The Will Power Instinct by Kelly McGonigal: A Review

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Photo by Ash on Pexels.com

Do you have a hard time resisting what  you see in that picture? You’ve come to the right place.

One of the best self-help books I have read in a long time is The Willpower Instinct: How-Self Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal. It is so good I bought the audio book after I bought the digital version, and I am seriously considering buying the print version. I think this is a must read.  Self-control, or will power, is a must for staying fit – eating right, working out, and living a more direct life.

What is self control? Here is a great definition from Wikipedia:

Self-control, an aspect of inhibitory control, is the ability to regulate one’s emotions, thoughts, and behavior in the face of temptations and impulses. As an executive function, self-control is a cognitive process that is necessary for regulating one’s behavior in order to achieve specific goals.

“Self-control.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 27 Jul. 2018. Web. 4 Sep. 2018.

Here is a description of the book from the publisher:

Informed by the latest research and combining cutting-edge insights from psychology, economics, neuroscience, and medicine, The Willpower Instinct explains exactly what willpower is, how it works, and why it matters. For example, readers will learn:

  • Willpower is a mind-body response, not a virtue. It is a biological function that can be improved through mindfulness, exercise, nutrition, and sleep.
  • Willpower is not an unlimited resource. Too much self-control can actually be bad for your health.
  • Temptation and stress hijack the brain’s systems of self-control, but the brain can be trained for greater willpower
  • Guilt and shame over your setbacks lead to giving in again, but self-forgiveness and self-compassion boost self-control.
  • Giving up control is sometimes the only way to gain self-control.
  • Willpower failures are contagious—you can catch the desire to overspend or overeat from your friends­­—but you can also catch self-control from the right role models.

What is apparent to me is how connected self-control is, with mindfulness although the two are closely related. I think that a high level of self-control is necessary for mindfulness, and that mindfulness is a natural pathway to self-control although the two have very different skill sets.

Over labor day my wife and I went out of town to visit relatives. We had the audio version to listen to during the drive, and we  both loved it. We would often pause it to discuss certain points that were being discussed.

McGonigal is a prolific writer and I highly recommend this book, and I will be reading a good deal of her other works.  Note:  I am making a rare cross-posting with my other blog www.michaelrayperkins.com.

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What I learned on the Appalachian Trail: Lesson 1 – The Need for Hope & Adventure

This is my first post in a series of what I learned on the trail.  This not only includes new lessons, or new information, but a sharpening of focus on maybe what I already knew but have been ignoring.  As you will  read in a moment, this first post is in the later category. It will certainly be my most political one.

On any adventure like hiking the Appalachian Trail (mountain climbing, bicycle touring, backpacking, long distance motorcycle trips) which takes you out of the “rat race,” into a more elemental existence over an extended period of time, you have access to this type of experience.  Call it an epiphany.

So I had an epiphany about something which I think I already knew, which came into focus on this trip.  It was about addictions in general,  and specifically substance abuse. There is plenty of substance abuse on the trail, but it is oddly more visible because of the bubble. The bubble is the group of people that you find yourself traveling with, running into here and there, as you hike.   On any given day you may pass them,  or they may pass you, but from time to time you run across each other.  Also other hikers, or entries in shelter logs, will keep you informed.

As our society becomes more frantic, more anxious, we are at risk for becoming overwhelmed on many levels. What is making us more anxious? Technology is a major contributor, but other factors are economic, political, and even existential as we look for meaning in the midst of our present times.  We are easily overwhelmed, and over stimulated, and  often resort to numbing ourselves with food (we are an obese nation and the rest of the world is right there with us), nicotine, social media, sports, and those little magic boxes we call “smart phones,” which make us dumb.  Then there is of course prescriptions drugs, and illicit drugs.  It occurred to me on the trail that illicit drug use is no longer the realm of some fringe minority, but is now widely accepted.

I have heard this in my classroom from college students, and I saw it on the trail.  This doesn’t mean that most Americans are using drugs, or most college students, or most backpackers on the AT.  However, it does mean that drug use is no longer necessarily  deviant, and is certainly more tolerated. We are becoming used to it, our nation has an insatiable appetite for illegal. Exhibit one is the current opioid  crisis.

When hiking on the AT we spent 8 – 9 hours a day backpacking.  For that entire time, and most of the rest of the time, we were in the moment.  Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote a book entitled “Wherever You Go, There You Are.”  Which is true.  But, increasingly the trick is to be able to recognize and appreciate it rather than trying to escape it.  Why is that?  Because many of us, myself included at times, are not happy with where we are at the moment.  We want to be someplace else.  Someplace besides bullshit jobs, meaningless meetings, long commutes, or just struggling to live day by day. Struggling to pay the bills, and struggling to find some meaning in all of it.  We are becoming tired of being commodities, and cogs in an exploitative economic system with a government system that is viewed as ineffective, and often corrupt.

So what is missing from our lives?  Maybe it is adventure.  Or maybe the idea that things can change, things can get better.  Maybe it is the idea that we, as individuals as well as collectively, can evolve rather than devolve. That democracy can work.  Good will be rewarded and evil will be punished.  Maybe not all the time, but enough to where we think the playing field is fairly level.  That we can achieve some modicum of stability in our lives. All those things have been a part of the American experience which gave us a reason to get up in the morning.  Is that still the case?  Well, the jury is till out on all that.

Maybe the reason that illegal drug use is up is that increasingly more and more of us don’t have a reason to get up in the morning. We don’t have adventures.  We are becoming entangled in an existence where we seem to have little agency.  Drugs are a way to blunt the brutality of that assault on our humanity.

Along with this series on lessons learned I will also be making more post with pictures on the adventure that my wife Jenifer and I had together on the AT.

The picture below is just for fun.  I have never seen a Harley in a grocery store before.  This picture was taken in Blairesville, Georgia which was close to the place we stayed before and after our hike.

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Harley On Aisle 4

Update on the Bicycle Wrist Mirror

See the post just before this for background. Bike mirrors, even the best of them, take getting used to. It took me several months to get used to this one. I did not wear it religiously, but I did continue to use it from time to time. So… I got used to it. I also learned a few tricks. So this is a followup after it was thoroughly tested.

Glare. Given the angle of the mirror on your wrist glare is an issue, and a few reviewers mentioned that on Amazon. I learned you can simply close the mirror, placing the mirror face down, and the problem goes away. It is designed so that there is velcro to keep it from flapping around. If I am not in traffic I fold it down hiding the mirror. I use it mostly for high traffic areas, but don’t need it on the extensive trail system here in Columbia, MO., where there is no motor vehicle traffic.

Angle. The effective angle is a bit odd, and probably changes depending on the geometry of your body (length of arms, etc.), and that of the bike. For me I have to hold my hand out to the left angled up, and cock my wrist to the side. If I do that I have a great view of what is behind me.

Blind Spots. Learned where to place the mirror. Problem solved.

Magnification. Still an issue. Would a bigger mirror with different optical properties help? Probably.

Practice. Practice helps you learn how to judge the distance and look into the mirror. I have found that most things with a bike take practice. How many of you have feel over in the process of learning to use toe clips, or step in pedals. Over the years I have abandoned both, and after a long while taken them up again and I either fell over once or had a real close moment. When I purchased my new touring bike I had two keel overs due to learning the geometry and fit of the bike.

Perfection. Ain’t gonna happen. I have tried many of them over the years and all have flaws.

I bike commute and tour. I want every reasonable, and practical, safety feature I can get. I know many still go with the turn the head and look approach. Which is fine. I just want to augment it.

Bike Commute Redux

I had tried my hand at bike commuting but never committed to it.  Just the occasional attempt now and then. When we got down to just one car an opportunity presented itself.  Something that could have been a setback turned into an opportunity.

Two years ago we had an old Toyota Corolla which was a fantastic car, and what was then a new Toyota Rav.  The Corolla burned oil, and had certainly seen better days.  My wife used it for her job which requires her to spend most of her day driving from one home to another, from one appointment to another, as part of her work as a parent educator.  All city driving.  But, it was a beater car with dints and dings, and the kind of car that you didn’t care if somebody dented it some more.  Which did happen.  And it certainly was not the kind of care that somebody would break into.  It was also reliable until it just wasn’t anymore.  When our mechanic informed us that it was time for a new engine we knew it was time to put it down.  What to do?

She asked me if we should go car shopping and I suggested that we try car pooling instead.  So she inherited the Rav. On Tuesday and Thursday when I went in late I would ride my bike.  Or I would have her drop me off sometimes and I would hike home.  However, this last May I decided to try my hand at bike commuting, and with one week to go I only caught a ride with her for one and a half trips to work. One day both ways, and one day I walked home.

I had ridden my bike to work a time or two before, but could never gather the courage to be regular about it.  It is pretty hard to roll out of bed in the morning, especially when it is cold, and ride 5 or 6 miles to work.  I decided to post pictures from my ride the day before yesterday.

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The pictures are looped but in order. The first picture in the series is my bike in the garage as I prepare to leave, then outside on the drive next to the Rav, and ends with a picture of my closet at work.  Two things that make this whole project possible is that about two thirds of the ride is on the Katy Trail so I don’t have to deal with cars, and I have that closet at work. It is a small closet and kind of rough but it gives me a place to keep clothes to change into.  I have about six pairs of paints, and as many shirts.  Two pairs of shoes .

My normal ride is 33 minutes there and 33 minutes back.  Just this week a main section of the trail was closed off for several months while four old bridges are replaced. So I have to make a detour.  Most of it riding next to traffic.  It makes it 6 instead of 5 miles and includes a pretty big hill.

In some future posts I want to review my evolving gear closet, and discuss what I have learned.  I love using the bike. I hardly drive anymore which is fine with me.  Driving has lost its allure with the demise of REAL super cars.  Like the 40 Dodge Magnum, GTO, GTX, the Shelby Mustangs!  It saves money, and it is free exercise.  So now I don’t have to worry about finding time to exercise.  I have to in order to get to work and then get back home.  I miss running but this is a fun, and practical, replacement.

I would love to hear from anybody who commutes, and how they handle things.  Gear, dealing with weather, and dealing with traffic.  I will be sharing what I am learning.

 

Book of the Week: Run Until You’re 100 by Jeff Galloway

This is another Jeff Galloway classic. I have written about one other book of his – he is a prolific writer.   It’s been around for a while but I finally decided to buy it a couple of weeks ago after about 6 or 8 months, maybe even longer, of nagging injuries. Also, it was after I had turned sixty. After reading the book I decided to finally give his method a try.

Jeff Galloway is a big proponent of the run walk strategy. It sounds kind of counterintuitive and I resisted it for about 2 years now although I’ve recommended it to other people. I just didn’t think it was for me. But after turning 60, and after those nagging injuries I referred to earlier left me sidelined, unable to run, I decided I needed to give it a serious try. I committed myself to one week of running and walking. The results were surprising and dramatic.


Not only was I able to run without injury or nagging aches and pains, I ran faster. I trained with a Polar heart monitor, and I discovered something pretty amazing things from the data. For one thing I ran dramatically faster. I’ll be posting some of the screenshots this week from my app  but it was pretty amazing. What was also amazing is how my heart rate responded with this run-walk method as compared to when I usually run. It’s my belief, and I’ll discuss it in another post, that the run-walk method not only reduces injuries and lets you run faster, it mimics high intensity interval training (HIIT)!

When I got back into running several years ago I entered several 5k races and some 10k events. I’ll tell you a secret that I haven’t written.   There were these guys that would run past me, and them  I would pass them latter on while they were walking. However, after that, when I was tiring, they seemed to get stronger and they would pass me again.  Often  I wouldn’t be able to get in front of them that one last time before they crossed the finish line ahead of me. My guess is they were using the Galloway method. Well, God willing, I’m going to be using that method this summer for some upcoming races. I’m especially looking forward to the Show Me State games.

I am a believer. I think I will be using the Galloway method for the rest of my running career.  The injuries really are down, my times are better than they would be otherwise, and I think it will keep me running longer.  This method may not be for  younger runners, but for this sixty year old it is the way to go.  Better than sitting on the porch.

 

Evening Bike Ride

Surly Cross Check on the New Trail Bridge

I took an hour ride after work today.  Beautiful night, great workout weather, and wonderful fall trees.  I rode the Surly!  Starting to love it, but the stock  brakes are HORRIBLE. Is it just the pads? Worse than a tandom I had, which vastly  improved with just a brake pad upgrade. My bike shop is moving 100 yards from my house so that problem will get solved soon.

As you can see Fall is beautiful here in the Midwest.

I arrived him as it was getting dark. Commuter traffic is so dangerous here. One car turned tight toward me as I was making a left, and they were making a right, off of a residential side street.  That stretch is treacherous, and especially so during rush hour when when it corresponds with dusk.

Safety First

I love the new battery powered LED lights.  Finally bike lights worth the money.