Questioner (Q): I lack confidence when it comes to decision-making. I am always doubtful of whether I am making the right decision or not, and this results in a lot of stress and having to take a lot of time to decide anything. How can I be more confident in decision-making as a student?
Acharya Prashant (AP): No, you do not need confidence. You need inquiry and honesty. It is better to suspend confidence and conclusions than to be falsely confident. Most people you find radiating confidence are actually just radiating false confidence. So, remain an inquirer.
Inquiry is difficult and uncomfortable because the mind wants to come to quick conclusions. The mind doesn’t want to stay in a state of uncertainty and unpredictability; the mind wants to quickly certify to itself that its decisions are alright or not alright. You could say the mind wants to operate in binary. You want to know: say yes or no. Have we not seen people do this? “Please say yes or no.” Whereas, the facts of life are otherwise. They demand rigorous inquiry; they demand continuous attention. You cannot just label them as right or wrong in one go.
And not only do we want to label stuff as okay or not okay, we want to close the matter by saying, “We are confident that the final decision has been made, that an irreversible certificate has been issued.” Just like your degree, you know—once you have it, you have it for life. Life is not like that. You have to be continuously on the vigil. You have to keep asking, “What is happening? Is it alright? Is it not alright?” Even these questions are not needed in the real sense. What is needed is deep observation and the honesty to acknowledge whatever you see.
You might be feeling that you have cracked a particular problem, but you must go through your solution again. “Have I really solved it? If I have solved it, are the symptoms corresponding to a solution state? Why am I in such a hurry to seal the deal? Why do I want to say I have arrived, the thing is final?” Because it appears cool, especially in your age group. We don’t like the uncertain ones; we don’t like the probing ones. We like the ones who loudly declare that they are good and home.
We idolize those who emphatically say, “I know.” We don’t quite like those who say, “I am trying to know,” because all our emphasis is on success, on results, on the consumption of results. We work with an intention to quickly get results and consume the results, extract happiness from the results. We don’t quite enjoy the process of inquiry.
Joy lies in inquiry itself. Joy doesn’t lie so much in concluding, closing or arriving; it lies in traveling rightly.
So, it is alright if you are not a very confident person. It would have been in fact a far bigger problem had you been unnecessarily confident. You might not realize it, but confidence is a very, very deep problem. Confidence indicates an ego hell-bent on deceiving itself. And confidence is not the same as realization; confidence is also not the same as faith. Confidence, in fact, corresponds to an inner laziness: “I do not want to keep inquiring, therefore I am shutting down the process of inquiry. I won’t allow any more questions to arise.” That kind of confidence we have.
So, don’t feel inferior, don’t allow others to dominate you, and don’t be easily impressed by those who appear confident.
Q: Sometimes when I meet a person of some stature, I hesitate to express myself. I am left speechless and I cannot express myself efficiently. How to overcome this?
AP: Let this hesitation or whatever be there. Just pay attention to the person if he is worth listening to. Speaking or not speaking, hesitation or confidence, these are not very important things. What matters is your attention. Are you getting it?
Q: Yes, sir.
AP: So, how much hesitation did you have to overcome in saying “Yes, sir”?
Q: Not much.
AP: Because you are in this conversation, because you are listening, because you are immersed in listening itself, hence there is no space for hesitation or whatever. Right now, your entire energy is just focused on listening; therefore, there is a smooth flow of words when it is needed. Otherwise, silence is good enough.
The thing is, in our society, in this distorted culture that we have nowadays, there is just too much emphasis on public speaking. There is just too much emphasis on confident expression. There is one advertisement that I see very frequently these days on the web. Some kid, probably five or eight years old, he is standing and pointing a finger at the audience, as if teaching them something. And the kid is what, five, six, seven? Something. And the kid is extremely expressive, extremely outgoing, and a clear extrovert.
That has become the ideal of this age. Speak, and speak without content; speak, and speak without knowledge. Your worth is determined by your fluency, fluency in spewing gibberish on anybody who is unfortunate enough to listen.
Speaking or whatever is no great art or indicator of worth in life. First of all, have something worth saying; then it doesn’t matter much how you express it. Or, if you want to put it quantitatively, ninety-five percent importance is of the quality of your content, and five percent—and that too is an overestimation—belongs to your accent, your vocabulary, your fluency, and such things.
And quality in content comes from attentiveness; it comes from a certain sincerity towards life. The markets want you to be insincere; otherwise their goods won’t sell. So, they promote a very stupid kind of expressiveness where people, in the name of fluid expression, just talk nonsense nonstop and are given some respect by some ignorant people. Ignorant beings get impressed by all those things. “Oh, he is so fluent! I am impressed.” You should know better. Be impressed by the right things.
Q: My dilemma is that I have something to say, I have the content, and I think that the content is good, but I am confused about whether to say it or not, as it might not actually be good.
AP: Even that certainty comes from attentiveness itself. How will you know whether something is really good or not? You want somebody else to tell you? You want it to be written in some book somewhere? How will you ever know? Go close to that thing, examine it, observe, play with it, experiment, and know for yourself. All that comes in the purview of attentiveness.