Letter no 26 - Forget discipline

Dear friend,

I missed last week's letter. I missed writing to you and hearing back from you. But, I'm not beating myself over it. I'm not allowing my self-talk to be like 'you are such a loser adi, you can't even maintain this much consistency'. No, I'm not. I know some of you look forward to these letters because you have told me so. But I also know that your life will go on without them.

It was a busy week for me last week. We had a lot going on with Enterprise's first ever 'Jamboree' with our student-partners converging into Pune from all across the country. I was sleeping late and waking up super early every morning.

The letter slipped my mind.

Now, don't get me wrong. These are not excuses. I don't believe in excuses. I am hundred percent sure that I could have managed to get the letter out, had I decided. But I didn't. My personal energy was running on the 'second last line' and I allowed the week to go by without the letter. I broke my consistency.


Discipline is what everyone wants. But most people fear the idea of discipline. Or they are repulsed by it. Or, it seems like the opposite of freedom.

Every other person I meet has a deep desire to be consistent. It seems to cut across age groups and gender. 'If only I could be more consistent' is what I hear them say. I know this feeling all too well. I've said it to myself all my life and tried almost every trick in the book and listened to a 100+ life transformation guru's out there.

And I've done it too. Ive been there. I've been super consistent with exercise, writing, daily reviews, hobbies, family time, and all that. I've done that, and it's beautiful. It works. Results get created. One feels on top of the world, in control of one's life and in charge of the future. It's an exhilarating feeling.

I wasn't that way growing up, though I always wanted to be. I worked hard on it and became that way for 5 years.

And then something happened that made me realise that discipline and consistency is beautiful, but it is not the only virtue. My close people started telling me - your writing is no longer feeling like you. You have become too mechanical. We respect you, but you are no longer fun. We can no longer relate with you. People started shying away from me and not being themselves.

Discipline is purity. It is power. It is Godliness. No doubt. It is like pure white paint. It's beautiful. No painting (well almost) painting can happen without white paint. White paint is a base. You use white to create various shades. A good artist uses white to create highlights, base coats and to play with light.

Discipline and consistency is like white paint. Nothing great can be achieved without it. I agree.

But discipline only for the sake of discipline is not enough. Hard headed discipline which leaves no room for our humanness is not true discipline. Discipline which destroys joyfulness and takes away playfulness is not what we need.


I'm going to say something that many of you will not agree with - discipline is too easy. To be super disciplined is to be in a comfort zone.


That is exactly the opposite of what all the self-improvement gurus say.

Yes, you read me right. It's too easy to become mechanical and follow a fixed schedule like a robot. Then you entertain no surprises and have zero tolerance for what doesn't fit in your scheme of things. It's easy to say no to everything other than what you have decided.

It is also easy to be completely indisciplined and not be consistent at all.

Extremes are easy.

Walking the middle path, like the buddhists say, is not that easy. It requires judgement, tolerance and empathy - for oneself and for others.

Once, I didn't go for my first cousin's wedding because I had set up commitments for a workshop I was conducting. I felt proud of myself then. But as I look back I know that I could have easily re-shuffled a few things without causing inconvenience to anyone. I didn't do it only to allow my ego to be able to boast - 'Oh I'm so disciplined I didn't go for my cousins wedding because I had prior commitments'.


Be gentle on yourself.

It's too easy to emotionally beat ourselves up.

Discipline and consistency are important and beautiful (like white paint), but they are even more beautiful when they come from a place within your heart. They must flow from you. You must want to. They must emerge from a place of love and not harshness.

When you beat yourself up and are harsh on yourself to become disciplined, then one day you will beat up others and be harsh on them to make them disciplined. You will push them too hard. You will break some.

I've done that. I've been very harsh. It's not worth it. That kind of discipline never lasts.

My grandmother's discipline came from love. She never missed feeding the birds and doing her morning prayers. But it came from a place of love. She smiled gloriously as she did it. She never had to push herself to do it.

Here is a picture of my 'Amma'. This picture is very close to my heart. See the gentle smile on her face. Discipline came to her naturally.


My thoughts on discipline.

Take time to ask yourself what is really important for you. What do you really want. If there's nothing that comes up, that's fine too. If something comes up, let's say fitness, and you really really want it, then ask yourself if you are willing to be disciplined about it. Is it important enough for you to create discipline and consistency?

Ask yourself what you don't want anymore in your life - maybe a habit like smoking, or a toxic relationship, or a thought pattern. Then ask yourself are you feeling ready enough to really really let it go? Are you willing to create the discipline needed to replace that habit without something else that is more meaningful to you?

Reflect on what is the consistency or discipline you desire (if any) in your life. Then ask yourself if you are feeling you have the energy or support or will power required to create it? Be honest with yourself? Also ask yourself, who or what can help you find the energy required for that discipline?

You don't also have to be disciplined. E.g. you don't ALWAYS have to be precise about what time you will do something. Somethings don't require that precision. Even in the construction of a rocket, not every part requires very precise tolerances. Insisting on making everything precise makes it too expensive and time consuming and creates a host of new problems.

Discipline creates energy. But, discipline also requires energy. There are times in our lives when we just don't have the energy required to create discipline. Be gentle and empathetic with yourself. Decide to seek and find that energy. But don't kill yourself over it.

The birds wake up every morning consistently. Nature is disciplined. Flowers blossom and seeds sprout and ants make an anthill in perfect harmony. But they don't beat themselves up over it. It happens. And it is joyful!


So, when I say forget discipline, I don't mean it is not important. I want to say that discipline is natural. Allow it to emerge from within you.

These are my personal thoughts and experiences. I am sure that you will agree with some, not agree with some, and have different thoughts and experiences.

I would love to hear from you. My intention with this one is to spark your thinking.

May you find your discipline without losing your playfulness!

In friendship and with humility,