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Developing Willpower, by Jason Shen

Jason Shen has achieved tremendous success in athletics, technology entrepreneurship, writing, and living an outstanding life. To promote his recent GiveGetWin deal on The Science of Willpower, he sat down to tell us how he started learning about willpower, the state of what's known scientifically about how willpower and the brain work, and how you can start improving your life right away by implementing a tiny habit, thinking and systems, and using some powerful thinking tools. Enjoy:

Developing Willpower by Jason Shen, as told to Sebastian Marshall

Willpower has been an undercurrent in my entire life. In gymnastics, you have to use your willpower to overcome your fear of an activity and go for the skill you want, to get over the fear, to push yourself to finish your conditioning and strength training a part of you doesn't want to…

It didn't come automatically to me. When I was a student, I wasn't automatically self-disciplined. There were actions I knew were useful, like doing my homework in one session without getting distracted, or not throwing clothing on my apartment floor. But I wouldn't always do them, and I didn't know why.

I started to learn those answers during a student initiative course at Stanford called The Psychology of Personal Change. That's when I first started reading academic papers on the topic. In academia, willpower and self-discipline is often called "self-regulation," and in 2009 I started to get really serious about it from an academic perspective -- and saw gains from it in my personal life.

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Is God telling you something you already know?

A group of French researchers recently conducted a study on sleep and dreams. They discovered that people who often recall their dreams tend to be bad sleepers, easily influenced by external stimuli (i.e. noises, light). But they figured out something else: the sleeping brain cannot memorize or learn new information.

The word "dream" occurs six times in the New Testament, all in the Gospel of Matthew. Five of those occur in the first two chapters. God communicates to people through dreams, thus influencing them to make very important decisions in their waking lives. For instance, he tells a man named Joseph not to divorce the young and pregnant Mary who happens to be carrying "somebody else's" baby.

Have you ever had a gut feeling that you ignored?

You know what I'm talking about. There's something you know without a doubt that you should do, but you're worried about what other people will think, or you're afraid you'll do it wrong. You second guess yourself into doing nothing, and then later you regret it.

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