You are on a diet and you are keeping yourself in check, watching what you eat and how much you exercise. You might have a Fitbit helping you monitor your discipline. But I firmly believe that discipline is wrong for us and here is why.Look, a little bit of discipline is always good and helps you to get where you want to go, but having to be disciplined all the time reminds me of having to fight yourself and what you really want to do. This is the main reason why when we go on a diet or start a new regimen we achieve a lot at the beginning but then (the majority of people) tend to fail. The difference between failure and success in these cases is all to do with discipline.
I know that you know the hadith of small consistent actions. It's one that inspires me every single day. Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately and know that your deeds will not make you enter Paradise, and that the most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant even if it were little." Yet, it is the application of this hadith that is one of the most difficult things that we face as human beings.
Consistency is not something that is just encouraged by hadith, non Muslim leadership and management experts also recommend it. "Early in my career, I struggled with consistency, but I couldn't get more consistent than this year," Roger Federer said in 2012. And Maya Angelou (one of my modern day heroes) said "One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest" in a 1988 interview.
I have found that when we are consistent in our small deeds (as per the Prophet Muhammad's (ﷺ) recommendation in the hadith above then we don't struggle with discipline. Small changes come more naturally and can easily be incorporated into your lifestyle. As you read this you are probably reflecting on some small actions that you could take which would have an improvement in your life, right? I want to ask you to think which of these could you start today and implement in your life to get closer to fulfillment? Note, I didn't say achieving a goal, or closer to achievement etc, I said closer to fulfillment. It is important to make sure that any action we take, or bring back into our lives adds to our fulfillment, because when you do that then discipline is not needed.
One thing worth mentioning is that sometimes there is a time and place for discipline- you need to make sure that you get to work on time, get the kids to school on time, pray on time, etc. But these things are part of your routine and I would say that the discipline here (if you do call it discipline) is innate. Small actions are much harder to integrate into your life if you need to have discipline because they are easy to ignore or let go of, and then you go ahead and have that small piece of cake, or look at your phone constantly just before you go to bed. I know you have that one thing in your life that you are trying to fight and be more consistent in.
Here is a suggestion, why not pick one small thing that you want to do and integrate that in your life today. Here are some suggestions:
- Read a non fiction book for 15 minutes before going to bed.
- Listen to a podcast.
- Read 1 page of Quran just before you go to bed.
- Start fasting Mondays or Thursdays (NB once you master one day, then do the other one as well)
- Wake up early one day a week so you can pray tahajjud.
If you have other suggestions for things you can incorporate into a busy daily routine without discipline please let us know and we'll add them to the article, alongside a credit to you.
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