Putting your mind to it: The willpower instinct

Putting our minds to what shapes our decisions is one way to get control of personal finances.

Kelly McGonigal

From losing weight to saving for retirement, willpower is the key to taking control of our lives. So says Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist from Stanford University who’s just written “The Willpower Instict,” chronicling the science and practice of self control.

“Part of us kind of wants to want,” she tells Tess. “We go to the mall, or we’re searching online, and we like that feeling of wanting. It makes us feel optimistic.”

According to McGonigal’s "Terror Management Theory," we feel more powerful when we buy status goods (handbags, cars, etc.) even if we can’t afford them. But, she says, paying attention to how spending makes us feel can give us a tool to managing our need for a short-term win that could really be a long-term loss.

Click on the audio player above to listen to the interview.

About the author

Tess Vigeland is the host of Marketplace Money, where she takes a deep dive into why we do what we do with our money.

Kelly McGonigal


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