Skip to content Skip to navigation

The Science of Willpower and Change

Monday, February 9, 2015 to Friday, March 20, 2015
Go to Course
Course topic: 

This course is offered through Stanford Continuing Studies.


Physical health, emotional well-being, social relationships, and professional success all require the ability to regulate our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Advances in psychology, neuroscience, medicine, and mind-body research are beginning to paint a new picture of what willpower is, why it matters, and how to develop it. 

Is willpower in the mind or in the body? Is it possible to run out of willpower, and how do you build a bigger reserve? What motivates people to change? Why do we talk ourselves out of things we really want or need to do? How much control over our thoughts and feelings do we really have, and what are the healthiest ways to regulate them? This course will address those questions through lectures, readings, and discussions, and give students the opportunity to apply the ideas of the course to making an important change or pursuing a major goal in their lives.

Thanks to the flexibility of the online format, this course can be taken anywhere, anytime— a plus for students who lead busy lives or for whom regular travel to the Stanford campus is not possible. While necessarily structured differently from the on-campus version, this course maintains a similar level of instructor engagement through videos, interactive exercises, and discussion with fellow students, as well as optional online video conferencing sessions.

Tuition Applies


Kelly McGonigal, Senior Teacher, Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, Stanford

Kelly McGonigal teaches for a wide range of programs at Stanford, including the School of Medicine and the Graduate School of Business. She has received the Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching. She is the author of The Willpower Instinct: How Self- Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. McGonigal received a PhD in psychology from Stanford.


The Science of Willpower and Change  Course Image

View All Courses

Access learning material from upcoming, self-study, and completed courses...