Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Benefits of discipline

Ommar Khayyam a muslim sufi once said that one must aim to come to a point where the answer to every question is a “yes”. This of course is only possible if you keep growing by learning. Now as one learns and is able to influence his/her environment more the positive feedback you get is tremendous and it works in two complementary ways:

1) You enjoy the learning process
2) Things around you start to make sense and you start to get “yes” answers to things that previously might have seemed insurmountable

In fact the process is quite addictive, but since you are able to achieve what you set out to achieve there is nothing stopping you from continuing to grow.

There is one important angle to it though. The process of learning is not only through thinking but more importantly by doing and they are both complementary.

Of course there are many things that a person has to do that he might not have “yes” answers to but still has to do them. For example you might want to spend less time socializing and use more of that time learning. The catch-22 however is that if you don’t spend time socializing you limit yourself from a certain kind of learning that you cannot achieve by thinking.

In other words to reach the highest limit that you can get to you have to do both.

Now doing comes in different flavors. You have to do among many other things the following also: spending time with family, invest time at work, exercise, spend time on your wardrobe, etc. Now all of these might not seem interesting though each one is important in its own place.

Where discipline steps in is this: The various areas of work that you have to do, discipline allows you to draw a time boundary around them so that when you are doing each one, you can give it time and not worry about the other areas. This is just like time is broken down in school where the whole day is broken down into classes. In each particular class you dedicate time to just that class and so you are able to focus and achieve “a local optimum” but doing so you achieve a “global maximum”.

This last statement deserves some more attention – “achieving a local optimum for a global maximum”. The only way you can achieve a global maximum i.e. get to the best is to do each task as best as you can given the resources you have and move on to the next task thus the term a “local optimum”.

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