Developing Self-Discipline
July 12, 2004 5:26 AM   Subscribe

Anyone know any good books on developing self discipline? All the books I'm running across while searching are for child rearing.
posted by pissfactory to Human Relations (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I found learning basic meditation techniques a huge help in ability to concentrate on other things, you might want to explore that area.

One of these days I'm going to write a self-discipline book and call it Stop Reading This and Get Back to Work.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:44 AM on July 12, 2004 [2 favorites]

You might actually read some of the parenting books- they're as much about training a parent to be consistent and effective as they are about directing a child's behavior. You'd have to extrapolate from the advice there, but it could be useful.
posted by headspace at 6:17 AM on July 12, 2004

It depends what you mean by the question. There are a million hucksters who will sell you self improvement in a box.

The question I have in response to your question is: why do you ask? Do you have something in particular in mind that you want to accomplish?

Are you interested in philosophy? Do you prefer to look at your question from a psychological or psychiatric perspective? Do you want a set of prescriptive guidelines (or morals)? Do you wish to accomodate a religion? Is there any appeal in the existentialist perspective?

Your question also includes the concept of ‘self’ which has its own long philosophical tradition. What is the ‘you’ that you intend to heed? You might be interested in reading about cognitive science, perception or memory research. You might end up delving into complex systems theory or network theory, ecology or economics. Your options are many.

What did you have in mind?
posted by snarfodox at 7:00 AM on July 12, 2004

Yeah, it depends what you mean by disciipline. If you're talking about either organizing your time and getting things done or taking something that you think is important more seriously, I would recommend Brian Tracey's book Eat that Frog for the former and Steven Pressfield's The Art of War for the latter.
posted by dobbs at 8:36 AM on July 12, 2004

Minor quibbling correction - Steven Pressfield's book is called The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle.
posted by orange swan at 8:49 AM on July 12, 2004

There is a whole lot of crap out there, but I've found these helpful:

Getting Things Done, by David Allen: A popular business book targetted at busy executives, but I found it really helpful for managing myself. One of the key points is to make a "next action" list, where instead of writing "Get car fixed," you'd write "Find phone number for mechanic." If you'd have trouble getting motivated to do the first, you'd easily be able to do the second. Then the next item, which you can do immediately or add to your list would be "call mechanic." He also helps you organize multi-step projects as well as long-term plans.

Feeling Good, by David Burns: A very respected book about alleviating depression by use of cognitive self-therapy. The new version points to studies which support the book's effectiveness. Even if you don't have depression, perhaps you lack discipline because of the way you talk to yourself. ("I'm no good and lazy. I always do this. I should just write this stupid paper. I'm never going to graduate.") This just makes you feel worse and will not be helpful for self-discipline. Burns teaches ways to correct such thoughts. In the absence of negative self-talk, the world looks a lot better and tasks are much less daunting. Iirc, there is a chapter on procrastination and he also touches on topics like weight loss. I felt markedly better (more optimistic, less lethargic, less sad, more able to get stuff done, more able to exercise "willpower") within a few days of starting the book and continue to feel better several weeks later. My girlfriend is continually surprised about the change. I can't recommend this book enough.
posted by callmejay at 9:22 AM on July 12, 2004

I'm talking about, like, right now I'm fasting. I'd like to maintain the willpower to follow through with this during the tough times.

I guess I mean just doing stuff I set my mind to without giving up- isn't that discipline?
posted by pissfactory at 10:34 AM on July 12, 2004

There might be a difference between being self-disciplined and being obsessive. Successful fasting may require a little more of the latter than the former, depending on how your body reacts. I'm not sure you can learn that from a book, even if you would really want to. You can learn mind over matter from meditation practice, which itself requires self-discipline ironically, but the healthful kind.
posted by dness2 at 11:41 AM on July 12, 2004

Fasting for a spiritual reason? A medical or weight-loss reason? And for how long?

Willpower alone only gets you so far; motivation is all in the long run. Developing self-discipline might teach you practical tips for better short-term willpower, but most usefully it will also bring you into a better alignment with what you do.

On this topic, I like very much Robert Fritz's, The Path of least Resistance, which is discussed half way down this page.
posted by suleikacasilda at 1:47 PM on July 12, 2004

Thanks Orange Swan. The weird thing is that as I typed that I thought, "I hope he doesn't think I mean the Art of War", thinking I was typing the War of Art. Weird. Thanks for the correction, though.

pissfactory, after reading your ammendment, I'll add that William Glasser's Choice Theory book may be of interest. However, I'll summarise it here: everything you do is by choice. Before doing anything (especially things you don't want to do, like breaking your fast), say to yourself that you are aware that you're choosing to do it. Often that's enough to get you not to do it. Works for me a lot.
posted by dobbs at 2:51 PM on July 12, 2004

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