How To Build Self-Discipline: Resist Temptations And Reach Your Long Term Goals (REVIEW)


I love listening to audiobooks as I work out or travel. I find it a great way to stay sharp in the mind and squeeze value out of every hour of the day. Recently I came across the book “How To Build Self-Discipline“, and it sounded right up my street!

Here’s a brief summary of the book, as well as my overall thoughts about whether it’s worth your money and some other self-discipline books I’ve come across that could be worth a look at.

Martin Meadows is the pseudonym of the author, about which little is known. He has established himself as a wall street journal bestseller, with a dozen books around topics of self-discipline, grit, confidence, and general personal development.

His style of writing is far from academic or overly literary: this is a bloke who gets straight to the point about how he feels you can improve your life.

I have to say it works for me.

3 Key Ideas From the book that stood out to me

Visualize the process, not the outcome

Meadows cites a study in the book that supports this claim. Apparently, the most effective way to use visualization to achieve self-discipline is to visualize the process itself. By visualizing the positive outcome alone, you actually get a release of dopamine prematurely, which can disincentivize any real work getting done. Who knew!

The Dunning-Kruger effect

There is research carried out by David Dunning and Justin Kruger which shows that incompetent people can be highly deluded and self-confident, and more competent people can actually be less confident as they become more aware of their own limitations. This can explain why we sometimes feel as though we are going backwards in our careers or our lives. The incident which inspired this research is included in the book, and it is pretty funny:

One day in 1995, a large, heavy middle-aged man robbed two Pittsburgh banks in broad daylight. He didn’t wear a mask or any sort of disguise. And he smiled at surveillance cameras before walking out of each bank. Later that night, police arrested a surprised McArthur Wheeler. When they showed him the surveillance tapes, Wheeler stared in disbelief. “But I wore the juice,” he mumbled. Apparently, Wheeler thought that rubbing lemon juice on his skin would render him invisible to videotape cameras. After all, lemon juice is used as invisible ink so, as long as he didn’t come near a heat source, he should have been completely invisible. Police concluded that Wheeler was not crazy or on drugs- just incredibly mistaken

Become aware of your cravings

We all have this dopamine addiction that drives our cravings. When we crave that bad food or cigarette, really what we are after is that hit of dopamine that gets thrown in with it. By becoming aware of this endless cycle, we are much more likely to nip it in the bud.

Read also: Why is persistence important for success?

3 Action steps recommended in the book

Reward yourself for your own hard work

It can’t be all stick and no carrot! If you build in small rewards as a part of your disciplined life, you will find it far easier to consistently pursue your goals. Martin uses the example of drinking a smoothie after a workout, but the principle could really apply to anything. Save 1000, spend 50 on yourself. Stick to your diet for a week, and eat whatever you want for a whole day. You will find this approach both more pleasant, and more effective for achieving growth long term!

Evaluate your social circle

Your friends have a huge influence on your own personal standards and level of discipline. It is a fact of life: if everyone you know is lazy/happy/stressed out/broke, it is likely that you are not far off. With this in mind, make sure you are spending time with people who will make you better, and try to be conscious of the effect your friends are having on you. 

This principle doesn’t just apply to in-person relationships- online forums, audiobooks, and other content are all great ways for your mindset to be positively influenced. 

Simplify Simplify Simplify

Decision fatigue is a real thing. There are only a few things that actually matter, then there’s all this other stuff that we put way too much thought into. Learn to cut back on the time and energy you spend on trivial decisions. 

“It is not the daily increase but the daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential”

Bruce Lee

Read also: Self-discipline for students (become MORE than you are!)

Closing thoughts

Hopefully, you’ve got some idea now of the book and its themes. It’s nice and short- I listened to the whole thing in under 2 hours! I got to say that this isn’t the kind of book that will change your life, and tell you all of this stuff you’ve never heard before. Nothing here is absolutely mind-blowing and original. 

But as a driven individual pushing to be better, it’s always great to fill your mind with these kinds of ideas. This is sound information, well put together, with some personal anecdotes thrown in to bring it all together. The emphasis is on the action, as I believe it should be. Meadows, whoever he is, has done a solid job and it is a book that I would recommend. I imagine I will be re-reading it at some point in the future!

Other great books for Self-Discipline

I have written an article not long ago with my 5 favorite books as of 2021. You can check that out here. If you are after a quick recommendation, try Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins.

Here’s a quick explanation of what it’s all about:

David Goggins lived in an incredibly dysfunctional and painful household growing up and was obviously incredibly damaged by what he had to go through. I mean no one would give this guy a chance. And honestly, he was what you might call a failure well into adulthood. By his own definition. Fat, comfortable, victim mentality, an awful job, no prospects.

The guy then becomes obsessed with becoming a navy seal, a dream he once had as a teenager. He flicks a switch. To cut an unbelievable story way too short he went on to:

Go through hell week twice.

When not a runner, he ran 100 miles on 2 broken legs.

Became the only member of the US armed forces to complete seal training, the US army ranger school, and Air Force tactical air controller training (straight off his website)

Completed over 60 ultra marathons and endurance races.

Break the pull up world record after failing twice, once on live tv.

He has an incredible warrior spirit. He often says that to his mind, the whole meaning of life is found in overcoming pain. This book tells the full story.

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