We have another reader question by Srikanth

How do we actually love whatever we are doing? It seems, nobody is forever happy with their work or objectives. What is the secret of good work and how do we achieve fulfilment through work and feel happiness and continue to feel it? When we move to a new job, we are happy for a while but that happiness goes away in some time. Why is it that we are never able to find sustainable happiness and fulfilment through work?

Great question.

While ideologies are easy to preach, it is difficult to maintain. One get’s overruled by the speed and hustle bustle of life so much so that we forget what do we actually want to do in life in order to achieve sustainable bliss and fulfilment.

A Story

I will share a story of my life to put things in perspective.

We used to have a college band, friends bought guitars and drums and we used to practice all day in an abandoned warehouse. We barely knew what we were doing, we weren’t musicians and we did not put in years of hard work in actually learning the craft. However, we had an objective in sight.

We badly wanted to get on the stage and win a “Battle of the bands” contest.

We did practice for a year or two. We performed, but were told the following by one of the judges

You guys are not listening to each other’s music. The drummer is going one way, the bassist is not listening to the drummer. The guitarist is busy playing his riffs, the singer is going in another direction, there is no co-ordination at all. You should first learn music for 10 years and then participate. Don’t waste your time and energy, learn the art first. Whatever you did was appreciable but it wasn’t music. It was just chaos.

I went back to my guitar teacher and told him the incident. He said

This is an important lesson. You weren’t really learning to be a musician. You were learning how to play because you had an objective you wanted badly. It won’t happen that way. And if at all it happens, it won’t stay. You got to put in the hard work first, the result will come in its own way.

I have been playing for 30 years now, yet very few people in this city even know my name. Nobody interviews me and neither I am rich. I don’t want to be a commercial sell out, you see these people composing music, judges in reality shows . Very few of them are actual musicians. They are business men, who are using music to earn money. I don’t buy that son.

You can still be my student. I can teach you how to play the guitar but don’t ask me how to become a sell out or win a “Battle of the bands” contest. I don’t teach business.

The band split shortly and we gave up.

When I look back, I can clearly see why we did not succeed. We did not succeed because we were attached to “Success” and our efforts were merely an instrument towards that attachment.

The Secret of Good Work

The secret of good work is clearly mentioned in Karma Yoga.

You take up something, you cling to it and eventually you don’t like it anymore. Why? Why is that the thing you badly wanted couple of years ago gives you pain every morning and you badly want an escape?

The simple reason is attachment. You are attached. Attachments cannot give you sustainable happiness or bliss.

Let me share this theory with an example.

Suppose you are a doctor. You studied medicine for five years and you have been practicing for 10 years now. However, you don’t like your profession anymore. You feel something is missing. You are not feeling fulfilled and work seems to be a big pain. If you go deep down to the root of the problem, you will see that there is some kind of attachment associated with your unfulfilled state of mind. Some examples,

  • There isn’t enough money in this profession.
  • There are just too many doctors and this profession has become very competitive these days.
  • People don’t want to visit a good physician. They opt for cheap doctors for less money.
  • There is nothing new, the same old thing.

And so on.

The doctor who is attached to the means and the outcome will never find fulfilment in work. His focus is on the outcome and the means alone, not on the work. There is a “Return” or a “Want” or some king of “expectation” associated with the work. Everyone wants to work, but has a standard of the returns in his/her mind. Returns in the form of “Salary”, “Prestige”, “Reputation” and “Fulfilment”.

Look Beyond The “Means”, the “Outcomes”

The real goal is to look beyond the means and outcomes that comes as a result of working. We don’t do that. We are always looking for the outcomes and means, not understanding that this won’t give us sustainable fulfilment.

  • If you really want to enjoy being a doctor, go to the slums and help people who need you the most but cannot afford you.
  • If you really want to enjoy being a teacher, go to that rural village and help people who cannot afford good education available in a city.
  • If you really want to enjoy being an engineer, quit your “Fat pay cheque” job, take up a project which is under developed and make it better.
  • If you really want to enjoy business, solve that burning problem without expecting how much money you will make from the enterprise when you take your exit.
  • If you really want to enjoy law, go help that man who has been victimised by law and help him recover from crisis.

We seldom do this. We are attached to a “Salary”, a “position” or an “Imaginary definition of success”. This attachment will slowly burn your spirit.

Bhagvada gita says –

Work, but never be attached to the work you are doing. We have to work, constantly work with all our power; to put our whole mind in the work, whatever it be, that we are doing. At the same time, we must not be attached. That is to say, we must not be drawn away from the work by anything else; still, we must be able to quit the work whenever we like.

Here is the problem.

You put in years of hard work into something but you have trapped yourself through the attachment of the outcome that you are continuously expecting. That will only invite misery. If you are a teacher but don’t like your profession anymore, you must quit. You must quit, find a new home and start again. Don’t be attached to that university, to that position for prestige, power and salary. Start again, do not be attached to your current status for mundane objectives.

Evaluate Weaknesses

It is weakness that leads to miseries of all kinds – mental, physical, emotional.

  • Your fat pay cheque has made you weak. You have forgotten how to let go and start over.
  • Your position and prestige has made you weak. You have forgotten that this is not why you had chosen this profession in the first place.
  • You are attached to a condition and want to maintain it at all costs. You are afraid of change. This is a weakness. Work on it.

Weakness leads to slavery. Weakness leads to all kinds of misery, physical and mental. Weakness is death.

Weaknesses like this can be won through detachment.That man alone will be able to get the best of anything, who, having the power of attaching himself to a thing with all his energy, has also the power to detach himself when he should do so. The difficulty is that there must be as much power of attachment as that of detachment.

If you love doing X, keep doing it but do not get attached to it in any way. You should always be in a position to let go of X, otherwise X will become the reason of your misery. This X can be your job, your car, your wife, your house, your children and even your life.

Work, but never be attached. Ask nothing, want nothing in return. Never hanker about the outcome of work (salary, raise, promotion), this is what weak people do. The strong people never negotiate, the iron will man will continue to work just for work alone and not because of the money he is earning or the promotion that he thinks he deserves.

If you buy a guitar, don’t expect that you will be able to play music in 3 months. Let the instrument lie there for years and expect nothing out of it. Let the love for that instrument grow slowly inside you. Make a thousand mistakes but again, never be attached to the mistakes. Never be attached to any “Goal”, that you need to impress your friends. Play that instrument, keep making mistakes and one day you will become a musician. It can take 5 years or 50, doesn’t really matter so long you are not attached to the “outcome” or “means”.

The more you detach yourself from the outcomes, the happier you will be. The more fulfilled you will be, regardless of whatever you do to make a living.

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