Self-discipline is rarely something that comes easy to us. You might be able to see exactly how greater discipline can improve your life, but still fail to implement a greater control over willpower.
Often, we feel that a lack of discipline holds us back from what we can achieve.
It might seem that successful people have a greater degree of natural discipline, but this is rarely true.
Discipline is a habit, and it has to be learned. There’s no magical solution, and no quick way to achieve long term self-discipline.
However, there are methods to transform your attitude and habits, and instill more discipline in your routine.
And luckily, many of the people who have discovered these methods have written about them. In this guide, we’ll take a look at our favorite books for discipline, and how to find the right one for you.
The 5 Best Books For Self-Discipline
Charles Duhigg is an award-winning business reporter, and his observations from the boardroom and beyond shaped The Power of Habit.
A New York Times bestseller, The Power of Habit explores how fundamental our habits are to who we are, and what we can achieve.
Writing from experience gained at the forefront of business, NFL sidelines, and from the heart of the civil rights movement, Duhigg uses his vast observations to explain our habits.
The book takes a scientific approach, rather than a simple anecdotal explanation, to understand what our habits are. From here, we can make positive steps to change them.
The breadth of experience and advice in The Power of Habit makes it an excellent choice for those hoping to make sweeping changes, and those searching for small improvements.
The compelling arguments made by Duhigg are engaging and exciting, although those hoping for an easy change may be disappointed by the overall message of The Power of Habit.
- Practical advice that can be put into use by the reader.
- Scientific understanding of the role of habit.
- Multiple formats available.
- The first part of the book delves into habits, before offering solutions. Some may find the book takes too long to deliver.
Runner-Up – Willpower: Rediscovering The Greatest Human Strength By Roy F. Baumeister And John Tierney
Roy F. Baumeister is a world-renowned psychologist, and for Willpower he partnered with science writer John Tierney to explore what self-control is, and how we can better utilize it.
Scientific understanding of willpower and control is at the heart of this book, drawing from real world research and advice from experts.
These insights help to provide the reader with a better understanding of what discipline is, why we need it, and how to better integrate it within our lives.
But Willpower doesn’t seek to simply understand discipline. This is a book primarily focused on guiding the reader to making informed changes to better take control of their lives.
The importance of realistic goal-setting, thorough progress monitoring, and focused strength are all explored within Willpower.
Practical advice is found throughout the pages, offering a real opportunity for positive change.
Willpower is a grounded and, overall, positive book.
If you’ve been struggling with discipline and find too many books obscure advice in negative research studies, the inspiring focus of Willpower might be what you need.
- The positive focus of Willpower motivates real change.
- Practical advice can be found throughout the book.
- Multiple formats available.
- It can be wordy in places, with practical tips mixed alongside anecdotal studies.
Best For Understanding Discipline – The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, And What You Can Do To Get More Of It By Kelly McGonigal
Often the key to achieving discipline is understanding the role that it plays within our lives. This is what makes The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal such an excellent choice.
Instead of just providing advice, this book truly puts the focus on what self-control is, and why so many of us are lacking it.
The Willpower Instinct is based on the popular Stanford University course run by author Kelly McGonigal.
The book tackles the science at the heart of willpower, positioning it not as a moral trait or virtue, but as a mind-body response.
By exploring discipline as a biological trait, The Willpower Instinct refocuses how so many of us attempt to improve self-discipline within our lives.
A groundbreaking work, the Willpower Instinct focuses on physical changes we can make in our lives.
Positioning willpower as a limited resource, McGonigal writes practical advice for using discipline to achieve your goals.
- For those burned out on self-help books, The Willpower Instinct offers a new approach.
- Tackles the biological facts at the heart of willpower, with the help of cutting-edge scientific research.
- Multiple formats available.
- Less focus on practical advice, more focus on understanding discipline.
Best For Practical Advice – Eat That Frog! By Brian Tracy
While other books might focus on the importance of self-discipline, and its role in human society, Eat That Frog is written specifically to help those struggling with discipline to add more willpower to their life.
Eat That Frog is a series of 21 tips and methods to “stop procrastinating and get more done in less time”.
With no actual frog eating involved, Tracy uses organizational methods to accomplish tasks effectively, and consistently.
Based on the old saying that eating a live frog every morning means you’ve already done the worst thing you’ll do that day, Eat That Frog reorganizes the day to day for greater efficiency.
For those of us who struggle to finish important tasks in a tight time frame, yet somehow have plenty of wasted hours, Eat That Frog is a revolutionary look at self-structure.
And by using practical advice, the compelling book is easier to integrate into your every day.
Brian Tracy is also the author of No Excuses, a more complete look into the art of self-discipline.
While Eat That Frog is focused specifically on practical advice for maximizing productivity during the day, No Excuses is a general guide to using self-discipline for improvement.
- 21 practical lessons to integrate into your own life.
- Organizational tips that can be utilized by people in many walks of life.
- Multiple formats available.
- Eat That Frog focuses on advice, rather than understanding. It rarely looks at the underlying science.
Best For Creative Blocks – The War of Art: Break Through The Blocks And Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
The War of Art is a self-discipline book aimed at creative types.
Rather than a more general guide to habit-forming, this book turns the focus to creative endeavors, and how we can often hold ourselves back from achieving our potential.
Creators of all types have struggled with the demon of a creative block. This can often put a total stop to work, preventing a project from getting off the ground.
While creative blocks can often seem the work of an outside influence, the reality is that a lack of discipline is frequently the source of the issue.
The War Of Art is a book of tough love, turned inwards to ensure we can all reach our creative ambitions.
Succinct, The War of Art engages the reader while offering practical tips for building resolve.
It doesn’t go easy on you, but the engaging and even comedic writing offers a frank look at how we often create our own barriers.
While The War of Art may focus closely on the role of discipline in creative endeavors, there’s a wider message to be found at the heart of this book.
Whatever your struggle, the clear advice of the War of Art might be able to help.
- Frank and straight to the point.
- A focus on discipline in creative mediums.
- Multiple formats available.
- The overall focus on creative industries won’t appeal to all readers.
Somewhat ironically, finding the right book for discipline can often require a good deal of discipline to begin with.
There are a lot out there, and many of them aren’t very good. If you have a shelf of abandoned self-help books, then you can attest to the fact that too many of them rely on fad ideas to sell.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t good books on discipline that can make a positive change in your life.
In this buyer’s guide, we’ll take a look at what features you should consider before buying a book for discipline.
Let’s begin with the practicalities: what format does the book come in?
It might seem like a small thing, but if you tend to give up on large hardbacks because they’re impractical, then even the best self-help book won’t have an effect if you chose the wrong format.
Consider exactly when you read, and if you find you don’t have time for it, try an audiobook format instead.
The right format might not revolutionize your life, but it can be a good first step. Recognize the method in which you best absorb information, and make a choice from there.
The Purpose And Focus Of The Book
This might seem like an obvious one, but discipline isn’t a single, easy to understand, behavior. If it was, we wouldn’t need so many books about it!
Instead, books tackle the subject from many different angles.
Understand the purpose and the focus of the book, beyond merely “discipline”, to better understand if this is the right book for you.
It’s also important to understand which area of life the book is aimed at. While many books on discipline cover improvement in general, some have a more focused approach.
For example, some books are about tackling creative blocks, others about improving in business, and some about strengthening personal relationships.
While there is some crossover in the methodology, if you are looking for a specific approach, be sure the book follows the direction you want.
Understanding Vs. Practicality
Some books on discipline are primarily focused on discussing what discipline is, and how it affects our lives. These books often take a scientific approach, discussing in detail case studies and evidence.
Although practical tips are generally worked in, and implied by the results of the studies, they aren’t the focus.
Other books do put the focus on the practical, providing usable tips for instilling discipline in your life.
These practical books tend to make some reference to the science behind the method, without covering it in detail.
Many books on discipline act as a blend of the two, combining scientific experimentation with real world advice.
Both types have their benefits, and different people will prefer the different approaches. Before making your choice, consider what is better for your own purpose.
The Method Of The Book
How, exactly, does the book aim to tackle a lack of discipline? What does this book do that makes it different from others on the market?
Of course, it’s impossible to know exactly which method will have an effect before trying it.
However, by taking the time to understand the methods offered by the book can prevent you from investing in something impractical for your day to day.
Even more important, it can prevent you from reattempting methods you’ve already tried and dismissed.
Self-help can often leave us stuck in a loop, constantly reattempting methods that have no effect. Break the cycle by paying attention to what each book does differently.
What Does It Promise?
Discipline books can often make big promises about quick fixes. While most of us recognize that these promises are not realistic, they can still suck us in.
Consider what this book on discipline actually aims to achieve. Does it claim it can completely change your life with just a few quick steps?
Or does it simply promise a better understanding of discipline?
Look beyond just what the book says on the front. These bold headlines often claim to do a lot, to catch the eye of casual readers.
The actual book can be quite different to what the cover promises, so look a little deeper before buying.
Who Wrote It?
All kinds of people turn their hands to writing books on discipline, which means that a lot of them aren’t very good.
Before making your choice, consider what qualifies this person to write a book for discipline.
Many of the best books on this subject come from those with a background in psychiatry, while others are written by those with practical experience in tough situations.
Of course, that isn’t to say that you have to have a PhD to write a book for discipline. But before you buy, consider what the author has done that makes their advice worth listening to.
If you’re struggling with discipline, you might want to steer clear of 400-page tomes on the scientific principles potentially underlying the formation of habit.
If you know you struggle to finish long books, then look for shorter alternatives with similar themes.
Alternatively, if you find you lack the discipline to concentrate on shorter books, you might prefer something you can get your teeth into.
Again, there are no right or wrong choices here. It’s about understanding your own attitudes, and making a decision to suit your needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Self-Help Books Actually Help With Discipline?
Yes, self-help books can help with discipline, but be careful when choosing which books to read. Consider what the purpose of the book is, the method, and the results it promises.
Avoid books that seem to rely on fad methods for achieving discipline, and focus on those that provide a more complete understanding of willpower and discipline.
Can Reading Improve Discipline?
Reading self-help books can help with discipline, but reading overall is useful for improving self-discipline. Reading regularly can help establish a routine, and break away from bad habits.
What Is The Best Book For Discipline?
The Power Of Habit by Charles Duhigg is our top choice, combining real world experience, scientific observation, and practical advice.
For understanding discipline, we recommend The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal.
For practical advice, try Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy, and Willpower by Roy F. Baumeister. Creative types should check out The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.
Achieving self-discipline is a personal target, and methods that are successful for others might not work with your lifestyle. While we highly recommend these books, make sure to consider what they can do for you.
Many of us wish to have a little more discipline in our lives, but it rarely feels easy to achieve.
The best books for self-discipline help you to understand exactly what willpower is, and how to effectively improve your own approach to discipline.
We hope this guide will help you find a book for discipline.