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The secret to self-discipline

Easy, short-term choices lead to difficult, long-term consequences. Inversely, difficult short-term choices lead to easy long-term consequences. Self-discipline strategist Rory Vaden describes this concept as The Paradox Principle of Sacrifice. It's simple enough to understand: Focus on doing the difficult things now for more freedom, more money, more happiness and an easier life in the future. Understanding how The Paradox Principle of Sacrifice relates to your everyday life is the first step toward motivating yourself to take action for your future.

In a recent conversation with Rory Vaden, he discussed his new book, Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success. As a self-discipline strategist, Rory is an expert in the psychology of making decisions. He has taught audiences worldwide his "Take the Stairs" methodology.

When faced with any decision, you have two choices:

1. Take the Escalator. This mindset is the easy short-term choice. For example, sitting on the couch instead of getting up and going to the gym, buying something frivolous and expensive instead of investing in a low-cost index fund, or conveniently ordering fast food from the drive-through instead of cooking a healthy dinner at home.

2. Take the Stairs. This mindset is the difficult short-term choice. When you look at the world around you, the most successful people process their decisions with this mindset. These people have started huge companies, saved the most money, maintained the healthiest bodies and made the difficult short-term decisions for an easier and more successful future.

So how do you get motivated when easy short-term decisions are more tempting and attractive? How do you change your mindset to make the difficult short-term sacrifices? How do you find the energy to "Take the Stairs" on a daily basis? Read an excerpt from our conversation below, then listen to the full Rory Vaden interview to learn the psychology of decision-making for success.

Robert: When we're in that moment of deciding whether or not to "take the stairs" and choosing to do something we really don't want to do, how do we do it? We may be sitting at our desk; playing a game of deciding whether to pick up the phone or not; or sitting on the couch thinking, "Should I go to the gym, or not?" How can we shift our mindset and just do it?

Rory: Well, there are two key things you could do here. One would be just to stop thinking about it. Literally, the insight of realizing that your mind is making this much worse than it is and knowing that that is the truth. It's almost like you go, "Oh, that's silly," and you just pick up the phone and you make the call. Or you get off the couch and go to the gym.

The other thing that you can do (and this is a general strategy for any short-term decision that is difficult) is leverage long-term vision to endure short-term sacrifices. What happens is we get so caught up in the here and now and go, "Oh my gosh, I don't want to make that phone call," or, "Oh my gosh, I don't feel like working out." In that moment, if you think about (using the phone-call example), if you really stop for a second and you think about, "Hey, the reason why I'm working so hard is because I know that my bonus check this month is going towards my kid's college fund, and that is why I need to crank it right now, and that is why this matters," and you take a second to get present to what really matters to you in the long run, what happens is the short-term sacrifice or activity loses its power; it pales in comparison to the vision.

Oftentimes with people who are struggling with self-discipline, it's not that they have a lack of discipline or a lack of work ethic; in many cases it's that they have a lack of vision. They don't have a clear enough picture about what they want in their life, and it's not compelling enough for them to pull them through the muck. So it's essential to really be present and focus on your vision.

Listen to the full Rory Vaden interview now!

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