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Career and Anxiety || Acharya Prashant, at IIT-Bombay (2022)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
7 min
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Questioner: So, I have this one question for you, how do you deal with anxiety concerns in your life. So when you have to make some decision and maybe you are faced with some anxiety concerns. How do you tackle them?

Acharya Prashant: Work. Where is the time to devote to anxiety. Where is the space to be anxious? If you are anxious about something that thing is obviously important to you. Else you wouldn’t be anxious and if that thing is important, work. Work for that thing. The thing is not only important but also stands incomplete. That’s the reason you are anxious. Correct? If it stands incomplete, work, bring it to completion. Somebody said action is the antidote to despair. Action. Don’t just sit and brood, work. And life will become intolerable if you are not a worker. Action is the central message of the Bhagavad Gita, “Arjun no time to sit and weep, you have to do what is needed to be done.” Think about a fellow who is being exhorted to kill his brothers, his relatives, the loved and fabled patriarchs and so many other acquaintances. Arjun probably knows more than half of the Kaurava warriors standing that side and he is being told to fight. If he begins to think, there will be no end to thought.

There must be a point where you start seeing the uselessness of further thought. “Okay I have already thought enough, now I am going around in circles” and that’s anxiety. “You know, what if this happens? What if that happens? A to B, B to C, C to A, A to B, B to C, C to A.” it has become iterative no point remaining in the loop any more.

So, what do I do now? I act. And action will provide me with something beyond my limited circle of thought. Then first of all there will be limited space to think. Secondly, even if I think, the thought will have some freshness. Because the thought is now getting fed from action. Never tell yourself you will start acting only when you are assured by way of thought, of the right action.

Thought by itself never comes to a conclusion. The nature of thought is self-serving. Thought wants to roll on. Thoughts wants to continue and thought can continue only if the problem that the thought is addressing continues. So, it is in the interest of thought to let problems continue. Which means you cannot end your problems by thinking about them. You have to act, that does not mean that you become thoughtless or mindless and you keep thinking aside. It simply means you realise the limits of your thought. And if you can realise the limits of thought, your anxiety too will have limits. Not that anxiety will reduce to zero but it will have limits. The limits of thought will become the limits of anxiety, act.

Q: Sir, if we have interest in more than one field, how should we chose one among them? When I decide to do one thing then after sometime the mind wants to work on another thing, then it keeps on hoping between them so, how do we chose among them? And should it be based on which field has more career opportunities or should it be based on which field interests us more?

AP: It is as simple as choosing between two shirts you seem to equally like. How do you make your choice, one of them has to be picked up? You go and pick them up. Right? That’s why you have those fitting rooms. Try. Wear each of them in turns and see which one fits you more.

Thought cannot take you beyond a point, in terms of decision making. After that point you have to experiment. If you just keep thinking: whether to go for electrical or mechanical, this or that. And there are any number of choices that involve equally lucrative options then you will just keep thinking. Thought can operate only within the boundaries of what you already know. The data that you already have becomes the foundation of thought. So, you need to go out and obtain more data for yourself. Just sitting and brooding will make you run in circles. It will not bring you to a conclusion out of the circle. If two things are there and that would be the predicament many here are facing, how to make choices? Experiment. Go close to your choices touch them feel them live them for a while. Don’t commit yourself to anything too quicky. Remain in the experimentation phase for as long as possible. Go close, very close but only as close that would not make the closeness irreversible.

Go close to something just as a spring is pulled towards something. The spring, if you pull it would go in the direction of the pull but would always retain the option to revert. Right? It would ensure that reversibility remains. That’s the way you should try out your options in life. This is your centre (point towards a point on the table) from this centre you proceed towards all the choices that appeal to you. But make sure that the return journey is not blocked. That when you cross the bridge the bridge is not burnt. Its obviously an uncomfortable feeling, to be oscillating between options. But what’s far worse is committing yourself to an unworthy option. Any kind of commitment is dangerous and irreversible commitments are life threatening.

That’s why the knowers have advised everybody, especially young people, to be first of all committed to that one thing- that is called as freedom or truth, liberation or realisation. They say that should be the thing you should be first and foremost commit yourself to. Commit yourself to the truth and all else will fall in place on its own. All else is dispensable. With the position that only the pure truth means everything to me, go out boldly into the world, dabble with everything, play, experiment, live with it for a while and you will find that you are not getting encaged. Be very very careful with your choices. In the moment of making your choices remember to be free. Remember to have fun. You are not obliged to quickly settle down. You are free to keep experimenting for a long time, there is no cut-off date.

I am answering you and I am answering something beyond your question. Are you connecting with the answer? Don’t be in a hurry. Don’t be in a hurry. You saw a friend asked about the choice of department at the time of counselling? And now he knows he cannot change the branch even if he wants to. And there are umpteen things in life that will become permanent fixtures, that will stick so badly to you, you will just keep regretting. Your freedom is foremost. Freedom is foremost, full stop. Vedanta exists to take us to the right meaning of freedom. Are you getting it?

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