The best books on self-discipline, willpower, and mental toughness

Martin Meadows Author Of 365 Days With Self-Discipline: 365 Life-Altering Thoughts on Self-Control, Mental Resilience, and Success (Simple Self-Discipline)
By Martin Meadows

The Books I Picked & Why

Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds

By David Goggins

Book cover of Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds

Why this book?

If you secretly always wanted to become a superhero, this book is for you. In his autobiography, David Goggins shares the story of how he went from an obese, undisciplined man to a globally-recognized icon of mental toughness and self-discipline. Through his fascinating stories (and raw language) you’ll learn how choosing to do what’s hard can forge you into a new person. I’ve found this book inspiring because David doesn’t sugarcoat things and is a powerful example of how much we can accomplish if we refuse to identify ourselves as victims. Whenever I feel weak, I ask myself what would David do (hint: he would keep going).


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Living with a Seal: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet

By Jesse Itzler

Book cover of Living with a Seal: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet

Why this book?

Jesse Itzler loves learning how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable (hint: it’s a secret to all success). He hires a Navy SEAL (unnamed in the book but it’s actually David Goggins) to toughen him up. I loved this book because of the hilarious stories, incredibly difficult challenges the SEAL forces Jesse to do, and Jesse’s fun writing style. I find this book fascinating because it shows a huge difference in how two people can think about challenging themselves in life.


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The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

By Gary Keller, Jay Papasan

Book cover of The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

Why this book?

At first sight, the book talks about productivity. But in reality, its over-arching concept is self-discipline. The authors urge the reader to discover their one thing that will make everything else easier. I find this concept similar to the idea of “keystone habits,” that is habits that once implemented as a side effect help introduce other positive habits (for example, exercising often leads to a better diet, sleep, and more). If you want to develop more self-discipline through simplifying your life, this book will show you how.


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The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself

By Michael A. Singer

Book cover of The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself

Why this book?

Michael’s book can be categorized as “spiritual,” yet it talks about a concept incredibly powerful for self-discipline, too: that we are not our minds. If we aren’t our minds (and we learn to see it for ourselves, which the book helps us achieve), this means we don’t have to blindly follow our urges and engage in spur-of-the-moment behaviors that jeopardize our long-term goals. If you have a problem with bad impulsive decisions (as most people wanting to improve their willpower do), this book may be helpful.


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The Art of Resilience: Strategies for an Unbreakable Mind and Body

By Ross Edgley

Book cover of The Art of Resilience: Strategies for an Unbreakable Mind and Body

Why this book?

Ross is a superhuman athlete embarking on some of the world’s craziest adventures. In this book he talks about his journey swimming 1,780 miles around the island of Great Britain. The hardships he had to suffer to achieve his goal show how tough and disciplined Ross is (I know I wouldn’t be able to bear them). Chapters telling his story of the journey are interspersed with advice on how to build mental toughness and grow your self-discipline. I couldn’t stop reading this book. The story is utterly fascinating and the lessons memorable and practical.


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