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20 Best Self-Discipline Books of All Time

Looking for the best books for discipline in 2023? Master the art of self-control today with our list of 20 must-read self-discipline books!


Self-discipline isn’t something we are born with. It is a skill that must be developed over many years. In order to cultivate self-discipline, you need to put in the work. 

One of the essential steps of this work is the studying process which can be most effectively done through the help of literature. What is the best book for discipline? What are the best authors of self-control books you should pay attention to? In this article, we suggest 20 great books worth reading to develop self-discipline and increase your productivity. Let’s dive into our must-reads!

Key Points 

  • Self-discipline allows you to stay focused on your goals. It allows you to stay in control of yourself and your reaction to any situation. Self-discipline is like a muscle: the more you train it, the stronger you become.

  • Some best books on discipline include The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal, and Willpower by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney

  • Many people would like to know how to be disciplined but don’t have enough time to read all these books in full. Fortunately, the Headway app allows you to gain unlimited access to 15-minute book summaries so that you can read hundreds of self-discipline books in a short amount of time!

1. The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal

Based on Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal’s popular course "The Science of Willpower," The Willpower Instinct is the first book to explain the new science of self-control and how it can be harnessed to improve our health, happiness, and productivity.

Informed by the latest research and combining cutting-edge insights from psychology, economics, neuroscience, and medicine, The Willpower Instinct explains what willpower is, how it works, and why it matters.

McGonigal claims that willpower is a mind-body response, not a virtue. It is a biological function that can be improved through mindfulness, exercise, nutrition, and sleep. Willpower is not an unlimited resource. Too much self-control can actually be bad for your health. And finally, guilt and shame over your setbacks lead to giving in again, but self-forgiveness and self-compassion boost inner control.

2. The Little Book of Big Change by Amy Johnson 

In The Little Book of Big Change, psychologist Dr. Amy Johnson discusses the neuroscience of addiction and habits to argue that changing them is possible. This self-discipline book is well-known among counselors, therapists, and other helping professionals. Although it is heavily focused on recovery, it also touches on how we can reverse our tendency to think in certain ways.

Some highlights include Dr. Johnson’s approach to breaking down habitual behaviors to get a better grip on them and tuning into your internal narrative. 

3. No Excuses! The Power of Self-Discipline by Brian Tracy

Brian Tracy is the author of several popular books on goal-setting, so his work on self-regulation is quite extensive. This self-discipline book contains several tactical exercises to help you tangibly apply Tracy’s concepts.

No Excuses! The Power of Self-Discipline is divided into three main areas: financial and business goals, personal goals, and general well-being. These are further broken down into domains such as leadership, relationships, friendship, personal excellence, responsibility, health, and time management. The tone of this book is light and motivational. 

4. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

This book on self-control is considered the seminal work on “Growth Mindset” for the layperson. If you’re looking to read about self-discipline as part of a bigger picture on personal growth, this book provides exactly that.

Dweck’s work is highly relevant for all those who are interested in the role of hard work, effort, and practice in personal growth. In this sense, it’s not focused exclusively on self-control but gives a more holistic overview of its importance in achieving what you set out to do.

Mindset is based on solid psychological science, but it’s digestible and a pleasant read for all the readers who aren’t keen on slogging through mountains of data.

5. The Now Habit by Neil Fiore

The Now Habit is full of techniques that help anyone who tends to procrastinate and any perfectionists who want to improve their productivity. 

Fiore invites his readers to look inward and discover the root cause of their own procrastination or fear. This self-discipline book helps readers make a positive habit of doing things “now.”

6. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

This self-discipline book makes it on most all-time best lists for self-help and leadership. 

The Power of Habit is an insightful look into the deep-seated way habitual behaviors often sabotage the best intentions and how they guide our behaviors in more ways than we may realize.

Duhigg considers some of the findings on how habits work at the brain level and discusses the three stages of cue, habit, and reward that can shape our actions. Throughout the book and more so toward the latter parts, he introduces specific strategies for changing habits and regaining self-control.

7. The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy

The Compound Effect has been called a manifesto for self-discipline. Hardy explains a simple formula for how to create radical change in our lives. The formula is “small smart choices + consistency + time = radical difference.” Small smart choices come down to small daily self-disciplines.

This self-discipline book will help you realize that the small everyday choices you make, not the big disciplines, determine the size of your achievements.

8. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

This is one of the all-time best books on self-discipline. It is primarily written for creative types who understand the self-sabotaging challenges that come with trying to create great work.

Even if you are not an artist, author, or entrepreneur, this book will help you realize that the struggle to create is universal, but it is something that can be conquered.

The War of Art positions self-discipline as “resistance.” Pressfield's concept of “resistance” clearly communicates how you must commit to your work and dedicate to becoming a professional. He explains that when you do this wholeheartedly, you’ll be able to achieve what you have always dreamed of.

9. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

This book is found in almost every self-improvement category, but it really shines when it comes to self-discipline.

Think and Grow Rich explains that no success, no great riches, or high achievements can be made if you have not mastered your own thoughts.

And sure enough, the mastery of your thoughts comes down to your ability to discipline your mind on how to think, what to allow into your mind, and what kind of thoughts you should consistently be focusing on to achieve your goals.

10. The Science of Self-Discipline by Peter Hollins

Best-selling author and human psychology researcher Peter Hollins have created a one-of-a-kind resource with his book The Science of Self-Discipline. As someone who has studied high-performance individuals for over a decade, Hollins effectively nails the psychology and science behind self-discipline in this book.

The Science of Self-Discipline provides an 11-chapter road map that will help readers understand everything from how your biology, habits, mindset, and environment impact your discipline levels.

11. Discipline Equals Freedom by Jocko Willink

Jocko Willink's methods for success were born in the SEAL Teams, where he spent most of his adult life. Willink enlisted after high school and rose through the ranks to become the commander of the most highly decorated special operations unit of the war in Iraq. 

Discipline Equals Freedom explains how self-discipline can lead to freedom. Without discipline, there would be no real progress. This book covers strategies and tactics for conquering weakness, procrastination, and fear, and specific physical training presented in workouts. Also, take a glance at the best sleep habits and food intake recommended to optimize performance.

12. Relentless by Tim Grover

For more than two decades, Tim Grover has trained hundreds of relentless competitors in sports and business, including famous athletes such as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. 

In this book, Grover details the essential traits shared by the most intense competitors and reveals what it takes to achieve complete mental and physical dominance. 

Packed with stories and unparalleled insights into the mindset of winners, Grover openly shares the same advice he gives his world-class clients and shows readers that anything is possible.

13. Make Your Bed by William H. McRaven

Make Your Bed is another must-read when it comes to books on self-discipline and life improvement in general. 

Admiral William H. McRaven wrote this NY Times Best Seller after giving a commencement speech that went viral. The message he conveyed in that commencement speech, and what he lays forth in Make Your Bed, is about how the little things make a big difference in how our life turns out. 

This self-discipline book is personal and contains various short stories and anecdotes about life. It inspires readers to do the small things a little bit better and a little more consistently, which will ultimately help change your life.

14. The Master Key to Riches by Napoleon Hill

This is a powerful and straightforward book for building self-discipline and the second by author Napoleon Hill on this list! Each chapter provides different insights into the habits and efforts that are required for you to achieve more in life.

Money, success, and power are things that most entrepreneurs or innovators are striving for. This title explains why self-discipline is the master key to riches

15. Mastery by Robert Greene

This self-discipline book covers a wide spectrum of ideas that center around what it takes to become a master — of your craft, of your profession, and a master of your life.

Much of the material in the book is pulled from the author’s vast knowledge of historical and modern masters such as Mozart, Leonardo Da Vinci, Goethe, John Coltrane, Marcel Proust, and many others.

Greene demonstrates that mastery is a simple process accessible to anyone who is willing to put in the time, effort, dedication, and sacrifice to create masterful work.

16. The Science of Self-Control by Howard Rachlin

The Science of Self-Control is an academic textbook replete with charts, diagrams, and numerical data. Nonetheless, Emeritus Professor Rachlin does an excellent job of making this quite a fascinating read for anyone with interest in behavioral science. 

This book is perfect for fans of data. It includes a lot of experimental research to examine various key principles of self-regulation – how it relates to decision-making, behavior, and more.

17. The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner

The Practicing Mind demonstrates how to learn seemingly elusive skills for any aspect of life, from golfing to business to parenting. Sterner argues the key is learning to love the process.

This self-discipline book is a study of how we learn (prompted by Sterner’s pursuit of disciplines such as music and golf). The Practicing Mind concludes that we have forgotten the principles of practice — the process of picking a goal and applying steady effort to reach it. The methods Sterner teaches show that practice done properly isn’t drudgery on the way to mastery but a fulfilling process in and of itself, one that builds discipline and clarity.

18. Self Discipline in 10 Days by Theodore Bryant

This easy read promises that if you follow the system in this book, you will achieve more self-discipline in your work life, personal life, and any other area of your life that you choose. Self Discipline in 10 Days is all about turning your ideas into actions. 

Bryant covers a wide range of topics such as “how to overcome the five common psychological roadblocks to self-discipline,” “how to use simple time management techniques,” and “how to program your psychological functions for maximum self-discipline.” 

19. The Marshmallow Test by Walter Mischel

Mischel was the acclaimed self-control psychologist behind the famous Marshmallow Test, which looked at the intricacies of delayed and instant gratification in kids.

He offered preschoolers either “a single marshmallow now or two marshmallows in ten minutes.” Mischel then studied these children’s later development to look at their obesity rates, academic performance, and other variables, paving the way for many more researchers to build on his findings.

This book is more than a useful overview of how to enhance your self-control; it also gives the reader a detailed look at one of the most eye-opening experiments in modern psychological history.

20. Willpower by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney 

This self-discipline book claims that willpower is a finite resource. Along with IQ, the authors argue it is one of life’s most important determinants of whether we succeed or not. Baumeister and Tierney believe that willpower is linked to happiness, emotional well-being, social support, and physical health. 

Willpower argues that self-control is about consciously managing how we channel our energy — what depletes our willpower, replenishes it, and even when we should leave things (like critical tasks) until another time. This book is one of the seminal texts on self-discipline and self-control.

Read More Self-Discipline Books With Headway

If you’re looking to become more reliable and follow through with your word, honing your self-discipline skills is necessary. The guidance contained in these 20 all-time best self-discipline books is a great place to start! 

Are you interested in books on this list but have no time to read them cover-to-cover? Try the Headway App. This is a wonderful resource for the modern learner that breaks down books into bite-sized and actionable insights. With Headway, you can listen to short summaries and pick up all the main ideas from countless books. You can get hours worth of knowledge on self-discipline in no time! 

Download the Headway app for unlimited access to 15-minute summaries on the best books for self-control!

Frequently Asked Questions 

How can I teach myself self-discipline?

Self-discipline is the ability to push yourself forward, stay motivated, and take action, regardless of how you're feeling, physically or emotionally. It is a practice of self-discipline in itself to complete an entire book. Try reading five of these all-time best self-discipline books in five months!

What is the best book on willpower?

Three of the top books on willpower that are recommended by experts in the field include The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, and Willpower by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney 

What is the best self-discipline book for building?

If you are looking to build your self-discipline, we recommend reading any of the 20 books listed above. A great place to start for beginners would be to read Brian Tracy’s No Excuses

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