Motivation and ambition, symptoms of suffering || Acharya Prashant (2014)

To personally meet or connect with Acharya Prashant: click here.

Question: Sir, how to stay motivated and ambitious even after repeated failures in life?

Speaker: Our friend is asking that how to stay motivated and ambitious even after repeated failures.

Do you understand what is ambition? Do you understand what is motivation? Do you understand what is failure?

What is motivation? What is meant by ‘motive’?

Motive means greed. Motive means, ‘I want to get something.’

Same is ambition. Ambition is an enhanced form of motive. ‘I want to get more and more.’ That is ambition. Be it motive or be it ambition one thing is certain, you are saying that I want to get something, that I want to achieve something. I can understand that the voices around you have been constantly telling you that you must get something, that you are incomplete, that there is something missing in you, there is something wrong in you, and you must make up for it by obtaining a particular degree, a particular job, a certain respectability.

You have been constantly told that there is something incomplete, that you are unworthy. From that feeling arises a sense of desire, a sense of greed and ambition. You say that because there is something lacking in me so I want to achieve it.

‘A part of me is missing. I am not yet worthy. I am not good enough so I must go and get it.’ Obviously when you will go and get it, it takes time. So, all your motivation and ambition takes you to the future. It says that right now you are not alright, right now you are just not alright, you must work hard so that in future you must get something. That is the logic of ambition. What does ambition say? You are not alright. You are not alright. ‘Work hard, go, attain, win, loot, grasp, earn.’ Whichever word you use, one thing is certain, that something is missing in you.

If something is missing in me right now, ambition is telling me that the future will provide the treatment, that the future will provide a remedy, then it is certain that right now I will keep suffering. I am feeling incomplete right now. Ambition is saying that if you get that ‘A’, you will be happy two years later. You are feeling incomplete right now and if you get a job two years later, you will be complete, that is what ambition tells you.

But still what is the quality of your mind right now? Unhappy. Look at the whole game. I am unhappy, ambition comes. Ambition says that you are unhappy, so go get a job. You will get a job you will become happy. But the job will come to you after two years. Now, if the job is coming after two years, can that make me happy right now? So, ambition is promising me happiness but a deferred happiness. It is a false medicine. Are you getting it?

If you are sick today and there is a medicine that says that the treatment will happen two years later, is that medicine of any use to you? Ambition is that kind of the medicine. It makes a false promise. A totally false promise.

We said two things. One, ambition is born of the feeling of incompleteness, an unworthiness. Unless you feel bad, you cannot be ambitious. Only those who feel small about themselves, they can be ambitious. Ambition is born out of sadness. If you are very happy can you be ambitious? In your moments of ecstasy, are you still planning for the future? So, only those who are sad and miserable, only they can be ambitious. That is the first thing we have said.

Second thing we are saying is that ambition makes you a promise but that is a false promise. It is a useless promise. Once you see this, would you still value ambition? Would you still say that I want to be ambitious? If you say that I want to be ambitious, you are saying that I am sad.

How many of you want to be sad? How many of you want to feel miserable?


But you value ambition so much. It is not your fault. The entire world wants you to become ambitious. High ranking men would come and say, ‘Ambition, ambition. We want ambitious people.’ Not their fault either. They themselves are sick and foolish people, they do not know what they are saying. A sick man will only spread sickness around him. So, what does an ambitious man do? He tries to make others ambitious. He has no understanding of what ambition is, yet he keeps promoting ambition.

You said that there have been repeated failures. There are failures only when there is ambition. When you say, ‘Failure’, you refer to a particular result. That is exactly what ambition does. Ambition puts all the value on the result and no value on the doing. So for four years you do something, for forty years you are doing something, all that has no value. The value is in the result. For forty years those hours have no value. That one moment when the result appears, that moment is valuable. That is highly stupid. Is it not? It is highly stupid.

That one moment is called the moment of success or failure. You worked for two years and in one moment it is declared whether you are successful or a failure. It is a stupid thing to say. ‘That time, that being when I was into it, when I was doing, if I was really immersed, I was already a success. Who are you to say that I am a failure or a success? Who is anybody else to declare that I have failed?’

But if you do something with that final goal in mind, then obviously ‘success’ and ‘failure’ become important words. Success and failure become so  important to you only because you give no value to the work and all value to the  result.

Work out of love. Somebody has said, “Work is love made visible.” It was Kahlil Gibran. “Work is love made visible.” In love do you look for a particular result? You go, you meet somebody, you hug him, you embrace him. Do you ask that what is the result? Do you say, ‘Oh I failed. I did not get the right result’? Are there results in love?  Or is loving sufficient in itself? Is loving sufficient or do you need result as well?

Listener 1: Loving is sufficient.

Speaker: You would be a very dangerous man if you are looking for any result in love. You spend two hours with somebody and you say that it is a wastage of time. What kind of a man you are? What result were you expecting?

Love is its own result. A moment of joy is its own result. It needs no further result. You do not need anything extra. You say, ‘I am happy because I could do this. Who is waiting for the result? The result has already come. I could do this and I am happy. Done. Contended. What more?’

But for this you need to learn immersion in life. It is a very intense immersion. ‘I am with life. I am not wandering away somewhere. I am here. I am not divided. My entire being is here. One part of me is not wandering in the future, worrying after results. I am totally here. Who is thinking of results?’

But please do not think that those who live in immersion, they do not get results. They get double results. Immersion itself is pure joy. Second, immersion is more beautiful. What you call as future is anyway contained in the present. Future arises out of the present. Does it not? If the present is beautiful, will the future not be beautiful? Is the present not the seed of the future?

Listeners (everyone): Yes, Sir.

Speaker: Someone who is taking care of the seed, giving it the right nourishment, if he is with the seed lovingly the future is ultimately taken care of. Is it not? But when you are with the seed, you are not bothering about the future. You are loving the little baby. You are in the present, immersed in it. The future will take care of itself without your intervention, the future will take care of itself. You need not bother about the result. The result will come on its own. Though it may not come as per your expectations. The result may not come as per your plan, the result may not be as per your design, but still it will be beautiful, more beautiful than what you have planned for. Are you getting it?

So, don’t be swayed away, from the media, the society, from the friends, from family. You will hear all those voices who would say, ‘Go, plan, be motivated. Unless you are ambitious, you are left behind the race.’ Do not take them very seriously. Listen to all this and smile.

Excerpted from a ‘Shabd-Yog’ session. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session video: Motivation and ambition, symptoms of suffering || Acharya Prashant (2014)

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