Recently I found an older book with some lasting ideas. Rory Vaden’s Take the Stairs offers great inspiration for those looking to stop procrastinating in all areas of their life. The one aspect though most people won’t want to hear is succeeding in life takes self-discipline. Vaden says you can’t succeed if you take shortcuts, like an escalator. Only if you take the stairs will you build muscle. Similarly, if you take care of the hardest tasks again and again, especiallys when you don’t feel like it, you will accomplish your goals.
Seven Principles of Self-Discipline
Vaden structures the book according to seven principles of self-discipline: sacrifice, commitment, focus, integrity, scheduling, faith, and action. Here are the most memorable things I learned from each of these.
Sacrifice. Choices that are easy in the short term are very often in direct conflict with what makes life easy in the long term.
Commitment. Changing from the question, “Should I?” to “How will I?” is the mind-set shift that makes all the difference.
Focus. Focus is about not allowing your attention to be distracted by less important tasks. The intensity of your focus is proportionate to the clarity of your vision.
Integrity. People with integrity align what they say with what they do. Achievers say they’re going to workout and then go do it. Achievers say they’re going to finish an important project that day and they do. You think it, you speak it, you act on it, and it happens.
Scheduling. We’re taught we need balance but Vaden believes we need to spend appropriate amounts of time on the priorities most critical to us.
Faith. Having faith is knowing that if you fail now, you’ll have something better waiting for you later.
Action. The three enemies of action are fear, entitlement, and perfectionism. If you let any of those three things guide you in the moment, you will procrastinate your intentions.
Overall, Vaden believes for high-achievers, success is not about skill, it’s about your will to succeed. We don’t fail because of poor circumstances, we fail because we lack discipline. Those are hard words to hear but also useful ones. Sometimes when a challenge is overwhelming and painful, it means a greater, more satisfying reward lies ahead. So we shouldn’t blame ourselves if we have a setback, just learn from it and get back on track.
Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before fits right in with The Cultivated Life principle: how to grow for the better. This warm, down-to-earth book tackles the subject of personal habits and how to master them. Habits are the architecture of our lives, Rubin says, and changing habits involves knowing your personality. This forces us to examine exactly who we are and how we operate in the world. But once we identify these characteristics, we can begin to improve ourselves. It’s a fresh perspective I haven’t encountered before and the book greatly helped me in living a more settled, peaceful interior life.