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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.

2013: The Habitual Year

On Kevin Espiritu

I've been very successful in my quest to eliminate hardcore competitive video games from my life. By using Stickk, a friend, a monetary incentive, and accountability, I've hard-quit League of Legends and repurposed the hours a week that I was spending playing games.

This next year is going to be very exciting for me, but is also going to require a lot out of me as a person. It is going to require me to become a different person if I want to have what I will consider a "successful year."

There are no financial, travel, or social goals planned for 2013 at all.

Instead, I will call 2013 the Habitual Year. The only true "goal" that I have for the year is that I commit to implementing or quitting one habit per month using the framework that has worked so well for me this past month. The way I see it, if I implement or remove a total of 12 major habits (think nutrition, exercise, meditation, socializing, etc) then 365 days from now there really is no way I can have a bad year.

I need to focus on habits that other people can easily see if I have accomplished or not. For LoL, it was easy because there are 3rd party websites that track gameplay, allowing Jon to see if I'd played or not regardless of if I wanted to tell him the truth. This needs to be the case in any future habit challenge.

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