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What Should One’s Attitude Towards Work Be?

These days I constantly hear youngsters say that technology has created multiple possibilities for humankind. I guess it has bridged the gap between distant lands, organizations, and families and most importantly, brought every aspect of human need closer to its respective solution. Connectivity has become available at the fingertip and merchandise is available at the doorstep. Our comfort zones have expanded and stretched to accommodate quick and easy fulfillment. But as a result of this onslaught of new experiences, the human mind has taken to being overworked, and we increasingly hear about burnout, anxiety, and mental fatigue.

How do our thoughts affect our work?

Have you ever thought about what happens when we are constantly multitasking? In the midst of diverse streams of thoughts, commands, and resultant actions, the mind falls into a mode of over-performing, and in this state what really suffers is the power of concentration. In fact, when the mind gets free rein in such circumstances, it runs amok and starts entertaining a disarray of thoughts. It fidgets, rattles, and tries to break free to run off elsewhere, leaving incompleteness behind. In the words of Swami Tejomayananda, “Let the mind run if it must. YOU don’t have to run with it.” Therefore, we need to identify a process by which the mind can keep coming back to a streamlined way of thinking, again and again.

Understanding the obstacles

In today’s exciting world of possibilities, many of us have convictions and ideas that could lead to something worthwhile, but we may not possess the discipline necessary to see them through to fruition. Ideas can only be translated into action where there is sufficient strength of mind to check the continuous cycle of self-cancellation in which one thought is asserted, only to be immediately negated by another. In Sanskrit, these psychological forces are known as ‘saṅkalpa’ and ‘vikalpa’ or ‘assertion’ and ‘negation’. The mind requires both these forces to function effectively, yet when the mind is weak, the two forces counteract each other with such rapidity that focus is severely compromised. This type of immediate cancellation prevents us from seeing whether an idea has any potential and whether with sustained work it might be achievable. Moreover, with saṅkalpa and vikalpa at play, disintegration and conflict ensue, and the mind remains devoid of constructive action on work.

Training the mind for work efficiency

Our work length can be short-term or long-term. Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda recommended that you make it a rule to finish what you start. In contained, short-term tasks, it may help if you do not take a break from the work until it is finished. Whatever work you pick up, see it through to completion. There are many factors at play as we go about our work. Our desires, forgetfulness, distractions, and lack of goals can lead us to a state of disinterest, and induce a lackadaisical approach towards our duties. In the following ways, we can train the mind to work in a better manner:

  1. Tapping into the inner strength We must maintain a vigil over our mind, watch for thoughts and sensations that seek to sabotage our plans and convictions, and not allow ourselves to be intimidated or distracted by them. This is the process of invoking our own deeper strength, the quiet energy from which the mind itself only borrows its powers. Apply your mind to an idea and see it through to its conclusion. Be resolute. Finish what you start.
  2. Applying concentration As soon as someone is asked to meditate in a class, it becomes evident just how uncomfortable they can become at the thought of bringing the body to stillness, wherein discomposure must be brought to a slow halt. In meditation, first and foremost, it’s the mind that needs to be focused. When directed to sit straight and become aware of the body, however, all distractions begin to fade away gradually. Meditation techniques certainly help concentrate the mind, and with regular application, the mind will begin to settle down. The secret is practice.
  3. Bringing full attention To bring full attention to your task, you must train your mind in watchfulness. Just like a puppy is playful, the mind too engages quickly and fervently with distractions. When you take a puppy out for a walk, at first, he attempts to go his own way. You use the leash to guide him back. If you do not exercise control using the leash, he will pull you along! In the same way, you must manage your thoughts, or they will mismanage you. A disciple once asked his Master, “Sir, what is the difference between you and me? We both look the same, do similar activities during the day and use our brains as we should. So what is the difference between us? Why are you the Master, and I the disciple?” The Master replied: “The difference between us is that when I’m performing an activity, I’m doing just that. Whereas when your mind is already thinking about the next activity while in the previous one. Your mind is not where you are.” Hence, we must cultivate this habit of bringing the mind to where the hands are employed, and soon we will be able to engage wholly with the task before us. Stay focused.

By now we have understood that effective work management is a direct outcome of the state of mind. As long as we have the clarity to recognize the obstacles that are diverting our presence of mind from our goal, we can turn them to our advantage by using them as an opportunity to learn, grow and strengthen our personality. A successful outcome is possible only with the right attitude and right action. Therefore, it becomes imperative to keep the mind channelized on its course while living with mindfulness, to unleash our best potential.

Author: Swami Swaroopananda