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Question: When we fail to achieve our goals, we generally feel nervous; we feel down. A kind of gloom comes upon us. How to keep positive at that time?
Acharya Prashant: You are asking for the impossible.
If you have been relentlessly chasing a goal, thinking that it is the most important thing in the world, and if it does not turn out as you want it to turn out, then it is impossible not to feel frustrated. You have yourself created the situation, the ground for that.
You have declared to yourself that the most important thing in the world is this particular event, and it must happen. And now if the event does not happen – which in most cases won’t, because the universe is governed by multiple cause-effects, an entire vast infinite network of cause and effects; out of these cause and effects, small and large events happen, they do not happen out of your or any other individual’s desire. So the results of any effort are unpredictable – in spite of your best efforts, you will often find that you do not get the desired result, and you will declare that a failure, and you will feel very sad. “I tried so hard, it didn’t happen.”
Remember the dictum that, “Hard work leads to success. So work hard,” is entirely misplaced. Neither hope brings you success, nor does hard work bring you success. You may keep working hard and harder, but existence has its own wills and desires. Outcomes and events are governed, as I said, by an infinite number of factors. You can never decide. You can never be the master of what is going to happen.
But we have been taught a misplaced sense of doership. We have been taught that we can be in control. We have been taught that things can go as per our wish and planning. Whenever that is the mindset that – “Things can go and must go as per my desires, my planning, my work,” frustration is bound to be the outcome.
What to do then? The only way to not to be frustrated is, to not to take results too seriously.
Whosoever will work for the sake of a result, will find that disappointment is inevitable.
But the one who will take work as play and work in the joy of working, will neither be obsessed with results nor would face disappointment.
We are devastated when results come out, precisely because we have told ourselves that we will be happy only if the results are in a particular way. We keep on postponing happiness to results. So the same result that makes you deeply disappointed, would also make you deeply happy, if it just turns a little different.
In fact, take an example. An examination was conducted, and the results have just been declared; for you the example of examination is quite relevant. So an examination was conducted, and the results have just been declared. Two students are going there to have a look at the results. One just wrote the exam playfully; he was more concerned with studying. He studied the entire semester, he was not so bothered with the exams. So when it came to the exams, he wrote the exams. Just as he attended the classes, similarly he wrote the exams. The exams were nothing special for him. So, one of the students is this.
And the other one did not attend too many classes, but for him results are the most important thing. And why did not he attend the classes? He said, “What is the use of classes? The real thing is the exam. So I will study when it comes close to the exam.” And that is when he studied. And now he is afraid that he might fail. He is afraid that he might fail.
The first candidate is not at all hoping anything. In fact, he was not bothered about what will happen to the results. The second one gives a lot of importance to results, and is also naturally afraid that will happen if he would fail. Both go, both have a look at the results, and both find that they have passed. Both have passed. Who will be more happy of these two? Who will be the happier one? Who will be found dancing around?
Listeners: The second one.
Acharya Prashant: Why is the second one so happy with the results? Exactly because he was also the one who was afraid that – “I will fail.” The more afraid you are, the more happier you find yourself when the anticipated, the apprehended event does not happen.
The first one will not be very happy. Also remember that if he fails, the first one, he will also not be very sad. Now you are asking for the impossible. You are saying, “Give me happiness but do not ever make me sad.” That cannot happen.
You have to be sad exactly because you ask for happiness. The one who is targeting happiness will always find that sadness comes along with happiness. These two are dual companions. They always remain together. You cannot be happy without first being sad. The more nervous you are about the results, the more you will be dancing after the results; nervousness is proportional to celebration.
You could not sleep the entire night because in the morning the results are to be declared. Now if the results are declared and you pass, you will throw a big party. You will throw a big party exactly because you could not sleep the entire night.
To give importance to success is to invite frustration.
To give importance to results is to invite boredom.
Suppose you are doing something, and you are doing it with the purpose of getting results. Now what is important – the doing, or the results, for you?
Listeners: The results.
Acharya Prashant: Now if the result could come even without the doing, you would have welcomed it, right? Because what is important?
Acharya Prashant: And that is what we have been taught since childhood, that what is important, is the results. You fill up any form. What does the form ask you? Does it ask “You how much did you enjoy class tenth?” or does it just ask, “The result of class tenth?”
Listeners: Result of class tenth.
Acharya Prashant: So you have been continuously told that a result is what matters. Now if results are what matters, then what you are doing right now becomes insignificant. “Result is important, the process is not important. In fact if the result could come without the process, I would be so happy.” That is why we want to employ shortcuts. A shortcut means – getting the result without the process. Without the journey, reach the destination’ that is called ‘the shortcut’.
So, when reaching there is most important, then the journey becomes extremely boring. It does not matter what happens upon reaching there; that is another question. But what is certain is that the journey will become extremely boring.
You take admission in B.Tech with the aim of getting a job, let’s say. Now when will the job come to you? After the fourth year, right? Or at least in the fourth year. You are obsessed with job. Before taking admission you inquired what kind of placement record does this college have? Your parents are all the time asking, “What kind of jobs your seniors are getting?” Always you are looking only at money, career, this and that. So, your eyes are firmly set upon what will happen after the fourth year. But how many years do you have to spend in college?
Listeners: Four years.
Speaker: That event will happen after fourth year. Your mind is constantly busy with that particular event, which is four years hence, later. So four years, all that you are doing is waiting; waiting so that these four years can pass and you can ultimately get that job. What will be the quality of this time? How do you feel when you are waiting? How do you feel? Have you ever waited for somebody for hours and hours, and the fellow is not turning up?
Samuel Beckett has written a nice play ‘Waiting for Godot’. There are characters and they are waiting for a character called ‘Godot’, and Godot never turns up. All our life we are waiting for Godot to turn up, and he never turns up. And you are waiting and waiting. So naturally you will be bored. Who likes to wait?
Now, you cannot enjoy your first year, you cannot enjoy in second year, you cannot enjoy in third year, cannot enjoy in fourth year. We meet fellows in first year who say, “Sir, when will be taught interview skills?” Now the child has just entered first semester. He does not know how to talk, how to walk; he does not even have a proper mustache or a beard. Seventeen years old, and he is asking, “Sir, teach me interview skills.” Why? “Sir, it will help me get a job.” “Son, who is going to interview you now?” “Sir, that will happen after four years.”
Right now, a thousand things are happening, but one is not aware of that. Because one’s mind is obsessed with (pointing in a direction, referring to the future) that. So you miss out on everything that is happening around you, right now; that opportunity is lost. Is that not so?
Whenever you will place emphasis upon an event in the future, and remember, results are always in the future. Whenever you will give too much importance to something that is in the future, you will lose out on the present.
The intelligent man never works for results, never. And the beauty of the thing is that he often gets handsome results, without asking for it. Actually for him, every result is handsome because he is not bothered about the throw of the dice.
“Now it does not matter whether you give me 85% or 65%. I really enjoyed the semester. My work is done. You can keep giving me what you want to give. I know what I have got. You may keep writing some number, how does it matter to me?”
That is the intelligent man.
And who is the fool? Begging for results at the end. This begging for results tells one thing for certain. What? That you never enjoyed the process.
The one who enjoys the process never cares about the result.
It is not that he deliberately spoils the result.
Results just come to him.
Whatsoever has to come will come.
We said right in the beginning that anyway what has to come is not within our control; it is governed by a thousand factors of cause and effect. The intelligent man hence never cares about the result.
He says, “Results are firstly unpredictable. Secondly, if I bother about the results then I will miss out on the present. So I will not concern myself with what is going to happen tomorrow. Why should I think?”
But you place your happiness in the result. That is why you get sadness. The one who will place his happiness in the future will end up with sadness. And the one, who will say that my only occupation is what is happening currently, would find that Joy is always available to him. “Right now, I am listening and I am fully present. And Wow. Joyful!”
And there might be somebody here thinking of this exam and that exam. For him, this time might be torture, because all he is thinking of is something that is going to happen three days later. Then obviously these moments cannot be good for him.
We have a great obsession with the future.
We think that today is just a means to get to tomorrow. We think that the real thing is going to happen in the future, the present is not of much importance; some great event is going to happen in the future, and the only utility of today is to prepare for that great event.
So, all the life we are just preparing and waiting for Godot, and Godot will never come, because there is always another tomorrow. And ultimately you land in the grave. And then there is no tomorrow.
Do not ask me, “How not to be disappointed after results.?” Ask me, “Sir, how not to care for the results?” Result is good, alright. Result is bad, alright. Results are not the end of the world; result of anything, of anything.
“I have discovered something that is far more important than any result that the world can give to me. Now how can I be too bothered about the outcomes and events? The real thing is there with me; already, always, right now. So you cannot make me happy. And when you cannot make me happy, you cannot make me sad either.”
When you give somebody the power to make you happy, you also simultaneously give the same event the power to make you sad.
And then you ask, “How not to be sad?” This sadness is nothing but a logical outcome of your misplaced mind.
Is this becoming clear? Can we try? Can we see the beauty of it? Can we go to a book in the love of the book, because it is beautiful to read what is written rather than thinking that which chapter will account for which question in the examination? That is a crude way of reading a book – “How many marks will I get if I read this book?” It is a very crude way; it is injustice to the book.
Books are not just means to attain an end; nothing is a means to attain an end. Books are not means, and human beings can never be means to attain an end. So relationships again cannot be for the sake of a result, that – “If I have a friend, then why do I have a friend? So that he will help me. That will be the result of the friendship.” What is the result? “I was helped.”
But you have been told, “A friend in need is a friend indeed,” so again you want results from friends. “I have, you know, five friends. At the end of the year, let me see what results I got from them.”
“a) I got Rs 750 from him: Passed.”
“b) Oh my god! He gave me nothing: Failed.”
“c) He took me to a free tour: Passed.”
“Girlfriend: Not giving any results. Change.”
No. There are people like this. Why else do you have a girlfriend? You have a girlfriend to get some real tangible results. And if she is not prepared to give you those results, you will change. Same with boyfriends. “My boyfriend is very non-productive. He is not producing any results.”
That is the kind of result-oriented mind that we have.
“I met her in the evening, spent two thousand rupees on her, and did not get any result. My investment went waste.”
“I produced a son, raised him for eighteen years, spent so much on his education. And then he did not give me any results. He married a girl of his own choice. I did not get results from my son.” That is the mindset of parents.
“I invested money. Where is the return? And what is the percentage return you are giving? Gupta ji is getting 15% return from his son. He has totalled everything. When you were born, I paid rupees twenty thousand to the hospital. Your nappies cost me this much rupees. Your milk, your food, your school, your rickshaw-puller cost me this much.” The father has a sum total of everything.
“Your B.Tech is costing me so much. Now where is the result? Where is the return on the investment?” And daughters, if they do not give results, then kill them. That is what is called ‘honour killing’. Kill them. “I gave you money, I gave you security, I gave you birth. How dare you go against my wishes? You should give me results as per my expectations.”
That is the result-oriented mind. It cannot love, it cannot love. It can only be a businessman. Put effort, get results. Put effort, get results. And no result is a final result. So keep doing this way till you die.
Is there any end to getting results? Seriously, any end? All your life you have chased results. And let me assure you, nothing is going to change; even after fifty years you would be doing the same. Go and meet a seventy year old; he is in the same race that you are running. Do not think that after doing your post graduation or doctorate, you will be free from this race. You would be running this race till the end of your life, and you will die very-very frustrated; very frustrated.
One of my batch mates, he comes, and he says, “I have really fallen in love with this girl.” She belonged to the campus, IIM Ahmedabad. Alright, junior batch. Next day I ask him, “So, how is your newfound love?” He said, “No no, nothing.” I said, “Why nothing?” Because the fellow got to know her name; another religion, another caste, so the result cannot come.
What must be the right result of love? Marriage. What must be the right result of marriage? Kids. Now if the result cannot come, what is the point in loving? “When I know there can be no marriage, how can I love? How can I love?” This is what happens to result-oriented people.
But our culture is such that this has been venerated. You know there is a song in a movie. And what does the shayar (poet) say? “Woh afsana jise anjam tak laana naa ho mumkin, use ek khubsurat mod dekar chhodna achchha.. (The story which cannot be brought to a happy ending, it is better to give it a beautiful turn and leave it).” Anjaam means result.
What is the end? Why do you want an end? Why do you want that particular end to come? We all want that end to come. In fact, we do not do anything without expecting a result.
If parents are told that, “This son will not live as per your wishes,” then they will lose interest in the son. If they are assured that he is not going to obey you, he is not going to marry as per your choice, he will not take up a career as per your choice, he will not live as per your choice, parents will lose interest in that son. And if it is a daughter, then completely no interest; zero.
We do not do anything without expecting a result in the future, and this future centricity costs us deeply. It costs us the only thing that we have. All we have is – this, right now, what is happening right now. And it takes that away.
If you are told today that you will not get a job at the end of fourth year, and that you will also not get a degree, but you can study for the sake of knowledge, how many of you will keep coming to classes? No degree, no job, nnd no attendance requirement also. No penalties. How many of you will still continue to come? Ask yourself honestly, “Will I really still continue with exactly the same routine?”
It is nothing but the demand of the future that keeps us going.
And then we are bored; life becomes insipid.
There is no juice in it.
Watch the session video: To go for goals is gloom, to fantasize a future is frustration || Acharya Prashant, with youth (2014) The transcription has been edited for clarity.
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