Recently after a talk that I had given, a couple of ladies came up to me and asked me this question, something along the lines of “In your opinion, what is discipline?”. I told them that it is a tough one to define. In fact I wrote an entire blog about what is not discipline, the short of it was “Knowing what you should be doing right now and not doing it is indiscipline”.
I thought about this over the past few weeks and dug a little deeper into my experiences. Here is what I think is true discipline, love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
I used to say that doing things in a structured manner such as following daily rituals is not really discipline. I stand by that, however, I have come to realize that although it is not sufficient to follow a routine to be called self-disciplined it is necessary and very crucial to develop some daily rituals. Nothing meaningful has ever been accomplished without proper daily rituals.
So, first we must establish rituals that we stick to for a while if not for ever. Some examples of daily rituals would be, write 1000 words everyday, run 3 miles every morning etc. Now, doing these daily rituals is necessary but not sufficient to be self-disciplined. We must also develop a not-to-do list, for example, I will not sleep late, I will not over eat. These not-to-dos (constraints) make us better at our to-dos (rituals). Furthermore, I believe that true self-discipline is one where it is not only following some rituals that make us a better person but also adding love (passion) to whatever we do that makes it the best we have to offer.
I used to think that doing something without actually loving it is not true discipline even if it’s a daily ritual. For example, when I was a teenager in a boarding school, we were made to wake up everyday at 5 AM. We had a rigid schedule for the entire day with little flexibility. Some of us loved it but most didn’t. I did many of the activities just to get by. But within that schedule was time for sports, athletics and drawing on the weekends that I enjoyed immensely. I can tell you today that I do wake up at 5 AM, when I need to, I do study for hours together when I need to, but I do the drawing, the playing, the running, effortlessly, even in the middle of the night. I feel that some of the activities that I did as rituals stuck with me for life because I poured love into it.
I think no one loves anything to begin with, not even ones own mother. Not even the most accomplished piano player or the Olympic athlete love doing the practice for the thousandth time. But they do it anyway, because that’s the price one must pay to be the champion. We first discipline ourselves to do something as a daily ritual and slowly it becomes a thing we enjoy and then we start liking it. The more we do it the more we like it, then it becomes a daily ritual that we love doing.
When love is mixed with daily ritual it becomes true self-discipline.
Discipline without Love is deplorable – e.g. Adolph Hitler
Love without Discipline is dangerous – e.g. Many parents
Discipline with Love is desirable!