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How to find a worthy goal in life?
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
21 min
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Questioner (Q): Sir, usually when we want to achieve something or we want to become a better person, we usually push boundaries. And when we push boundaries, we encounter pain. So, now what happens usually, every day, when I am trying to push my boundaries in any field, for example, then the pain starts accumulating over time and that will slowly, at the end of the week or end of the month, it will just implode. So what is your suggestion for this?

Acharya Prashant (AP): You see, if the goal is worthy, then the worthiness of the goal is itself the antidote for the pain. Pain cannot accumulate if the goal has been right, please understand this. Obviously, when you are pushing ego boundaries, when you are pushing the limits of patterns, then pain is inevitable, right? But that pain will be lesser than and dissolved by the fruit of your endeavor if the endeavor has been in the right direction. It is basic, please understand. If the goal is not worthy enough, then why go through the pain? The very fact that you are enduring pain for the sake of a goal implies that the goal must be bigger than the?

Q: Pain.

AP: Why else would you endure the pain? So if the goal is right, then the pain that you get in service of that goal is smaller than the relief that the goal brings. Whereas, if pain is accumulating, goal after goal, what does that tell about the quality of your goals? It means that the goals themselves have been insubstantive. It means that the goals have not been right. So there has been a net negative trade-off. You have endured a lot of pain and the attainment of the goal has not brought proportionate relief. You have suffered a loss in the transaction. You have...

Q: Sir, but for example, it would be very easy to say, watch TV every day and then we will of course feel no pain. But then say we want to, say we will take an easy case of say, trying to lift many weights.

AP: It is not at all true that if you watch TV every day, you do not face any pain. It is just that instantaneously, you may not be conscious enough to know that you are in pain. In fact, if you are not in pain, why would you watch long hours of TV? Watching long hours of TV itself suggests that you are trying to escape from some kind of a pain and taking refuge in TV. It is not as if leading a so-called easy life implies that the life is pain-free. If you are leading a so-called easy life, comfortable life, a life of privileges and luxuries, then there is a lot of pain there. You were about to give the example of lifting weights in the gym. You see, why do people continue gymming then? If there were only pain involved in gymming, would anybody continue to the gym? There are two things that are happening concurrently with the pain - one, your body is visibly changing and second, your ability to lift weight is also increasing. That which used to pain you a month back does not pain you a month later, does it? Ten pounds used to be a pain and now ten pounds is a feather. Don’t you know that? That’s the whole process of gymming. And even when ten pounds is a mountain, you very well know what it is going to give you. And that is why people continue to gym. It is not as if the rewards are hidden somewhere in eternity.

The rewards of a good deed are instantaneous. And that is why those who have known life have willingly embraced pain. It is not as if they hated themselves. They were not keen on making themselves suffer. In fact, they loved themselves so much that they wanted to enter into all kinds of favorable transactions; I may even call it favorable business deals. They knew what they were giving up. And they also knew what they were receiving in return. They knew that that which they were giving up was petty compared to that which they were gaining. And so they gladly would push the transaction, and more and more and more. But all that I am saying is valid only if the transaction is really beneficial, only if the goal is really worthy. If your goal is not worthy enough, then it will give you more and more accumulation of a failed life. You tried this, you thought this will give you an inner feeling of contentment, it did not. The scar stays with you. You tried that, you thought this will give you some kind of bliss or joy, it didn’t happen. The weight of another failure stays with you. Don’t live that way. Yes, please.

Q: Sir as we have thought and got to that, if we are getting success, that is a result of many failures which we have received in life. So, shouldn’t that be a good thing to us if we are getting failures after failures so that we can reach success? Can’t we treat it like that?

AP: See, it is not necessary that all those fairy tales actually materialize. It is not really necessary that after so-called hundred failures, the hundred-and-first attempt would be tangibly successful. You refer to Abraham Lincoln, you refer to Edison and there you say that after so many failed attempts, they ultimately succeeded. And to motivate ourselves, we keep parroting those fairy tales to ourselves. They may not really happen. Not everybody who fails hundred times succeeds the hundred-and-first time. If you keep yourself wedded to that kind of hope, you may ultimately get a huge heartbreak.

Far better than that is to redefine your concept of failure and success. If you really wanted to do something and you did it, haven’t you already succeeded? Why do you want to place or postpone success to the future? Why do you want to say that only if this kind of output will come will I call myself successful? You are already successful if you did what is right. I might have to climb Mount Everest, but can I climb Mount Everest in one step? I can’t. What is my success then at this moment? To take the one step that I can take. That one step will not take me to the top. But I am already successful because in this moment I got a hundred out of hundred. This is the best I could have done right now. And I have already done it, I am already successful. When the next moment will come then we will see. Then again there is a challenge and an opportunity. When you deprive yourself of success for too long, you become desperate. Don’t do that. Make your timeframe extremely small, t→0 (t tending to zero), and be successful every moment.

Q: Sir as we, I have a business, so every time I think of something related to social welfare or doing something for the public, I can’t end up getting up something, because every time I do it, it's like some, in one other way, harming the public. Like if we are having a business plan, so it is going to harm the public in one or the other way. So how can I like, come up with something which can help the public as well as help me as a businessman or something?

AP: There is no ‘and’ involved here. It is not as if the welfare of the world and your own personal welfare are two different things. If there is something that really helps you, rest assured that it will help the entire universe. So you don't have to worry about the world, worry about yourself. Before coming to terms with yourself, before putting your own house in order, if you start worrying about your neighbor or your country or the world, then you will be doing everybody a disservice. Find out what is it that will really help you. Let me tell you, that same thing will help everybody else as well, because at one level we are all one. If there is something that can really help you come to peace, come to home, it will help the other as well. To really know what the other wants, see what you want.

Q: How to find the same thing, means, how to find the purpose as we are elaborating? Every time it is coming to this, that find out the purpose…

AP: You have to depend totally on chance. And the good news is that chance is very very abundant. You see, when you will deliberately and personally try to find a purpose, it will be your personal purpose, it will not be bigger than you. So you may try hard, but you will still remain limited within yourself. To come upon something that is really immense, infinitely big, immeasurable, you have to just wait, wait patiently and let things happen. And that wait, that patience never goes unrewarded. That chance, in fact, is waiting to come to you. Your wait is nothing compared to the wait of that. Don't push your personal purposes, that is sufficient. The great purpose will descend on its own. You can do nothing to make the great purpose come to you. The great purpose remains at a distance only because you are too occupied with your little, personal priorities. You are so busy with looking after this and that, my little home, my little office, my little affairs, that the great is kept in suspension. The great says, “Fine, you first settle all your miscellaneous chores, and then I will come. When you will be ready, then I’ll come.” So we cannot even call that as a chance, it is not even a chance, it's an inevitability, it's a finality, it's a certainty, but that certainty too remains elusive just because we are not prepared. Or rather, we are over prepared to work only for our own personal world. My little world.

Q: Sir you said, “When pain starts accumulating more and more, that implies that the goal is incorrect or is not justified.”

AP: Yes.

Q: So now I have three questions regarding this, first is how to come out of that goal, and second is how to find a new goal and third is if I have found a new goal, how to know that it is worthy?

AP: You cannot find a new goal. I just answered that. You only have to wait, that is the second part. The first part is, how to come out of all the misplaced and wrong goals. You don't need to come out, your suffering will push you out. What is the punishment of having a wrong goal? What is the punishment? You will suffer. And if you keep having one wrong goal after the other, your suffering will keep compounding. So you'll be forced to give up your false goals. And if you are not forced to give up your false goals, then you are just getting stuffed up with explosives. You will implode someday. You will either go mad or you will go violent. You will either hurt yourself, in the most gross ways, or you will start shooting everybody else. You need not become a mad public shooter like in the US. You can become one crazy, protective and possessive father who hits his kids in the name of protecting them. Why did you return after 7 p.m? Pat, pat, pat! (gestures slapping). This is as bad as shooting with an AK-47 at the town square, is it not? Do you hurt people only when you hurt them with bullets? Don't you hurt them with your words, attitudes? Is that any less violent? Many of you might have suffered that, you know that, right? It's sometimes worse than being stabbed by a knife. Yes.

Q: Sir, earlier you were talking about fear and its relation with this thing. So I want to ask like, how can we overcome our fears? Because fear is a natural feeling, natural emotion in a human.

AP: No no, it is not natural or something. It is very much cultivated. If you remain in a certain company, in a certain environment, you can be taught to become fearful. At the same time, if you stay in the right company, you will find that your fears are illusory and you will be able to laugh at your fears. Do not call fear a natural feeling. Fear is just blind tutoring, blind education. Fear stays because you are so afraid that you do not even want to admit that you are afraid. You are not only afraid but ashamed of being afraid.

Come to an environment where you need not feel ashamed, where your fear is not taken as a symbol of your weakness. Come to an environment where your disease is acknowledged and where your health is established. These two will always go together. If the disease is not being acknowledged, then health will not be established. Those who do not acknowledge that they are diseased; they will never get health. But you feel ashamed, too ashamed to acknowledge that you are diseased. Don't be ashamed when your disease shows up or when your disease is exposed by a teacher. Feel grateful. But you feel vengeful, You say, “Ah, I have been shown to be chicken-hearted. I have shown to be petty or revengeful or jealous.” No. Coming face-to-face with your weaknesses is the best gift that you can give to yourself.

Q: How do we constantly dissociate or try to not get fooled by the false identity created by the mind which we have so heavily invested in and…

AP: You do not need to have any method. If you are wrong, you will suffer. Your experience is your report card. Just be very very truthful towards how you are living. And you will know whether you are living rightly. If you have nightmares, if the entire day you are shivering and sweating, then does someone need to tell you that you are living wrongly? If you feel loveless, if you feel afraid, if you keep comparing all the time, if you have no feeling of commitment or surrender, then does somebody need to tell you that you are living wrongly? If greed keeps on overpowering you, if there is no compassion or sensitivity in you, then do you need a method to find out whether you are living rightly? It's all so obvious, right?

Q: Sir, not a method to find out but a method to transition like…

AP: Just stop, that's the method. If you are not going the right way, would you continue going that way? Just stop. You cannot parallelly say that you are on the wrong track and continue moving on that track. That is hypocrisy; that is double-speak. If you are asking, “How do I correct myself?” First of all, stop doing what you are already doing. Because if you are asking, “How do I correct myself?” You are acknowledging that you are currently not doing the correct thing. And if you are not doing the correct thing, then your first deed should not be to ask this question to me but to rather stop what you are doing. If you are going in the wrong direction, do you continue going and ask people, “Hey, what is the right direction?” Or do you stop your car and then ask? Please tell me. If you have just discovered that you have taken the wrong route, what do you do? You continue going and continue asking or do you stop and ask? What comes first? Stopping. So stop. And once you have stopped, the right route shows up. It presents itself on its own. Your stopping is the proof of your sincerity and once you have submitted that proof, the right route opens up on its own. It descends from somewhere. But it waits for you to stop. If you have not stopped, the right will not show up.

Q: Sir, about that thing that you said about education, that its goal is not to constrict but to enhance our options. Sir, so I was thinking at that thing, that if we are specializing in some stream in our institute, then doesn't that investment of four years of studies lead to a little narrowing of our options so that we are better suited at some…

AP: Don't make that mistake at all. If today is to be decided by the decision you took four years back, then why stop at only four years? Why not go back twelve years? Then the best decision was made by you immediately after you were born, right? Mathematical induction. If today is to be decided by (n-4), then (n-4) must be decided by? And the whole process can stop only at the first second of your birth. Let us see what you decided then. And you should remain true only to that. Did all of you want to be managers or engineers when you were born? Then why didn't you stay true to your first instinct? Your first instinct was probably, you know, to wet on the bedsheet. Continue doing that all your life. Wetting bedsheets, that’s the purpose of life.

As you evolve, your thoughts change. And they must change. If you continue to be the same after B.Tech as you were before B.Tech, then your B.Tech has gone waste, has it not? Nobody takes the right decision all the time. One must keep correcting oneself, always. You wanted food and you entered a toy shop. Would you start eating the toys now? All of you who are doing your B.Tech courses in this campus, is your heart really with your B.Tech? Mostly, it happens that you have entered a toy shop when what you really wanted was some water. Now you are trying to melt the toys and drink them. Will that ever quench your thirst? And you are saying, “No, because I have entered the toy shop, so all my life, I will eat and drink toys.” How wise is that?

Were you perfect after class twelfth? So, how do you know that you made a perfect decision then? And if you didn't make a perfect decision after class twelfth, why do you want to lead a life just defending a false decision? You are making two mistakes - the first mistake was to make a false decision after class twelfth, and the second mistake is not to correct that decision and to lead a life based on that decision.

Q: Sir, another question continuing to what he asked, that when you are working towards a goal and we feel pain. We keep feeling pain as we work towards the goal but the goal is generally very far away, the fruit of that goal. So how do we stay on track till we achieve that?

AP: A goal that is too far away in time is a false goal. The goal has to be extremely immediate. By having a false goal, you give yourself the luxury of not doing the right thing, right now. By placing your goal five years into the future, you have given yourself the freedom, the false freedom to do any random stuff right now. The great moment will come five years later and then we will see. And today? “Today, well you know, I can just entertain myself.”

If you are preparing for a tournament that will come after four years, let's say the Olympics, then you need to have daily goals. Even daily is too big a timeframe. You have to think in terms of the hour. Even the hour is too extended a timeframe, you have to think in terms of two minutes, five minutes. Unless you are thinking in terms of the minute, rather the moment, you are just deceiving yourself. And when you are thinking in terms of minute, you cannot think at all because the moment is just so small that it has no space for thought. Then you just do, then you don't remain occupied in thought. Then you just do. And that's such a great delight, to just do. And not think or wonder or worry.

Q: And going back to the car question, where we stopped the car, now extending this to let’s say, an addict. Now, the addict has stopped the car, but it is not so easy for the addict to now say reverse and go back or maybe take another lane. So you said that you just stop and move on and just transition. But, but in…

AP: No, I am saying, “You stop!” After that, something beyond you happens on its own. I said, “The right route opens up on its own.” Your stopping is the proof of your sincerity that you submit to somebody beyond you. Once you have submitted that proof, help comes from somewhere. The biggest help that you can offer yourself is - stop. That is the maximum extent to which you can help yourself. After that, more help comes but that is not help that you are giving yourself, that is help that is coming from elsewhere. And it comes; you just have to take it on faith.

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