Kelly McGonigal is a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University who specializes in understanding the mind-body connection. As a pioneer in the field of “science-help,” her mission is to translate insights from psychology and neuroscience into practical strategies that support personal well-being and strengthen communities.  She is the best-selling author of The Willpower Instinct and The Upside of Stress.

You might know her from her TED talk, “How to Make Stress Your Friend,” which is one of the most viewed TED talks of all time, with over 20 million views.  Her new book, The Joy of Movement, explores why physical exercise is a powerful antidote to the modern epidemics of depression, anxiety, and loneliness.  Her identical twin sister is the well-known game designer and futurist Jane McGonigal.


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The Learning Leader Show

  • How do we define excellence?
    • What’s the metric?
      • It’s about contributing to the world consistent and personal values.  A sense of who
      • Let your strengths and talents be what guides you
    • Trust in self, intuition, take risks
  • Kelly has a strong sense of direction.  She’s had that for a long time.  When to say yes or no?  She discovered she loved teaching.
  • The story/science approach — “I want to connect you with a stranger.”  Help people connect with others.
    • “The science reveals something about human nature.”
  • Willpower — “The ability to make choices to do what you want even when part of you doesn’t want to do it.”
    • Immediate gratification combined with an investment if your future.  Both are important.  “This is a skill that can be developed.”
  • Be clear about your values and goals.  Know what you want.  “Every morning, do a 30 second commitment to what’s important to you.”  Remember who you are.
  • “Create an environment that reminds me of my goals and makes it easier to accomplish them.”
  • Disciplined people do what they say they will do.  “They are clear about what they want to do.  Create an environment that supports them.  Have a sense of purpose.”
    • “Anyone can develop discipline if they are clear on what they want.”
  • “Stress is what happens when we care/have a lot at stake.”
    • “Stress is what gives you energy.  It reminds you that it matters.”
    • Think, “How is stress trying to direct me?”
    • “What is my body and brain trying to nudge me towards?”
    • “Figure out your healthy stress responses.”
  • Real life example:  How to prepare for your first meeting with your new team (that you are leading):
    • Get rid of the idea that you shouldn’t be stressful.  It is part of the process.  It’s a signal that you care.
    • Bigger than self-perspective.  Go beyond the ego.  Think it’s allowing the team to have a moment.  Support the mission.  Think bigger than just making a good impression.  It helps you connect with clear intentions.  It’s a mindset shift.
    • Always assume others have something as valuable as you.  They have wisdom.  Let it be co-created with others.
  • “Being a leader is bringing what’s best in the room.  People will rise to the expectations of them.”
  • Thoughts Kelly had in her mind prior to her TED Talk (that has since gone viral):
    • The woman that went before her had a panic attack.  Kelly noticed that the crowd had incredible goodwill towards the speaker.  They wanted the speaker to do well.
      • “Breathe in anxiety, breath out encouragement.”
      • “I’m going to put the audience at ease.  I got you.”
  • The joy of movement:  When you go from sedentary to active, when you move your body, there is increased optimism, hope, connection.
    • The story about my mom working as an aerobics instructor when I was a kid — Moving your body to the beat of the music is powerful and helpful.
  • Walking in nature:  “When you’re in nature, the brain shifts to the present moment.”  Take more walks.
  • The “Runner’s High”– Persistence is high, put the body in motion and just keep going.  Your brain releases chemicals to provide pleasure, reduce pain.  It creates energy and optimisim
  • “We learn from movement.  We endure.  We learn what we’re capable of.”
  • General advice:
    • Take care of your self — invest in your well being.  It will help you deal with challenges
    • Tell me about someone who’s made a positive influence on your life
    • Don’t wait for permission.  Start it.  Do it.  You need feedback.
  • Why joining The Learning Leader Circle is a good idea


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Episode #300: AJ & Keith Hawk – How To Instill Work Ethic & Curiosity In Your Children

Episode #303:  General Stanley McChrystal – The New Definition Of Leadership