in this topic. So, congratulations!!!
    I spoke to some friends about your book, and they ended up interested in it. The problem is that they cannot read English (I am translating for them some selected parts of the book). Are you going to publish an edition in Spanish of this book? It would be great. I am sure that many people would also find it interesting and helpful. Best regards.

  14. I am just finishing your book and it is great – definitely life changing! One of the ways I learn and apply books is highlight and summarize book so I can revisit and apply what I learn in my life. I have worked with children/youth for 20 years and currently I am a houseparent for underprivileged middle school girls. I am going to try to repackage the materials in your book for our students and present it to them so they can learn and apply the principles into their lives (their biggest problems arise from not controlling their thoughts and actions). This material is great for adults, but just think of the effect it would have if kids were to learn how to control their willpower at a younger age. I should end up with something that could turn into your book for youth. Would you be interested in me sending it to you when it is completed?

    • Hi Joe,

      I’m just seeing your comment now so hopefully you have follow-up comments enabled. I would be interested in seeing your notes on Kelly’s book adapted for kids. What’s been your experience like so far using these techniques with your youth?

      Check out Adele Diamond’s 2011 paper, “Interventions shown to Aid Executive Function Development in Children 4–12 Years Old.” You may find it interesting.


      • Just wanted to add that is a great paper recommendation — it communicates a very important point, that overly specific “brain training” or cognitive training is less helpful than supporting kids’ socioemotional well-being and regular physical exercise (especially with elements of mindful self-control, like yoga and martial arts).

        My read of the research is the same goes for adults.

  15. Hi Kelly, I’m 40 years old entrepreneur from Ukraine. Your book was the first book in my life that I decided to read again after I’ve just finished reading it . Great study. Thank You. Evgeniy

  16. I have just finished reading willpower instinct , actually i was already sober for 5 months when i started to read and as well non smoker for 8 months , but now i understand very well how will power works and i feel myself stronger after finishing this book.
    I would like to thank you for such a life changing book. For sure it will become my everyday pocket book for whole my life.
    What i have discovered as well that if my i wan’t power is pretty high as i quit smoking and drinking , my i will power is very week , i am delaying daily things very often , especially i delay tasks which implementation requires many workhours .
    Please can you give specific advise how can i overcome my procrastination and what is the phsycological reason of procrastination?

  17. Visited Avalon yesterday and bought your book. I am excited as I see a motivation link using to get positive results from wellness programs that mean well but statistically are not getting the ROI expected.

  18. Dear Kelly,
    I’m a Spanish medicine student (in dire need for a book like yours), I’m at the first “listen” and have found your book very interesting so far. Today I commented to a friend who is a Psychiatrist in training and is starting to specialize in addictions about the fishbowl method to help keep patients clean… but I didn’t hear any studies mentioned nor was I able to find them online, could you please refer me to any papers that deal with the matter?
    That would be very kind of you 🙂

    Congrats for your great book!

  19. Dear Dr. MoGonigal,

    I just recently finished reading your book, and wanted to mention a couple of things that came to mind while I was reading the chapter “Don’t Read This Chapter.” I often have difficulty maintaining focus when I’m trying to meditate: as a very “left-brained” person, my mind is always chattering. I’ve found something that can help if I’m trying to focus on a particular image or concept: if a stray thought wanders in, I focus on it for a moment, then mentally turn it as though it were an image on a page, and observe the desired image behind it.

    The other thing I wanted to mention relates to the opposite problem: being unable to *stop* thinking about something. Many years ago, I had just left a disastrous relationship, and found myself unable to get my mind off my ex. Every thought would reroute to her, like a series of trains all caught by the same misbegotten stuck switch. Fortunately, I decided to seek help, and the therapist suggested that an effective way to break that cycle would be to start naming everything I saw around me (silently, of course) if I felt myself starting that slide into thinking of her again. It wasn’t always easy or effective, but overall I found it far better than letting my mind go racing down that same track.

    Best regards, and thanks for a fascinating and useful book!

  20. Kelly,

    The Willpower book is great- thank you for writting it! I also bought the Neuroscience of Change and I’m listening to it right now. As much as I love listening to it, I would also love the opportunity to own the book in written form. It there any way I can by The Neuroscience of Change as a book?

    Also, any way to take your class online?

    PS- I found you thru Brian Johnson & his Philosophers Notes.


    David Trapp

    • Hi David,

      I’m so glad your enjoying the books! The Neuroscience of Change was unscripted, recorded live. Right now it isn’t transcribed, as far as I know, but Sounds True may at some point publish a transcription.

      I will be teaching a version of the Neuroscience of Change as a live online course through Sounds True for 6 weeks starting in September; I may offer my Science of Willpower course through iTunes University in 2013. I’ll post those announcement on this site when they are available!


  21. Kelly – I work in IT dealing with Change. Was wondering whether your research applies to group level Change as well as individual. Any thoughts on this or where to explore would be appreciated


  22. I have the audio book and I am loving it! I’d love to have a written list of the exercises. Have you created one? A PDF, maybe?

    • Which audiobook? I will have a series of exercise handouts for the Sounds True audiobook for the online version of the course I’m teaching with them this fall. I can email you those PDFs when they are ready, if that’s what you need!

      If it’s the willpower audiobook, just the print book itself.

      • I purchased it from Gildan Media Corp. I don’t think I can print it, can I?
        I’d like to have the PDFs. When is the online course and what are the costs?
        I started mediating yesterday. It begins!
        Thanks for your response.

  23. Hi, Kelly: A group of friends are signing up to take your September on-line course. We plan to view it together, then discuss. Three questions: Is there reading material you recommend we complete prior to the class? (I have read Willpower Instinct – it was terrific and very helpful). Will there be group discussion materials available? Any other recommendations to help us make the most of this group opportunity? Thanks for your inspiring work. Carol Coker

    • Hi Carol,

      I’m so excited to hear about your group plan! I hadn’t planned on recommended readings, but that is a good idea. I’ll think about articles and/or if there’s good overlap with The Willpower Instinct.

      There will be reflection questions each week that could be used as discussion prompts, along writing exercises and other optional homework. I think it would wonderful to do some of them together. I hope you’ll keep me posted during the class about how the group is going.


  24. Hi Kelly!

    I’m currently listening to The Willpower Instinct and loving it! I would have loved to hear you narrate the book but I’m sure you’re very busy. I’ve recommended it to several friends and family.

    I know there is a bibliography reference in the back of the book. Do you have a PDF version? I’d love to read up more on the studies you referenced.

    Thank so much,
    Amy Hathcock

      • Hi Kelly,
        I am reading through these comments and I know this one is from over a year ago, but I too would appreciate a copy of The Willpower Instinct bibliography. If possible, could you send it to me?

        Thank you!

        P.S. I cannot believe The Neuroscience of Change was unscripted and recorded live. WOW! You are such a gifted and articulate speaker.

  25. Hello Kelly,

    I am an Indian Psychologist interested in mindfulness and have just finished registering for your The Science of Mindfulness course at Stanford along with my husband. Really looking forward to it! Are you offering any mindfulness related workshops for mental health professionals in the Bay area in the near future? Thanks!

  26. Kelly, I somehow found your video on self compassion and the series of videos on new year resolutions and found them very valuable. I suffer from major depression and recently panic attacks. I blame myself for everything so learning self compassion has been very helpful. I’ve watched these videos several times and are a big deal in helping me deal with my constant self condemnation. The example of students beating themselves up or not over procrastinating for exams is one I think of often.

    Unfortunately I went to watch the videos just now and I find they are now “private.” Is there any way I can get permission to watch them or download them. Overcoming decades of self condemnation is a serious challenge and watching these videos has been serious help.

    My sister lives in Redwood City and also teaches Yoga among other things. She also has watched the videos. She has been a rock of support to help me learn to deal with my depression. Most people have no clue when it comes to people’s suffering with “invisible” challenges. I have also read that for most people with depression two of the worst things in their lives are their friends and families. They just don’t “get it.” I would guess you would understand this with your constant dealing with migraine headaches. My sister and you would get along great.

    Thanks for passing along your research on self compassion.


  27. Thank you Kelly

    I’ve already watched both videos the one in the book store and the one at Google. Self compassion is still difficult for me, but your videos have helped me significantly. In the last 6 months I’ve been diagnosed with panic attacks. You mention some of your short interventions apply to anxiety and I hope to learn more in how to apply them in that context.


  28. Eating vegan increases willpower? This is the only intervention that you mentioned where I can’t find studies and published data. Can you please provide links, book recommendations, or videos that show how eating vegan increases willpower. I am vegan and I know this is true but it would be nice to have some citations and data when sharing with others. Thank you so much

  29. I borrowed The Willpower Instinct from the library and read it over the summer and am so impressed that I’m buying a copy so I can refer to it on an ongoing basis. (Friends who were visiting at the time are also buying a copy for themselves!)

    Anyway, one of the issues that you covered extensively was the idea of an internal willpower resource (though I admit to being a little vague on the details all these weeks later).

    Psychologist Robert Kurzban has written and blogged about the topic, and I thought you might be interested in his latest article:

    If you have a few moments, I’m interested to know your thoughts on the paper he cites and his own views of the subject.

    • I really admire Kurzban’s work and was amazed when nobody paid much attention to his first paper challenging the glucose model. To my read, it pretty much presented evidence for scientific fraud, not just scientific silliness.

      I still think the glucose research is interesting and that the central governor and stingy brain theories are relevant. If I were rewriting my book now, I would emphasize Baumeister et al. even less and some of these more complex theories (which I think account for Kurzban’s criticisms) more.


  30. Hi Kelly,

    I am a mental health therapist from Northern Alberta, Canada. I’m primarily using third-wave behavioral treatments (i.e. ACT, CFT) and contemplative practices with my clients. I was wondering, given some of the information in your fabulous book, if anyone has looked at the willpower effects of practicing Metta or Tonglen for one’s “future self?” Ever since I read about the propensity to load up our future selves with willpower challenges we aren’t ready to face, I’ve been thinking about targeting my future self with compassion meditaiton. Since it’s often easier to practice compassion for strangers, I thought that the tendency to view my future self as a stranger might actually help facilitate the meditation. Thoughts?

    • I kind of love this idea — though I want to think about it more. We want to feel close to and connected to our future self, and yet, you’re right that compassion is easier for another person. I think metta or tonglen for future self might be an interesting way to cultivate both future self connection and present self compassion.

      I don’t know of any direct research on this.

      Thank you for sharing this idea. Your work sounds wonderful.

  31. Hi Kelly, I attended your alumni classes without quizzes lecture a couple weeks ago. I introduced myself as an obgyn as well as a parent who has a stressed out Stanford ME grad student son in need of your yoga classes.

    I enjoyed your presentation and was excited about the prospect of incorporating your work into my medical practice. You suggested I order your book which I did since the Bookstore sold out : ) , but it has not yet arrived. You mentioned that the references might contain material helpful to putting these principles into practice at the office. I remain interested to know if any ” curricula” have been developed incorporating these principles. It occurs to me I should also check with the Stanford Center for Compassion. Anyhow, any leads on incorporating your work into office practice would be appreciated.

    Thanks again,
    Gina Nelson ’83

  32. Hey Kelly!
    I have your book and audio book. My wife and i listened to half of the audio book on our drive from Mt. Shasta to vacation in Santa Barbara. It was instrumental in some major shifts for both of us. Great material.
    I also have been listening to the Sounds True compassion series and have had you cued up since your interview and i finally got to it last night. Wow! As much as i liked listening to the guy on the audio book i found myself wishing you had read your book. The energy and intelligence coming through you in real time blew me away. I guess the little bit of male chauvinistic in me didn’t expect to get what i got from you in that interview…and at the same time i loved being surprised like i did as it forced me to look at my own beliefs and go inductive in my thinking.
    Your values and beliefs on your personal relationship i think showed a level of maturity beyond what Dr. Rick was trying to get you to answer. I felt like he wanted you to help him justify a level (with his examples) that you had already transcended and were responding from where you were. Not sure he got it. And i do think you hooked him when you said what you were about to say might upset him. He did seem to bring it up a bunch after that..LOL.

    What i really liked was the “How” that you were doing in real time. As Rick asked you questions i loved how you accessed your own will power and chose the parts of the brain that got you to answer in an inductive way from the Pre-frontal cortex…You brilliantly modeled what you had just taught.

    For the last 10 years i have been studying people who are or claim to be “Enlightened” or “Awake”….and i must say that the way you answered the questions and taught in the interview sounded very similar to how they express from the “Observer” “watcher” Position. In a inductive and abstract way but very understandable from the higher parts of the brain. It was as good as anyone i have listened to or watched. Not just from your output of the energy and information ( and your processing speed )…but from your empathetic listening and taking it all in. Very cool to watch and experience.
    Some of the old esoteric books on enlightenment said exercise of willpower was a method of getting there…i wonder if you have experienced this directly:-)

    Lastly…i watched a bit of your sister Jane today on Games. It is really obvious to me that your parents did something really right with the both of you. I would love to hear you speak about this. I have a 4 year old daughter who is tracking at a 6 year old level and i would love to see her model you two.

    Thanks so much!

    Mark J. Ryan

    PS i would be honored to interview you some time. I have a small list of 14,000 but i am sure it could sell a few books and help get your work out to more people:-)

  33. Aloha Kelly, Love all the work that you do. I’m currently writing a (non-conventional) book about transitioning to a plant based diet and I am including a chapter on self-compassion. I can’t find any reference to the study you site on your audio series under “Putting Yourself in a Prison” discussing how self-criticism activates two main areas of the brain, self-inhibition and punishment. Can you please send me a reference for that study, that would be very helpful. Thank you so much! Come and visit us in Hawaii any time 😉

  34. Something incredible happened for me during the “Opening Your Heart to Change” meditation. I am fairly new to meditation and have had mixed experiences. However, today, for the first time I was able to see my heart as light and feel space around my heart. Previously, anytime I have tried to envision my heart it has been black, pretty damn scary! So grateful that through your meditation I was able to connect with my heart in a healthier, hopeful way. Deeply grateful.

  35. Hello, I’ve really appreciated “the Neuroscience of Change” that I heard on Audible. Do you have this speech available in written form?

    Also I’ve heard that there was a certain minimum time frame that researchers identified that one could pause and reflect before making a decision that could optimize the possibility of making a conscious choice. Are you aware of this small amount of time or research that would reflect this study?

    Thank you so much!
    Basya Gutmann

  36. Dear Kelly, Currently reading Willpower instinct and wanted to share a though on Chapter 5 re: anticipation or promise of happiness. I was really perplexed about this and came to my own conclusion that, personally my “true happiness” comes from accomplishments big or small. It provides a contentment that lasts. On the other hand indulgences are great occasionally as a treat but I think we get into trouble when we try to use them to provide authentic happiness. Cleaning my house or weeding my yard does it every time.
    Love your book – so impressed !!!
    Michelle Langley British Columbia Canada

  37. Hello Kelly — I am a yoga teacher about to begin a 12-week chair course for seniors twice a week. Can you recommend a particular survey or questionaire for measuring their progress? My desire is to make a contribution by presenting evidence supporting yoga as therapy, but I want to make sure all the bases are covered before we begin. Thanks for any help you can offer. Mary Kane

  38. Hi Kelly,
    When one is practicing mindfulness, especially when related to a targeted behavior, is she drawing on the same brain resources, so to speak, as when she is exercising “willpower” to interrupt (stop/start/redirect) a behavior? Something is qualitatively different about the two approaches to me, yet I think they both draw on attention/focus, so…? I appreciate whatever you can offer here.

    • Yes, although interestingly mindfulness meditation is the only “willpower workout” I’ve ever seen scientifically demonstrated to restore, not deplete, willpower. So you’re right that something is qualitatively different.

      I think it has something to do with the shift in experience we have of the “self” — related to the meditation research/work of Norm Farb at the U of Toronto.

      Do you have other thoughts/insights from your own experience?


      • Thank you for the response and reference. After considering your comment about the “shift in experience we have of the ‘self’,” I am aware that exercising willpower or self-discipline evokes a kind of judgment of self–self needing governing. Mindfulness for me is lighter, a place of curiosity. Using willpower to pass up the second glass of wine leaves me feeling torn in two, with “one” of me being not too admirable. Stepping into mindfulness when I feel the urge to pour another glass feels more compassionate, and brings inquiry, not judgement. So I see how both draw on attention, but with such different intentions. So then my question becomes about how intention affects attention resources. I will look up Farb’s work. Thank you.

      • Is it possible that this qualitative difference might be explained by making a distinction between the intention of a ‘willpower workout’ versus the effect of practicing meditation? If willpower is about making optimal decisions despite having conflicting judgments, then willpower workouts are intended to strengthen the ability to make an optimal decision in the face of conflict caused by judgement. Working against the conflict depletes willpower. You can feel the frustration draining you. But with meditation practice, we realign ourselves to the weight and value of the judgements we make, therefore lessening or removing the conflict. So, meditation practice is not exactly a ‘willpower workout’, but rather, it’s a practice that causes a change in perspective that removes the conflict, and therefore removes the need to draw on the ‘willpower muscle’? Is there another explanation for the ‘qualitative difference’?

      • Hi Keith,

        I think your description of how meditation supports willpower is excellent. In my experience, meditation strengthens all aspects of willpower, but especially by making it feel “easier” to choose what is consistent with your values (reducing conflict).


  39. Hi, Kelly

    Your book, “The willpower instict” (Japanese version)really inspired me and I watched several youtubes video too! I am planing to take the online course too.
    According to your facebook, it seems like you were in Japan recently if I am not wrong.
    Are you planning to have an event or seminar in Japan in the future?
    In that case, would you let us know on facebook or your homepage?
    I hope I will not miss the info. I really have a desire to be intelligent, beautiful and supportive person like you by using my will power and I am looking forward to have a chance to attend any event that you will be present.
    Thank you for teaching us many helpful things!

    • Thank you Saki!

      I was in Japan a couple of weeks ago, and I enjoyed it so much! I am looking forward to returning, possibly in the Sept-Nov 2013 time window. I hope to be able to spend more time exploring the country, as my last trip was almost entirely confined to press interviews in the hotel room.


  40. Hi, Kelly 🙂
    Many thank you for your reply!
    I will keep checking on twitter and facebook etc. Hope you will have a good and fun relaxing time in Japan next time!
    Excited to see you here this fall!

  41. Kelly, your material ,sense of humor,and presentation style are really suited for a program on PBS. You have so much to offer, PBS could really expand your outreach. You really present sophisticated material with such clarity, humor and compassion. You have made it understandable, please make it more accessible. Spread you good news – Go PBS!! Thanks for your hard work, study and dedication.

  42. Hi Dr. McGonigal,
    I am in your Stanford class, and have a question we didn’t have time for in class, which is staying forefront in my mind. Thinking about the ‘What the hell’ effect as well as Terror Management as an affirmation of self anti-compassion in line with the moraliztion of goals/behaviors. Example: I am going to drive more reckless because I am really the ‘bad’ person who practices this behavior (and deserves the negative outcome). Love to hear your thoughts.

  43. Sherrie Vavrichek, LCSW-C, author of "Compassionate Assertiveness: How to Express Your Needs and Deal With Conflict says:

    Hello Kelly-
    Just watched your excellent interview with Rick Hanson (author of Buddha’s Brain”) on Sounds True’s Compassionate Brain series. I really liked how you wove together the cognitive, emotional, and physiological connections between self-control, pain, compassion, and assertiveness in some exciting and new ways. I completely agree with you that the more we can look at the whole picture with an open heart, the more we can find space to connect with ourselves and others out of caring and confidence in two qualities that we all have the capacity to develop: open-heartedness and inner strength. Keep up the great work–many will benefit from it!

  44. Hello Kelly, I read your “How I Work” interview today in Lifehacker. I was heartened to see that you got over your fear of flying. I got married more than a year ago and was not able to go on the honeymoon we planned because of a recently developed flying phobia. Now I find myself turning down potential job opportunities out of the fear I will have to board a plane. I’d appreciate knowing how you were able to conquer your fear. Thanks!

  45. Hi Dr. McGonigal,
    I’m  Japanese woman in Tokyo, and I read your book titled ”Saiko no jibun wo hikidasuhou in Japan”.
    It is very fun. I tell you thank you.

  46. Hi Kelly,

    Firstly, thank you for the books you have written, very insightful and motivating.

    Using your books for guidance I have formulated my own idea on how to change my negative actions into positive things. For example when I get a craving for a cigarette I make myself do 10 push ups (your willpower book helped me do this), which I hate doing. I have found that the cravings got easier as my brains seems to think the craving would result in the push ups not the cigarette. Obviously when I’m at work I cant start doing push-ups when I get a craving, so I eat currants which I also don’t like.

    Question I have though is this likely to work for the long-term, what I’m trying to aim for is replacing a negative thing (eg Smoking) which something healthy (eating currants) but will my brain learn to stop the cravings for bad things if I only replace it with health alternatives, or will they just get worse, by trying to convince me.



    • Hi Mark,

      I love these examples — an interesting twist on strategies I’ve heard before!

      My understanding of cravings, especially for something like smoking, is that reducing them requires distress tolerance above and beyond trying to convince the brain to want something else. Surfing the urge/acceptance without giving in is probably the best technique for that.

      You will likely never experience a true craving for something healthy — a craving is an irrational signal from the brain basically telling you that the only thing that will make you happy/relieve your pain is to [give in to the temptation. But if you’re trying to change your behavior, it’s still a good idea to choose something healthy you like, or at least really embrace the value of (rather than picking something you actively dislike). The something positive may never have the hot burn of a craving, but it will feel like a committed “choice” you feel good about.

      I don’t know if that makes sense, but what you’re doing right now is fantastic, and I commend your strength for tackling cigarette cravings.


      • Thanks Kelly, Yes its makes perfect sense, explains why grapes don’t seem half as appealing as cigarettes 🙂

  47. Hello Kelly!

    Your book The Will Power Instinct is one of the very best books I have personally read.

    I’m just finishing up actually in the process of employing a simple regiment to make lasting changing in the three primary areas of my life divided into thirds.

    -Rest & Relaxation
    -Relationships & Personal Responsibilities

    The three areas most needing attention in relation to these are adjusting down hours worked, increasing time for rest and relaxation and doing away with habits that are compromising me experiencing a better life primarily in relation to time management.

    Anyway, thank you so much for all that you do! There are a few things I’m incorporating together with your work.

    One is an “advisory counsel” of persons that are allies in my quest for better decision making that I employ while making decisions. I don’t pay very well but I’ve included you among them as one of my personal “guides” for influencing my choices as they present themselves.

    Also, I’m developing a game I’ve entitled Time Poker where the chips represent segments of time I devote to my interests representing priorities and particular objectives in achieving them.

    There is a bonus incorporated in that is only subject to loss if compromising choices would be made. For each “infraction” the penalty is double so the aim is for zero percent margin of error which parlays into additional rewards.

    -Mark Johnson

  48. Dear Dr. McGonigal,

    I would like to say thank you for all the great work. I have been reading your book and listening to your audio program and the insights you share are pure words of wisdom. I will soon buy your book on yoga as well.

    I was wondering if you will be teaching any classes at Stanford anytime soon.


  49. Hi Kelly,
    I met you at the Wake Up Festival last week…I spoke to you about the “Compassionate It” Bracelets and the connection with Sara. I loved your 7:00am moving meditation session and followed up on your suggestion to sign up for the “Boost Your Willpower” program through Yoga Journal.
    It has been nothing short of miraculous since my willpower challenge is to have a “Personal Practice of Return” (Mark Nepo) through a morning session of Yoga and Meditation! 🙂
    I respond very positively to your teaching style, your voice (evoking trust and self-compassion), and your humor.
    I bought and downloaded your Sounds True program and look forward to listening to that as well.

    Just wanted to thank you and let you know that having your teaching presence right here in my home, on a daily basis, has been such a helpful way to carry the spirit of Wake Up back to Massachusetts and my daily life!

    Take care!
    Compassion It-ly,

  50. Hi! Question about your TED talk: so stress beliefs have been shown to be associated with 20,000 deaths per year, and the straightforward causative hypothesis that stress beliefs are causing those deaths has a compelling and plausible cardiovascular/hormonal basis.

    However, that does not rule out other explanations that could contribute. Is there any work done investigating whether the types of stress encountered by people who believe stress is bad is different from those encountered by people who believe it is good?

    In particular, is there evidence that people with chronic illness are more likely to develop the belief that stress is bad? And is there evidence that people with meaningful careers where they improve the lives of many people are more likely to develop the belief that stress is good?

    Chronic illnesses are obvious causes of death and may be confounding the data.

  51. Ms. McGonigal – I’m an either grade student and came across your book “The Willpower Instinct” that my dad suggested for reading. Some of the contents are beyond my grade level but I found them very interesting. However, I think, I see an opportunity to perform a testable science fair project. Could you suggest (privately) a topic or two either based on your book/chapter or alternate ideas or thoughts, please?

    • Ms. McGonigal – with regards to my question above, please suggest best way reaching you to discuss this subject. You have my email. Thank you!

  52. Greetings Dr. McGonigal,

    I am a firefighter/paramedic with 18 years experience. I just watched your TED talk about stress and was very interested in how your discoveries could possibly affect the men and women in my particular career field. Over half of the line of duty deaths in the fire service are cardiac related and much of that has been attributed to the stresses of the job. My question is this. Can “retraining” a firefighter about stress and how they relate it to the performance of their job help to reduce the line of duty deaths attributed to cardiovascular events? As firefighters and paramedics, a majority of our stress occurs while caring for others. The environment in which the “biology of courage” is developed is constanly present, yet stress is still a major factor in the deaths of firefighters. I would be interested in finding out if there have been any studies that retrain firefighters and other emergency responders to change their feelings about stress regarding ther duties and teach them that the physical response is actually helpful and not as detrimental to their health, of course, depending on their own attitude regarding that stress. Thank you for your TED presentation it was very insightful.

    Chris Jefferson

    • Hi Chris,

      I’ve seen work for police officers that looks at embracing the value of stress ON THE JOB (e.g. higher stress hormones correlate with better performance in responding to crimes), while also recovering from stress off the job, and building resilience to better handle the biological effects of chronic stress.

      Here’s a sample of someone doing that work:

      Thank you for everything you do — your willingness to do it is a gift to the rest of us. I hope science and individuals like you can help figure out how to make it less toxic to the well-being of people who live in the biology of stress and courage.


  53. Hello Mam ,

    I came to know about you through TED Talks. And your presentation on the topic was awesome. I really loved it and share with my friends too. I heard about ur creation the willpower instinct . I’m stilling searching for it. Hope to get something new from you.

    Yours faithfully

  54. Hello Kelly,

    I stumbled upon your TED-talk on stress. It was very inspiring and a little unsettling: sharing your signs of stress with colleagues would empower you and “solve” some of the health hazards asociated with stress. This in itself was new to me and an eye opener, but the unsettling part for me (and my colleagues) is this : we hardly ever see each other, let alone touch eachother to reassure one another in stressful situations. This is because I, (and my colleagues also) work mainly from home. We communicate via mail-lync-phone. I am affraid that stress situations do not have a natural blow off, and the positive bio-feedback never happens.

    Your talk has made me contemplate on this, and I think that is one of the reasons that I find the work harder and harder, although it hasn’t changed substantially in the past few years.

    I’ve started activities outside my work, to get in contact with others (team sports) and was shocked to get a pat on the shoulder and a handshake after a match, that feels so good, and now I understand why!

    I’ve brought your work under the attention of HR & “remote working” specialist in my friends network, and am thinking of a way to get this message accross to my HR department, there are 300.000 of us, just in this company.

    Thanks again for your inspiring talk,



    • Hi Lars, I am in a company that is contemplating employing more ‘flex’ work schedules. Your succinct description of the lack of touch when working from home is duly noted. Thank you for reminding us that work is much much more than completing tasks in a specific time period. We need more than ergonomic assessments when completing assessments of at home work. Thank you again.



  55. Dear Kelly, I listened to your TED talk about stress last night and it made me think.
    What you say about the different attitude towards stress and how it can affect your health can also be put into other words. It’s people who have a stressful lie but LOVE what they do, that get the most benefit from the stress they experience. My father is 77 and still working, always stressed, always working. When we tell him to slow down, his response is always the same: “I will have time to rest when I am dead”. And he keeps going with an energy I have never seen in anybody else.
    Thank you for the powerful insights.
    All the best

  56. Kelly,

    I’ve watched your TED talk on stress twice now and I can’t thank you enough for bringing this information to light. I was absolutely inspired by your very final comment in which you said that chasing meaning is more important than avoiding discomfort, so long as you can handle it! I continue to pursue stressful applications (job promotions, MBA, etc) as I feel that they do in fact bring meaning to my life. It’s encouraging to know that they may also bring about good health! Take care.

  57. Thank You Kelly Mcgonigal
    I am incredibly grateful for your work and teachings. Yoga, Mindfulness, Compassion-understanding, cultivation, and the most important knowledge i have ever learned the ability to cultivate and sustain genuine self compassion. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom it has been vital in educating me in my own ability to live a wonderful blissful existence, and giving me the ability to spread the same wisdom. Also my personal passion for dance as an ultimate form of expression and exercise was sparked by your praise of zumba. I will be forever grateful for the knowledge i have learned from you or was introduced to.

    Best & Many thanks- Morgan Simmons

  58. Dear Kelly, I have been experiencing wrist pain for almost a year. I consulted doctors and therapists. My wrist is improving but slightly too slowly. Do you think Yoga for Pain Relied would provide help? Because I read from the internet that people use it mostly for back pain. Also, does any of the exercises harsh on wrist? Wish to hear from you! Thanks!

    • The book is for people with all kinds of chronic pain (physical and/or emotional). For 10 years I taught a yoga class specifically for back pain; that may be what people are thinking of. The practices in the book are not focused on wrist movements and entirely adaptable to wrist issues, which can be related any number of complex causes (stress, work posture, driving, injuries in other parts of the body, arthritis, inflammation, everyday activities, etc.). I hope you will find something useful in it and experience some relief from the pain.


  59. Hi Dr. McGonigal,
    I’ve read The Willpower Instinct twice; it is a fascinating read.

    In the book, you mention the “what the hell” mentality, in which a person “gives in” to a temptation of some kind and becomes more likely to continue to indulge…and not just in the original indulgence. Those that experience shame or guilt after giving in to some temptation experience this as well. You mentioned the individuals that, in essence, forgave themselves for giving in to a temptation or indulgence were more likely to resist the temptation later – the dieter that doesn’t feel so guilty about eating a cupcake, doesn’t find it so difficult to leave another on the tray when he walks back into the kitchen. When I was thinking of this, I somehow got pulled into the organization of religious systems. In the Christian system, the concept of Jesus is the ultimate counter to the “what the hell” mindset. Knowing that you are forgiven allows Christians to better forgive themselves and may be more likely to resist indulgences. Prior to the Jesus concept, Old Testament, I’m sure the “what the hell” mentality felt more like the “I’m going to hell anyway” mentality. But, with the implementation of the Jesus concept, people had a renewed motivation to “stay on the path,” so to speak. The idea of forgiveness made them more like the dieter that didn’t feel so guilty about eating that cupcake. When added with the “Because God wants me too” mindset, like the intervention you mentioned in the book, you have a religious structure that’s fairly consistent with an environment that promotes will power.

    This led me to a funny quote stated by a Jewish friend, “We don’t have a hell. We don’t need it; we have our mothers.” The Jewish system does not have a Jesus concept. Based on what my friend explained, the prospect of shame is a motivator for resisting temptations and indulgences, which is consistent with another concept in your book.
    This is more anthropological in nature, I know; but, how much research has been done to in the effectiveness of religious systems as a means of regulation? In other words, is there research out there showing how effective such systems are at promoting will power? My guess is, “not much.” Maybe a meta-analysis of sorts?

    Sorry for the seemingly crazy post. Just curious.

  60. I’m the CEO of a logistics company. We loaded “The Willpower Instinct” onto all our managers’ audio players so we could develop a shared vocabulary for change within our office. The concepts in the book inspired us to create our stress-relief wellness program which is detailed here: The fishbowl really works! Thanks to your encouragement, we now have several staffers (including this CEO) who regularly meditate. One staffer even credited meditation with his ability to positively respond to a corrective action review in our workplace. I thought you’d enjoy reading how your ideas are impacted others. Thanks, Kelly!

  61. Dear Dr Mcgonigal,

    Thank you your truly insightful TED talk. I have tried to analyse my behaviour during stressful periods and find some striking similarities with what you mention about how we try to reach out to others and try to be collective, indirectly making stress our friend.

    It was really inspiring to see the scientific causes behind my behaviour.

    Thank you again!

  62. Loved the stress video on Ted Talks. Thinking about the willpower book, when is your next class for the public to attend?? I’m here in central California do you ever do anything in the area? Visalia, CA

  63. Dear Ms. McGonigal,

    My name is Margaux, and I am eighteen years old. My English teacher gave us an assignment that involved having to watch a TED talk, so I went on the TED website and started looking for a video that seemed interesting. Honestly, I thought that I would end up watching a video that was somewhat interesting to me but that would have little impact on my life. When I saw your video come up with the title “How to Make Stress Your Friend”, I had a mixed reaction. Throughout my life, I have had intense struggles with anxiety and stress. As a result, I’ve seen different school counselors and other therapists in order to try to help me handle my problems with stress and the anxiety I feel because of it. Because none of these therapists or counselors ever had any real impact on my stress level, I’m usually not very optimistic when I hear about someone wanting to help me handle my issue with stress. Therefore, I clicked on your video with a mostly pessimistic attitude but with a little hope that you could offer me some help. Well, I was in for a shock. The way in which you talked about changing your approach to stress challenged me to change my attitude about the way I react to stressful situations.
    When you talked about the simulated stress test and the feelings of anxiety (heart beating fast, etc.) one feels when in a stressful situation, I could definitely relate. (Especially when you talked about the part of the simulated stress test that involved math, I found my heart beating just at the thought of it. I am an anxious person in general, but math is one of my greatest enemies and therefore elicits even more stress.) Anyway, I really appreciated how you took the time to go through, step by step, how I can take the anxious feelings I get when I react to stress and look at them in a positive light. I now believe that by reacting differently to stress instead of trying to cut it out of my life (which is probably impossible), I can become a lot happier and maybe live longer. I also really appreciated the part of your talk in which you talked about the importance of reaching out to others in times of stress and how that can positively influence the effect of oxytocin in my body. I think that in watching your TED talk, I was really able to change my approach to life and look at things with a more open mind.
    Because stress is so universal, I think that by sharing this video with people in my life like my family and classmates, they will be introduced to the perplexing way in which a change in attitude towards stress can completely change your life. Sorry that this letter is kind of long, but I really just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated everything that you had to say because I think it will really have an impact on my life going forward.

    I hope you have a good rest of the day!

    • Dear Margaux, I am 47 years old and have struggled with anxiety too. I have experienced some considerable success over the years, but nothing that holds the promise of what Kelly’s ideas do. Kelly’s ideas are the first thing that helps me understand what I really need to do. Since you are ‘merely’ 18 you can look forward to a lifetime of rewards from taking that first step into positive self awareness. I wish you the best of luck, but I want to say to you that your efforts will never go unrewarded. It may take time, but it gets better. Good luck.

  64. Hi Kelly, I have watched your Ted Talk on stress and your interview on willpower back to back. It was an interesting thing to watch them back to back. It caused me to rethink on the relationship between stress, oxytocin, willpower, dopamine and … depression links. You mentioned that desire is fueled by the dopamine response. Yet, dopamine is also a powerful chemical to combat depression. Is it possible that the desire is the wisdom of the body to seek engagement in the world, while addiction is simply the result of a lack of a real world guide. I have a sense that somehow they are related. After listening to your talks on willpower and stress back to back I am surmising a link here. More importantly, is it possible that your body can learn to INCREASE the desire response in an attempt to keep you engaged or re-engage a person in the world? If so, this may be a reason why so many people who come from toxic family systems end up suffering from addictions. It may not be the ‘family’ per se, but an increased stress/oxytocin level coupled with an increased desire/dopamine level. If one connects in the right moment to a compassionate individual or a healthy behaviour (like sports) at the moment the body is wisely programming us to seek care/support and something that exictes us, then this system is perfect! It can break the cycle in families and communities. For example, having strong physical fitness program funding would be an excellent intervention strategy.

    On a personal level, if a person is depressed/traumatized/lonely but the body increases the desire and stress response simultaneously they will be chemically designed to increase dopamine and oxytocin -which ‘cures’ the depression. This is great if the person is exposed to the right triggers, but it may lead to unhealthy or addictive behaviours instead of the healthy ones if one is not consciously employing the physiological mechanisms. I would like to see more research on how high levels of dopamine and oxytocin are actually the precursors to a cure for a depression and not something that needs to controlled or reduced. Instead these physionlogical changes the need for wise guidance and training to have this energy fully expressed. Imagine if you can unlease this?!

    God I hope this makes sense. That’s my personal theory. I think I am going to take your ideas and address my unhealthy behaviours that have baffled me so far. This theory of how your ideas work means that you have transformed my ‘addictions’ from my enemy to the true self which is seeking ‘excitement’ and ‘belonging’ but hasn’t yet figured out how to acquire these in a healthy way. The most important thing is that my body is no longer the enemy but it is now the holder of wisdom. Thank you so much for reminding me how wise my body is. There is no ‘problem’ just a lack of understanding. Thank you so much.



  65. Dear Kelly, I was very intrigued by your TED Talk on how to make stress your friend. You mentioned a couple of studies in there that I found very interesting. Would you be able to provide me with the references of those studies and would it also be possible to get reference for the study that you conducted on stress? I’m working in the field of highsensitivity and stress is always an important component for people that identify themselves as highly sensitive. I would really appreciate your help! Thanks for your time and assistance! Regards, Jutta

  66. Hello Kelly,

    I just watched your Ted Talk video & I must say this has to be one of the most impactful talks I have ever heard. You really have given a different & powerful perspective on stress which will take people a long way!

    Thanks for that, I would be very happy & interested to study your work in more detail, any pointers for that?


  67. Just watched your TED Talk and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I just received some medical news last week that requires a full-life overhaul and, yes, of course, the doctor warned me against the dangerous effects of stress on my body – which naturally made me much more stressed. Thanks for presenting an alternate idea and for reminding us all that we have much more power than we give ourselves credit for. Such a gem!

  68. Hi Kelly, I just sent you a message through your site, but not sure what’s the best way to reach you. I was wondering if you would be open to writing the forward to my book. If you could email me directly to let me know if you’d be open to reading it, that would be great.
    Thank you!

  69. Hi Kelly,

    I wanted to share with you that we are running a live class to go along with your Choose to Change video series at the Boulder Center for Conscious Community (Boulder, CO). My plan is to follow the course with a 5 week book discussion of the Willpower Instinct to keep everyone’s momentum going. Only thing better would be to have you in person. 🙂 Any chance you will be back at the Wake Up Festival in August this year?

    In gratitude,
    Kat Borden

    • Hi Kat,
      That is wonderful! I don’t think I’m presenting in Boulder this year — I’m participating in the San Francisco Wake Up Event Sounds True is doing in June instead. I would love to send a personal note of encouragement to the group. Can you contact me via email? Kelly

  70. I just wanted to thank you for your speech on stress and making it your friend. I have previously been in a domestic violence relationship, where I was abused in several different ways. I have finally got the courage to stand up to my abuser in court, but I have still been heavily stressed to the point of panic attacks and a have lot of lost sleep due to high adrenaline and stress. I write a daily gratitude diary and am able to put a positive spin on everything, but stress is something that I couldn’t put a positive spin on. Until now. I thank you from the core of my heart. My body is preparing and energizing me, ready to meet my challenge. I realise the importance of my strong bond and connection to my young daughter too and the role oxytocin plays in being her mother and her carer. I always felt I survived the ordeal I have been through because of my love and connection her. Thank you Kelly! xx I am empowered! 🙂

  71. Dear Kelly,
    I want to let you know your talk was the first public viewing of a woman where I saw myself, other than actresses which I think is so unhealthy for women to not see public figures that are smart, scientific and approachable. I think you are and I have wanted to see this kind of woman all my life in public.
    Thank you for your work. I am also about to graduate from UC Berkeley and job hunting. Your stress talk has helped me to not try to avoid stress. I am interviewing for banking jobs. I want to be a game changer in the area of finance! I know you are at Stanford but if you are up closer to Berkeley ever, since I don’t have a car, I’d love to have lunch.

    All my life I have looked for a women to inspire me and have had a really hard time and you have! Thank you.

    Carenna Willmont
    Mobile: 310.923.3263

  72. I recently watched your TED Talk about stress and really enjoyed it. I find myself thinking about it in terms of mindfulness, which is the focus of my work, specifically how the research you share may fit with the following aspect of mindfulness: discomfort/suffering is part of life and, therefore, we don’t need to get caught up in “I can’t believe this is happening” kinds of thoughts, which just makes things worse. When you say we can decrease the harmful effects of stress by telling ourselves that it is the body’s way of helping us handle the situation, I wonder if what is happening is that we are giving our body permission to do what it is doing rather than fighting against it. What do you think?

    • Hi Dan,
      I love your hypothesis and think this is definitely part of the benefit. Mindful acceptance rather than resistance of inner experiences, from pain to cravings to emotions to stress, seems to help transform them in to useful energy, and reduce the suffering around them.

  73. I loved your TEDx talk on “How to make stress your friend” I’m preparing a talk on the toxic effects of chronic stress on the brain and would love it if you would share your reference list for your presentation. I’ll buy one of your books it that helps. Thanks, Bill

  74. Hi, Kelly. I haven’t heard about the useful and powerful book until this year. Then I started to read it. I have a confession to make. I’m a Chinese, but I choose to read the English edition. Before this book, I’ve already read lots of books(most in Chinese) about self improvement, self-control, time management,etc..They are all alike, telling people that xxx is so important that you can’t success without it, and what’s the right thing you should do. Frankly speaking, most of them are just boring. So I wasn’t expecting much from your book although it is strongly recommended by a friend online. The main reason I read it is just because I want to improve my English reading ability.
    BUT, after about two chapters’ reading, I found myself in love with the book! This wonderful book not only tells readers what exactly is willpower, what needs to be done to improve it, it also explains why is that, and involves lots of interesting experiments and studies,which I found really fascinating! I followed the tips on the book, and pleasantly found them really useful! I started to recommend it to my friends. And in the meanwhile, I searched for your lectures. Your talks are great, I really love them. By the way, I like your English pronunciation so much. It’s so clear that it is easy to understand without a subtitle even for an English learner like me. And congratulations, you’ve become my favorite psychologist~~
    About myself, I have an undergraduate degree in psychology. Now although I’m a graduate student in China doing researches unrelated to psychology, I still have passions for psychology. I just wanna know, apart from a teacher and lecturer, whether you are also a tutor for graduate student. Studying and doing researches with a tutor like you seems to be a wonderful future for me.
    If you are planning a world tour, I sincerely hope that China would be on the list!
    Thank you so much for your books and talks!

    AKE D

  75. Hi Kelly,
    I am only halfway through your willpower book and I have already changed. Just using a few of your tips has made such a difference in my quality of life. I would like to start a live group here in DC based on your book ( and when I get it) your audio series. I see above that someone in Boulder has done something like this. Since we can’t have you live, and I can’t move to California for a semester, this seems the next best thing. Has anyone else tried to do some thing like this — ie run a support group/weekly meetup for 3 or 6 months, based on using your book?
    Thanks from Washington, DC — Anna

    • Hi Anna, I have done a few things with Kelly’s materials with a group here in Boulder, CO. I’d be happy to talk more with you about it. My email is a_katb[at]

  76. Hey!
    I just watched your TED video on stress. One of my colleagues sent me the link. Awesome job. Well done. I loved your approach and your oratory. It was a pleasure to watch your video, I learned new things. I’ve to tell that you’re the most gorgeous psychologist I’ve ever seen. Keep it up. Thank you and best wishes from Ankara!

  77. Hi Kelly, would you encourage people to think in terms of inbound energy transfer from the universal source (God, Nature, Collective etc.) while giving care to others. As a result of which we feel more empowered, enabled and even cured ourselves. Would you also link this to the mind boggling feat people are able to perform in times of immense danger, call for help, emergencies etc that later are called as heroes? I hope I am not treading out of your line of interest. Cheers.

    • Hi Asif, Yes, this is a practice I teach in the Stanford Compassion Cultivation Training — connecting to a compassionate image/source that transcends the self, to find a more sustainable source of caregiving and courage. Thank you for bringing this up! Your description is lovely. Best, Kelly

  78. I’m finding your book on self-control very useful at the moment, I think self-control is probably the most useful area of scientific progress at present, more so than almost universally celebrated (often addictive) technological advances. Thanks.

    But I just have a quick comment on stress as potentially beneficial. Stress is presumably a response to, indicator of, a challenge, I think it’s fairly clear in games, if we expect to win, or do actually win we’ll experience a “high” ( dopamine, opioids?) if we expect to loose or are actually defeated we experience a “low” stress, depression . I’m pretty sure I’ve read that the high will be health inducing & the low will make us sick (though presumably increases our survival chances better than continuing to try to challenge an opponent who has beaten us (for now)). Even becoming more empathetic,social & community minded as a result of stress can also be construed in terms of a contest, we are making friends so we will be stronger against our opponents.

    I’m not much into games, winning or loosing. I’m more into trying to find an equal outcome, through compromise or an unexpected creative solution. I think clearly defeating a neighbor in a dispute is just likely to produce eventual blow-back even if it makes me feel great ( I accept there are rare times when it may be essential to beat someone else & I definitely recognize there can be no peace between me and the weeds in my garden). I’m not sure this health inducing “high” from stress/challenge is so much the friend of self control, maybe a more neutral, level headed state is, even if it may not make us live as long.

    Thanks again for your useful book on self-control.

  79. Hi Kelly, I’m a psychology student from Buenos Aires, Argentina. I saw your TED talk yesterday and I must say I’m fascinated with your thoughts and ideas. I shared the video with my loving ones in order to spread the amazing findings you mentioned so that they could put them into practice.
    I just want to thank you for your job. My dad is having cardiologic problems and the information you gave seems to be really helpful and hopeful as well. Thanks again.
    Best wishes!

  80. Wow I virtually stopped watching TV after reading your book, never thought I’d be able to do that, it was my most entrenched addiction/over indulgence. (I actually read your book so I’d spend more time on “mundane” tasks in the garden) Seems a number of your recommendations helped but the stuff on acceptance especially, I started noticing my thoughts & feelings, instead of watching TV I was “watching” my thoughts & feeling, sometime letting them wander, sometimes directing them, sometimes they’d lead to doing or reading something. In the past I’ve unsuccessfully tried to escape TV with some other external stimulus, reading or socializing, seem only internal stimulus can compete with TV. And of course there is plenty I (or anyone) should be thinking of, I’m doing more sensible things because I’m thinking.

    Seems to me there are many potential benefits from the science of self control, for me personally the most important is its potential in saving the planet, as I see it environmental devastation mainly stems from addiction to consumerism, perhaps only self control can lead us out of this, not legislation or protests.


  81. Also thought might be useful to someone to comment I used techniques from your book to get over an inappropriate crush/infatuation, especially ‘acceptance’ was effective… accepting I have the feeling but not treating it as valid/wise or something I need to act on (in the past I’ve seen crushes as wise & requiring action, too many pop-songs no doubt) it was extremely hard but only took about a week, as your book says willpower is about doing the harder thing. (I also ‘punished’ myself for thinking of the girl by forcing myself to imagine her with a beard every time I thought of her (didn’t enjoy this & not proud of this at all but desperate situations require desperate measures I guess,seemed to help). Also I’m avoid the person permanently just like an addict might have to avoid a beloved substance).

    Seems to me a crush is very similar to stress, hard to think of anything else, overall thinking and performance impaired, that’s why I tried self-control. Finally seemedworth noting I think I may have got the crush because I’ve been using too much self control since reading your (& Baumeisters) book, not blaming anyone at all just interesting, haven’t had a crush in 12 years, a bit like the politician who does something stupid with a cocktail waitress at the end of a long day of super-human self control. thanks again for your outstanding book.

  82. Hi Kelly!
    I was at the ICF conference in Malmoe where didn’t manage to connect with you – unfortunately I don’t do FB so I’ll try here …
    Seems to me that a main message of your keynote (which I much appreciated) was that while stress ain’t necessarily bad and sometimes actually good, metastress is, and by that I mean being stressed about stress.
    Also interesting was the connection you pointed out between attitudes towards aging and actual outcomes.
    It appears to me that the issue then really is the one of managing our attitudes, or, if you prefer, our beliefs. Could you comment on this and maybe recommend some readings?

  83. Hi Kelly i have watched your talks on stress and willpower. They are amazing. I attend your whenever I feel depressed and try to follow the instructions or “interventions”. The best part is that Your work is based on scientific research and the results you show are bizzare but real . I want to share some of my problems with you only if you have time😀.
    Good luck and thanks

  84. My daughter Emma just called from Portland State University. She works 30 hours, president of the H2O club sport, wants to be a in health in some form——you know that kind of lovely kid.

    Anyhow she said Dad I sent you a Ted Talk about stress, oxytosin and approaching good stress-beleifs.

    Wow thank you so much; A) I am encouraged B) You sounded great in the Ted Talks, I like when the dude asked you another question at the end, and you said go after you belief or work C) thank you soooooooooo much.

  85. Subject: which course; or the book?

    Dear Kelly

    I am considering either your

    Willpower Instinct (book) or
    Choose to Change (video course) or
    Neuroscience of Change (audio course)

    I might be totally wrong, but I concluded they offer the same (or more or less similar) curriculum, the only difference being in a book, audio or video format. (These self-learning materials can be tricky with similar titles and no clear distinctions. I also understand you are a researcher, not a marketer).

    To make things more complicated, there was a mention of some Willpower Instinct course as well, but nowhere to find (same title as the book, but a course).

    So, from these 3 (or 4) similarly sounding titles, which might be more beneficial to whom and why? 😉

    Keep up the good work!

    • Hi James,
      The Neuroscience of Change and The Willpower Instinct are VERY different experiences. I recommend both, but the Neuro of Change involves contemplative practices and philosophy. So if you aren’t interested in meditation and that sort of thing, I would skip it.
      The Choose to Change class is its own thing — it includes exercises not in either of the two others. But it’s kind of a mash-up, plus.


  86. Thank you for your work and your book on self-compassion and brain science. You may not fully realize the extent of importance your work has for others. I think that right now, I actually depend upon it for my survival. It seems I have almost daily crises of the kind you describe that lead to what the studies you site describe as a downward spiral where peoples outlook and situations worsen and hope gets lost. Honestly, I put on your audiobook as I would pull an emergency fire alarm (or more acurately, pulling an emergency break). Your book is truly a lifeline to someone out there.

  87. Recently came across your TED Global 2013 talk and was blown away. Thank you _so much_ for figuring this out, bucking the paradigm (or at least popular conception), and spreading the message. I believe I stand to benefit tremendously from this, as does the rest of our culture. I’ll help spread the word, and I’ll point people your way.

    I had a vague recollection of “eustress” contrasted with “distress” from a late 80’s high school health course and your talk brought that distinction back to me, and with greater clarity. Interestingly, I see via Wikipedia that Selye (or Lazarus, or Fevre?) thought of eustress as determined by the subject’s perspective on the stress. Is the wisdom of seeing stress more positively something we’ve had embryonically for a couple generations?

    In any case, I came here to comment because of how important this idea is to me and how happy and hopeful it’s made me. I needed to effuse my gratitude. Thanks, Kelly McGonigal.

  88. ‘Book Report’ On The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal, PH. D.

    This kind of reads like a text book for a class because it kind of is. But don’t stress yourself out (in a bad way that is). Read for content and personal enrichment. It is worth your time.

    It turns the current concept that stress is bad for you on its head. Stress, studies have found, is indeed bad for you but only if you believe that it will have negative consequences. Otherwise it does not seem to negatively impact you.
    I get nervous when I have to present information to groups. I always found it unpleasant. The anticipation was indeed unsettling and it was true relief when it was over. “As corny as it sounds, many of my students report that telling themselves they are excited when they are anxious really works.” Kelly talks about there being a fine line between anxiety and excitement so…”embrace the nerves, tell yourself you’re excited, and know that your heart is in it.” That last part is important – if you gotta fake your interest and commitment to something this strategy will not work for you! Beginning page 104.
    I attended a workshop recently on identifying and helping people at risk of suicide. It was informative but lacked some in depth strategies. Whether you hit rock bottom or just want to get out of a deep funk this next section is for you! Basically, when you feel isolated or are suffering it is good to be honest to yourself and embrace the pain however it manifests itself: ‘anxiety, physical pain, anger, disappointment, self-doubt, or sadness…Then consider the possibility that this source of suffering is part of the human experience.” At these times it is good for you to empathize with others who are in pain. Feeling connected “brings in hope and courage.” Stop feeling sorry for yourself and appreciate what you have. Then through seeing the pain that others have you can change. Though not stated here I think this is a call for action to help others! Beginning page 170.
    A lot of people, including me, have thought that tough times are unfortunate and not good. But they are an integral part of life that signals you are truly breathing. There can be substantial transformational qualities seeded for growth by a difficult time in your life: a sense of personal strength, increased appreciation for life, spiritual growth and enhanced social connections and relationships. Even more revealing is that bad times can help you identify new possibilities and life directions. Robin would say ‘Wow, Batman!’ to this unearthed truth! I encourage you to read this section beginning page 207.

    Kelly’s book makes you realize you should not accept conventional wisdom as anything other than conventional. Truth is in the living and studying. Stress is part of life and life is what you make it!!

    Doug Rost – July 9, 2015

  89. For the past 40 years I have invested in every program I could find to improve my personal effectiveness. Using Willpower Instinct I feel like I have made more progress in three weeks than I have over the last 40 years. The self control I have achieved is almost frightening. Thank you for the science, the clear communication and the humor. Now I am turning my sons on to your work. And when my new blog is up, this book will be my top recommendation for 2015. Warm regards.

  90. Kelly, thank you so much for your wonderful books! They are rocking my world in a great way. I am a health coach who attracts very stressed out, low motivation/willpower clients – and I would love to share your methods and information. As long as I’m giving you proper credit, and am not quoting directly from the book, is that ok? Thanks so much!

  91. I just finished watching your TED talk on How to Make Stress Your Friend and don’t think I’ve blinked since. I have been following TED since the first conference in the 90’s and cannot recall a talk that has touched me with such deep meaning and inspiration. Please keep up this research. I will definitely be checking out your books and events. Many of the questions that I have been pondering lately have to do with your work. I am so grateful to have found you. Thank you.

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