Biz & Books review: ‘Self-Discipline Handbook’ takes step-by-step approach to willpower

Take your pick. Television, or getting that project done? Finishing tax-prep, or cruising online? Burritos, or bananas?

Take your pick, life always has choices. But read “The Self-Discipline Handbook” by Natalie Wise first, and you may gain more willpower.

Take a look at the closest dictionary, and you’ll see that self-discipline is basically “passion and purpose” and “doing what we think is right.” So now you know what it means … but does that make it any easier?

Yes, says Wise, because there are steps you can take to gain self-discipline. It starts small, and it grows with consistent practice. Another ingredient: knowing your strengths and “owning the negative parts of yourself” so you can watch that they don’t “trip you up.” Note which — strengths or weaknesses — are harder to accept.

Cultivate creativity and curiosity. Do so with a change in environment or perspective, and by nurturing yourself with occasional indulgences. Take naps. Eat snacks. Put relaxation on your schedule, and be sure not to deny yourself. That will help keep your energy up, because self-discipline “craves it.”

If you begin to falter in your path, add humility to your self-discipline tool kit and ask for help. There’s nothing shameful in a hand up; the bonus is that it teaches you how to say “no” when you need it.

Have a hobby, but don’t dabble in “your hustle.” Eliminate “just because” chores and make sure there’s a reason for tasks you perform every day. Don’t just “get by” on the things that are important; if something’s really important, then “make it happen.”

Get organized, including a written list of daily tasks to be done. Find your passion, even if it’s not for the thing your self-discipline efforts are focused on. Break tasks up into smaller projects, if the whole feels too daunting. Know how to avoid burn-out at all costs. And be patient: gaining self-discipline is absolutely “worth achieving….”

Though it’s quite simplistic, “The Self-Discipline Handbook” surely could be of some help to anyone for whom procrastination is the default position. It’s useful — but you have some get-through to get through first.

First of all, readers who just want the facts may bristle at the new-agey-ness here. Talking to your bodily organs might seem odd to some, and the over-advice on healthy eating is rather superfluous in a time when nutrition guidelines are everywhere — especially when author Natalie Wise admits to be a major proponent of snacking.

Another angle: abounding alliteration’s also annoying, after all.

Still, how could you resist even just a small bit of focus-help? How could you resist a book that makes self-discipline so step-by-step attainable? If your workday is scattered and you know you can do better, you can’t — especially if you keep in mind that nobody says you have to read every single page.

If you’ve got goals and you’re feeling panicked or if you just need a brush-up, this book may be a good lifeline. Take a deep breath. It’s okay. “The Self-Discipline Handbook” is a book to pick… up.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is the reviewer behind “The Bookworm Sez,” a self-syndicated book review column published in more than 260 newspapers and magazines in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean. She can be reached for feedback, ideas and links to reviews of books on a broad range topics at


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