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How to set priorities in life? || Acharya Prashant (2012)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
9 min
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Question: Sir, how to balance between different things? Like there are studies, and extra-curricular activities. Then there is family and friends. Different priorities.

Acharya Prashant: What’s your name?

L: Animesh.

AP: Sit, Animesh. You are asking how do we balance between our different priorities. The word ‘balance’ is a very violent word. It denotes competition. That the different priorities are competing amongst each other, and I want to decide who deserves my time. You’re speaking the language of ‘or’.

‘Or’ denotes either this or that. Can’t be both. Now, this is conflict. Somebody has to lose. If you give you time to this then that has to lose, if you give time to that then this has to lose. Life does not proceed like this. Have you heard of a term ‘polymath’? A polymath is a person who is very versed in a thousand things, whose excellence pervades many different domains.

Leonardo the Vinci – Painter, sculptor, mathematician, philosopher, writer, there was no ‘or’ in his life. His life was full of ‘and’. And. And. And. When you say ‘or’, then the two ends fight with each other. ‘A’ or ‘B’, now ‘A’ and ‘B’ are fighting. When you say A and B, then strangely A and B start supporting each other. When you say it’s either studies or sports, then there will be conflict studies and sports. But when you say studies and sports, then strangely you find that studies are supporting sports and sports are supporting studies.

That you go to the gym and you come back afresh for studying. That you have a game of soccer and you find that your attention levels are rising. Life is not about this ‘or’ that.

Life is total, one integrated whole. There is no reason to discard something.

You may say that time is limited, but remember time is 24 hours for everybody. Time is not limited. The mind is distracted. The mind wastes away its energy in frivolous things. And then you say, “I don’t have time”.

If I talk of my campus days, we had a band on the campus, which was pretty good band. The IIT Delhi Cricket team competed well with the cricket teams of the other Delhi University Colleges. We had at least a couple of batsmen that our Coach told us were of the Ranji level, and they were excelling in their studies as well. There was a good dramatic scene. People would go, not only to different colleges but also different cities to compete to participate in competitions events. When people would read books they were deeply immersed in their books, when they were dancing they were dancing like crazy.

And there was space for everything, not a conflict. The gym was full of people. The swimming pool used to see queues. And there was squash, and there were billiard. Not to mention badminton and table tennis, and lawn tennis. And there were poets and singers. Einstein used to play the piano beautifully.

So, don’t say that I don’t find time. Time is there, and there is no need to balance. Balancing means taking. Taking something from one activity and giving to another activity. I’m saying just the opposite. I’m saying, “Give everything to the activity in hand.” Don’t take anything away from it. Give every bit to the moment in question. If you give everything to the present moment, then you are already home.

You take so much of time reading, studying, precisely because your mind is divided. You are never one, never immersed. You never give everything to what is happening in the moment. That’s why you have to spend such elongated periods. One life is there. There is no question of “Choose this or choose that.” Everything is available to you, and why must you not be with everything?

The birds are there, why not be with the birds? The open sky is there, why not fly? The rivers are there, why not swim? The grounds are there, why not run? Why? Why confine yourself? Why are we in a dwarf, a pygmy? Grow. Where a tree grows its branches out in all directions. Does it not? You too must branch out in all directions. Learn to cook. Learn to write. Learn to dance. Who told you that you must be a uni-dimensional boring personality? Who told you that?

“Oh! I’m so studious, do you really expect me to dance? “ I once said to someone, “If you can’t dance you aren’t alive.” There might be an issue with resources, I understand that. I am not expecting you have space travel as your hobby. Or, F1-racing. But what is available to you, at least be fully present to that.

Open grounds are available, right? Are they not? Why don’t you run? Very few of you be exercising regularly. Why can’t you exercise? There is no lack of Gyms in the area, why don’t you join a gym? And I am saying this to the girls as well. Why can’t you take up a sport? “No we are studious people. You know, we invest 25 hours a day in studying.” And there is soil and greenery. Why can’t you learn a bit of gardening?

Do you know what it means to come close to a plant? Or, to an animal? Life is like a rainbow. Seven colors and infinite numbers of shades. “Nobody is at home I’m starving.” Why? “Because I can only cook Maggie.” You can’t cook simple curries. Why? Why? Many of you can’t even wash your clothes? Why? “Because Sir, we have to balance between many things and washing my clothes is very low on my priority list.”

I would not be astonished if some of you can’t even ride a bike. I am sure there would be many here who can’t even ride a bike. What kind of life is this? Many of you would have never gone trekking on a hill. Many of you must have never seen a desert or a forest. Why? You are so occupied conquering the world.

The pool to which I go to swim, there are a few fifty plus Olds coming there. I would rather say, fifty plus ‘Youngs’ coming there. Gray hair, white beards and they are learning to swim. Sir how can we swim sir? “Sir there is so much of responsibilities on our shoulders, you won’t understand. When you’ll become our age then you’ll understand. The entire world is sitting on my head. Great obligations’ sir. You’re talking of swimming. Do we look like kids to you? No, we are mature people. How can we swim?”

“You’re talking of cooking? Tell that to my wife. Men don’t cook.” “You’re talking of Gymming? Tell that to my brother. Girls don’t go to gym.”

If today you find that your energy gets expressed in all kinds of stupid ways, it’s only because it’s not flowing in the right channels. When it doesn’t flow in the right channels then it gets invested into all idiocies. So, what do you do? You gossip. Have you ever tried to estimate the kind of time that you spend in gossip? Or, day dreaming. Just sitting or lying down. Just randomly thinking. And mind is wandering here and there, going to different planets, different galaxies. Doing unthinkable things. And what we we doing? Lying down and sleeping.

Why does that happen? That happens because there is energy but it’s being squandered. You’ve not given it the right channel. Then there is no intensity on your face. Then there is only stupid idiocy. Like that (pointing to someone). The face itself tells that life is being wasted. And it is so pathetic. One life, one youth, and slipping away.

When your energy and attention is flowing in the right channels, then you have no time left for gossiping and complaining, for random squabbles, for picking up stupid fights, or feeling hurt. Who has the time to feel hurt? Life is so precious. And there are a thousand things to do. Who has the inclination to complain? There is so much coming my way. Why complain? Instead, take what is coming. Then life is rich. Not the life of a poor man.

Most of us live a life of poor man. Life can be very very very rich. But not when you say “Either this, or that”. Life is rich when you say, “And. And. And”. And, “And” does not mean that I’m greedy for more. It only means that I am available to everything. I am not closed. When the opportunity comes knocking, I am available. When the sun rises, I am available to look at it. When the stars shine, I am available to dance under them. When the birds are singing, I am available to listen to them. I’m not closed. When I am besides a river, I’m available to enter the river. I don’t say “Oh my God, what will happen. River? Good boys don’t go to river.” Hmm? Remain available. You won’t lose out.

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