What are Some Good Books on Personal Discipline?

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Discipline involves control obtained by obedience. The word comes from “disciple,” which is someone who follows another person.  The most famous “disciples” followed Jesus Christ.

You can discipline others, including children, animals, and spouses (some might say they are all the same!).  And, you can practice self-discipline, which from personal experience I can tell you might be even harder.  We are often our toughest opponents.  

Increasing self-discipline is a key component to social-emotional intelligence. It’s a key component to living your best life.

These days, there are many ways to learn how to discipline, including personal experience, advice from others, and podcasts.  And, there are books.  Lots of books.  

Read All About It

My purpose here is to provide some of the best books out there about personal discipline by providing background info to help you decide if they are a good for your needs.   

Some fundamentals I’m researching are the author’s expertise, the specific subject matter, what others are saying about them, the skillset of the intended audience, and any deficits that might be red flags.



Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear 

James Clear is a writer and speaker focused on habits, decision-making, and continuous improvement.

Atomic Habits is a #1 New York Times bestseller and worldwide favorite.  

The basic theme of this book is that the path to change is having the right system in place to change your life. The potential is there if you channel your efforts the right way. The author uses biology, psychology, and neuroscience to formulate this system. Real-life examples of successful people in a range of fields are also provided to help you.  

There’s a reason this book is such a blockbuster. It’s written in a conversational, easy-to-understand manner with lots of examples to explain ideas.

Possible Problems: Critics argue the book rambles and spends too much time on personal anecdotes without providing enough useful material to warrant the bestseller status of this volume.  (Caveat to this complaint: I disagree)

Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers

Susan Jeffers was an American psychologist and author.

This classic self-help book sold millions of copies and was translated into more than thirty-five languages.  It explains how we can face our fears by understanding them, addressing them, and finding ways to avoid being overwhelmed by them. Jeffers explains how she conquered her own fears.  The book avoids jargon and is accessible to the average reader.

Possible Problems: The book is not recent enough to take advantage of recent research. Some readers did not like some of the advice on how to live one’s life and deal with others, thinking it went past the stated goals of the book. Some felt it was too positive about dealing with very tough things like cancer.

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen   

David Allen has decades of experience as a consultant and executive coach for such companies as Microsoft, the Ford Foundation, L.L.Bean, and the World Bank.

Allen’s motto is “RELAX!” Once we are properly calm, our minds are open to productivity and we are able to best unleash our creative potential. This book provides some core principles to do this without wearing yourself down in the process.

Possible Problems: Too long-winded.  His model is too restrictive for some folks.  

The Power of Discipline: How to Use Self Control and Mental Toughness to Achieve Your Goals by Daniel Walter

This is a small (132 pages) highly rated book that provides easy-to-read, scientific explanations about self-discipline, including lessons from a range of people including Buddhists and Navy SEALS.  Bulldoze toward your goals, ditch your bad habits, become an unstoppable force of nature, and start living the life you know you deserve. 

Possible Problems: This is a book that has a lot of ratings online, mostly positive, but some people think it is too short and says nothing new not said in books like Atomic Habits.  

The Science of Self-Discipline: The Willpower, Mental Toughness, and Self-Control to Resist Temptation and Achieve Your Goals by Peter Hollins

Peter Hollins is a bestselling author, human psychology researcher, and a dedicated student of the human condition. This one is a quick read but one where a notebook being handy is useful. It has a bunch of new helpful ways to increase discipline and willpower. 

Possible Problems: Poorly edited without proper sourcing.  

Stop Procrastinating: A Simple Guide to Hacking Laziness, Building Self Discipline, and Overcoming Procrastination  by Nils Salzgeber

Nils Salzgeber is the co-founder of the popular NJlifehacks blog. 

This action-oriented book examines the reason behind your procrastination (spoiler: it’s a lot more than simply personal weakness) and has 20 science-based strategies to address the problem.  This includes a 30-second trick to build “instant habits” from the start of your day.

Possible Problems: Too short without enough new content. 

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

Some might know Steven Pressfield as the author of such books as “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” which was later made into a popular film.

This book is an engaging, and practical guide for succeeding in any creative sphere.  The author addresses an internal resistance inside of us that is a stumbling block. If you fight this “resistance,” you can be on the road to self-discipline, and succeed in all you do. 

This book is for everyone from artists to those trying to succeed in business or anyone really. Creativity is useful in all that we do.

Possible Problems: Some readers thought the author overdid it with “pop psychology” and religious-related analysis.

The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal

Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., is an award-winning psychology instructor at Stanford University, and a lecturer and program developer at the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.

This book is based on her popular course (“The Science of Willpower”) and explains how the science of self-control can be used to improve our health, happiness, and productivity.  Learn all about willpower and how to apply it to achieve a range of goals.

Possible Problems: Some readers are annoyed about her writing style. One person compares her to a “chatty nerd.” Some think there are too many anecdotes and she does not truly show how her conclusions are proven by the science available.