Discipline, is it good or does it hinder your openness and creativity?

What are your first thoughts of this picture? So pretty, yummy, beautiful. Isn’t it? To me, it is stunningly Creative work! This is a cake made by my friend Sri. As I was writing this blog, I thought it makes a perfect fitting for my blog and I had to steal her image. Just kidding, I took her permission to post it here. Thank you very much Sri for allowing me to share your picture here!

No wonder it is a Creative work. But didn’t it call in for Sri’s extreme Discipline as well to commit to making this gorgeous cake, right on the time she promised to have it? Of course, it is. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to say that it Creative plus Disciplined masterpiece?!

What do these three words — Discipline, Creativity and Openness actually mean? I am referring to dictionary.com for the below meanings:

Discipline: activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill

Creativity: the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.

Openness: not closed or barred at the time, as a doorway by a door

Discipline is a routine activity or task you do to train your mind to subconsciously do. You believe that this discipline is good for you and so you make it your discipline by working on it again and again, until it becomes ingrained in you as a subconscious habit. Some of the disciplines most of us follow are: brushing teeth; take a shower; comb hair; get dressed

We have been doing these from the time we know and they just became automatic. Later as we grew and according to our importance, and interests, we formed some more disciplines such as: exercise, reading, working on goals, drinking a green juice etc.

As a writer, I set a discipline to write at least a page a day and read for min of 20 min. And I am sure each of you has your own disciplines.

Discipline is something you set it as a high priority and rule for you to do. You believe in the goodness of it, and that you need it to carry your life certain way.

On the other hand, what is Creativity? It calls in for unlocking all the limits and rules, and go wild with your imaginative skills. On the first thought it seemed as if Disciplines and Creativity don’t get along well. Discipline needs so much will power and diligence, while Creativity calls in for the free graceful flow with no bounds. But on further thinking through, I believe that we need Discipline even to bring out our Creative skills.

I will share few of my personal experiences where I realized how much Discipline I need, to put into my Creative passions into action as well. I love writing and experienced how much joy I had during my book writing journey. It was amazing journey, graceful flow, and made me experience all the experiences so vividly, and with greater awareness as I was writing what happened.

I set a goal to complete my book fully and to publish it within six months. I set a goal to complete my first manuscript within four weeks and complete writing each of the four sections in one week’s time. I not only did it, to my surprise I thrilled myself. I started writing my book from Dec 31st and had the physical book in my hand on May 31st, exactly in 5 months. For sure it took many long hours and sleepless nights, but I was totally enjoying the journey. Whatever I needed was falling in place and I had tremendous support and help from my editor, family and friends.

During this time, I was holding the President position for DHS Toastmasters club and this club reached its Zeniths with the best performance of all members. Personally I committed to achieving ACG (Advanced Communications Gold) goal and in addition I achieved CL (Competitive Leader) goal too. Toastmaster Jocelyn and I together lead an eight week Youth Leadership program to train the high school students going on exchanging program the basic Toastmaster skills — leading a meeting, doing a 5 min speech, constructively evaluating a speech and speaking for 2–3 min impromptu topics. It was high energy training and we thoroughly enjoyed.

Now coming back to connection between Discipline-Openness-Creativity…All these activities I involved during this five month period — book writing, Toastmasters ACG, YLP, President…are creative skills. I had openness in accepting and committing to these challenges. I did set a Discipline and time-frame to complete the book within six months, complete the ACG goal within 12 months, YLP program within the eight week period and conduct it weekly, every Wednesday between 6:30–7:30 p.m. If I didn’t have discipline and time bounds, I don’t think I would have completed it. Thinking through this, I believe that the same goes with most activities and goals. We need to Discipline and commit ourselves to act on them, and keep doing. Within that set time, let us allow ourselves to get into the creative flow.

I know that I am not able to bring about Creativity in greater detail in this example. Let me share another personal example where I took a five week Oil Painting class. I am sure you all agree that “Painting” is a Creative activity. However it wasn’t just a loose class with no bounds. We had structure for it, specific time for the class, 6–8 p.m, and details for each class. The first class was drawing a still object, and we painted a vase we had in class. However, we were asked to choose our own colors for our vase, flowers, and background. Each of our paintings turned out to be so different and unique that no one would believe that we all drew looking at the same vase in the classroom. The second and third classes ware devoted to painting a landscape, fourth and fifth to painting a monochromatic painting (using just two colors). For both the landscape and monochromatic drawing, we were asked to bring the picture/painting we would like to paint. Our instructor offered us the flexibility to tweak the image, play with different color combinations and styles.

If I just had interest in learning to paint, but never made an effort to find and enroll and discipline myself to attend the classes and actually do my painting, no way I would have explored my creative painting skill or brought it out. I believe Discipline is not a hindrance to Openness and Creativity. Indeed Discipline and Commitment is needed to bring out your Creativity. Oh, here are my painting pictures. I painted them in 2007, yet still remain as a proud piece for me to celebrate.

The point I am trying to make here is, even for the most creative activity we want to do, we are setting some high-level bounds and frames for us to stay on course and not get completely lost. And these bounds and disciplines are actually helping us to reap the most effective outputs.

By nature, some are more disciplined, and some are more creative. Though the extents and degrees differ, Discipline and Creativity don’t have to be mutually exclusive qualities. Rather they complement and one can reap the most benefits by making use of both Discipline and Creativity. There could be situations when one needs to be more disciplined and stick to their commitments. On the other hand, sometimes being flexible and open to go with the flow would be more meaningful.

In essence, I believe Discipline is not a hindrance to one’s Creativity and Openness. In deed we have a choice to set a Discipline to work more actively on our Creative skills. Do you agree?