A stoics guide to discipline and self control

Hosted by

“My rule is I try to tackle the hard thing first, which is almost always writing, and so by 10 or 11 o'clock, I've had a successful day,” says author Ryan Holiday. Photo courtesy of Ryan Holiday

The ability to master anything in life is a challenge – but when it comes to living a good life, it’s the practice of self discipline and moderation that can be easily overlooked.  Afterall, being disciplined is to be predictable – and that’s something many think of as rather boring.  

Abundance and freedom requires self discipline of freedom because when “When we can do whatever we want, we have to decide what we're willing to do and not willing to do,” says Holiday. 

Jonathan Bastian talks with Holiday about the stoic virtue of self discipline and what it means to have self control and asks about historical examples and what kinds of behaviors might that include. 

Toni Morrison ..she sits down to write her first novel when she has a full time day job, as an editor at Random House, and she has just recently become a single mother of two young boys,’ Holiday recounts. “she can only write before she's heard the word mom in the morning. So for her, it becomes this sort of ritual of waking up very early, attacking the page in front of her..that was sort of her routine and … it can't be an afterthought. It's got to be the main thing. You’ve got to tackle it first.”

“Discipline is Destiny: The Power of Self Control” talks about how, in today’s world of abundance and freedom, self discipline is a key tool in achieving balance and leading a good life. Photo courtesy of Ryan Holiday.

Writer, author and host of  The Daily Stoic podcast, Ryan Holiday cautions against extravagance and makes the case that without self imposed boundaries and restraint, we risk not only failing to meet our own potential and losing what we have achieved. 

“Discipline isn't just like, hey, what time do you get out of bed in the morning? Or, you know, do you follow this diet or that diet?” says Holiday. “Discipline is also reining in these urges or drives that may well be societally accepted or validated.” 

Holiday is the author of several books on the stoics including most recently “Discipline is Destiny: The Power of Self Control” in which draws on stories throughout history to explain why temperance and restraint are so powerful. 

“Discipline is not just whipping yourself, it's not just pushing yourself. As Seneca says, “it's also learning how to be a good friend to yourself”  which means taking care of yourself, knowing your limits, knowing your boundaries and respecting those.”

Delve deeper into life, philosophy, and what makes us human by joining the Life Examined discussion group on Facebook.



  • Ryan Holiday - speaker, writer and host of The Daily Stoic podcast. Author of several booking including “Stillness is the Key” and “Courage is Calling” and most recently “Discipline is Destiny: The Power of Self Control” - @RyanHoliday


Andrea Brody