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How to remain motivated and excel every moment? || IIM Ahmedabad (2020)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
6 min
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Questioner (Q): How can one find direction in life? How to find a mission worth pursuing? How to find excellence in every second?

Acharya Prashant (AP): You have to know what you are doing. Once you know what you are doing, then the knowledge itself is the motivator. Whereas, if what is happening is happening perchance, or in an accidental flow, or in a very unconscious way, then you will very frequently feel at a loss of energy; you will not know why you should exert yourself at all, and you will require tons of external motivation. If you are somebody who frequently needs to be motivated through an external source, then you should ask yourself, “Do I really know what I am doing?”

I will come back to the word I used a while back—‘love’. If you are doing something that you know is being done because it deserves to be done, then you will not demand returns from your efforts; that knowledge, that realization that what you are doing is absolutely important makes you choiceless. And then you just do what you have to do without bothering about this or that. Otherwise, your energy levels depend so much on the situations. Just got some positive results, you feel encouraged, energized; let down by the situations, you feel demotivated, totally sapped of energy.

So, every day, maybe two times, three times, might be a good idea to question yourself: “What am I here for? What am I doing? What is this thing really all about? I don’t have infinite time. I might be young, but still all that I have left is another fifty years at most, and fifty years are nothing. In terms of historical time, fifty years is a blink. So, fifty years will just pass away like a dream. What am I spending my time for? What exactly am I doing this very moment?” If you don’t ask this question, then that which you are doing has immense power to suck you in and carry you away.

This question must be asked. But, as we said, it is not comfortable asking this question because most of the time, the moment you ask this question it will become very difficult to continue doing what you are doing. We like inertia; we do not want to change track, especially if our current track appears to be a safe, secure, and a generally acceptable track. So, to remain on that track it becomes imperative not to ask these bothersome questions. So, we don’t ask those questions. Don’t ask those questions—in short term you will feel okay. Beyond the short term, one does not feel okay; in fact one turns miserable.

Q: Even during the relatively short span of our student years, which are very busy to begin with, so many things and options are thrown at us all the time. How to discover what is actually worth pursuing in the middle of all this?

AP: You can at least know what is not worth doing. Start from there. Reduce your choices.

You see, there is a virtual pleasure in having lots of choices; the fearful child within us feels happy and secure: “Oh, I have so many things to pick from.” When you narrow down your choices, then you have to really be an adult: “Fine, I have only these two things available to me, and even out of these two things, one is going to be struck off.” And then there are only two places to look at. There is the world you look at—what is there in the world that is worth doing, what is there that really demands the involvement of a person like me—and then there is your internal world. “What is it in my internal world that demands to be addressed?” Look at these two worlds, and you will come to know what is worth doing.

We are all pretty sound on intellect here. I am so sure that if we just exercise this same intellect in the inward direction, this question of what to do in life and how to make career choices will be answered quite soundly. It is not such a difficult question to answer. But for this question to receive a genuine answer, you will need to be with yourself; you will need to shut out the external voices for a while.

Q: How long is that while?

AP: It is not very long. Your duration on campus is sufficient. You are in your first year, right? You will get ample time in the second year. Even one trimester is enough to answer that question. And we are living in the information age; information about the world is always at hand. The other information that you need is news about your internal dimension; that may take a while. But even if you are someone who is honest with himself, even then that will emerge pretty quickly; it takes not more than a few months.

Combine these two things, and then that is the most important decision that you make in your life. If life is time, then the question of your career is the question of what you are putting your time to. Don’t make that decision casually. Don’t leave it to situations. If you are not investing yourself in the right kind of work, in the right persuasion, then life can be pretty heavy to carry, very heavy.

On the other hand, if you are spending eight hours, ten hours of your day at the right place doing the right stuff, then it is your work that keeps you energized, young, moving, alive. Brands, vibes, day zero, day minus one—all this you will forget very soon. These are things that matter so much on the campus. The day you move out of these four walls, you realize you have a life to live; you have to get up from your place, your room; you have to report to a particular office—and then it might be a ‘day zero’-company. If you cannot spend your day properly there…

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