Maybe its time to explore the grey areas of life
I have four dogs – all rescued and very different. People, we meet are always asking what is my secret? As my “pups” are always off the lead and extremely well behaved. This set me to thinking. It doesn’t take much to set me off. The main reason I am able to give my dogs the freedom that they enjoy so much is that if I need them to do something just because I say – they will do so with no problem and they regulate their own behaviour through me. This self-discipline is the only reason I am able to let them have any freedom. If anything happens, I know I can get them close immediately. The result is that they are calm and well behaved. And very obedient when they need to be. They trust me and turn to me for security. My values and standards for their behaviour are at least as exacting as those required by law. I never have to resort to violence in any way.
Does the same apply to us in society?
Can we become freer by being self-disciplined?
Well, to begin to answer I think if we earn the trust of others by our behaviour we do not have to be constantly supervised. For this, we need to discipline ourselves to practise certain behaviours and know which behaviours are unacceptable. I think the dogs have gained my trust through their good behaviour according to my wishes. Humans learn this at an early age(hopefully).
I think my point is that there is a level of self-discipline that is expected by society rules and norms of behaviour, but I then think there is some grey area where the truly innovative among us can journey without harming others or getting arrested.
My dogs being off the lead constantly is one such innovation that my values and their self-discipline make possible. The police often drive past when we are out, and I have never been told to put them on a lead. The only dogs carrying on aggressively in my experience are on leads(for a reason). I have noted that dogs tend to feed off our emotional states and an anxious fearful owner tends to result in anxious fearful dogs.
Another possible moment is when we exceed the speed limit sensibly away from speed cameras and in such a way as not to pose any danger with our minor indiscretion (legally) – this is maybe more of a dodgy area for innovation. Considering how many youngsters are sure (mistakenly) they are good enough to drive very fast safely. I may have been one of them in my youth. But all that proves is that they have not developed the discipline that earns the freedom to innovate mildly. Freedom is only possible once self-discipline has become a cherished value.
I will also state that with health and nutrition being self-disciplined with good standards and complementary values allows one the freedom to over-indulge occasionally or to take time away from exercise. However, being disciplined does lessen the desire to overindulge and exercise becomes a joyous part of the day. I am not tea total, but I have not had any alcohol for well over a year. I just don’t fancy it anymore. All this without ever stating that I don’t drink. The lesson here is that maybe we can achieve our aims by shifting our focus away from any behaviours that are not serving us well rather than resisting any potentially destructive habits.
This becomes a problem if one’s whole lifestyle is built around potentially damaging behaviours. A social life that is purely eating, drinking and whatever is the drug of choice. A home that is a life full of television, social media, junk food and sitting on one’s arse and poor relationships that result from the lack of purpose and direction in the chosen life. And a stressed work environment that one’s lifestyle makes much worse. I have survived a particularly turbulent version of this lifestyle and clawed my way back from the pervasive suicide thoughts to regain control and save some valuable relationships. I lost 3 friends to suicide during this time and count my blessings daily that I was able to see what happening and make some radical changes to my life that have given my life the meaning that was lost. The scary part is that my life was considered just the normal lifestyle that many choose to live and could so easily have just been continued on until the inevitable breakdown of the whole lifestyle in whatever way it had manifested itself. It is easy to see this all becoming quite normal and once aware – the way out is through picking where you want to end up and choosing values to nurture that will take you in the right direction at a steady rate. I left a scene that was at that time part of my identity and I have found a scene that is now part of a whole new identity that is a much better fit for me.
I have no regrets and spend little time looking back. I now focus on my present life and have ideas for the short-term future but I don’t get too far ahead of myself or I may miss my life happening now. We learn best from experiences and acting to transform adversity. As it turned out my turbulent period has also been my best teacher and resulted in accelerated learning. I have written about some of this in my early Getting Better series of books. Which in hindsight are signposts of my unique journey and the evolution of my thinking as I am transforming. I often wonder if I am changing for the better. It is not for me to say but I would say that life is much more interesting and for all the drawbacks that withdrawing from the herd presents when I get it right the satisfaction and excitement of my life experiment is worth it. And as time passes, I am able to hit my sweet spots more often and in general, I am more satisfied with my life here today than ever before – by quite some margin.
From a Flexarian point of view, none of this valued behaviour is stated or labelled as a goal. I have values that I cherish, and I meet my own expectations by taking each moment as it comes according to my values. Any other results are purely incidental goals that I may have stated such as becoming calmer, less judgemental, giving up alcohol or being ripped and mobile on my 60th birthday have come about, not because they are stated goals or my life purpose but because I have remained true to my values.
I had forgotten about the goals above until a moment like this when I focus and realise that my intentions can be ticked off purely by living a valued life and any goals are almost by-products of that simple purpose.
If I had to state a goal for my life it would simply be to develop and live by my values. My values are my protective umbrella in all situations. One such value is self-discipline. Self-discipline includes a sense of duty – to me, others and even to my pups. I walk them 4/5 times every day whether I feel like it or not, I exercise the same way, I try to work the same way. If I had to choose one value over others (which I don’t) it would be self-discipline as it leads to many other values such as patience and duty and I believe that self-discipline is a precursor to gaining more freedom and ultimately what this blog is all about – progressive personal transformation throughout the whole of our lives as we understand them at this time.