What matters most?20, Jan, 2016, by Seema Bhatnagar
Life sometimes feels like a rollercoaster, throwing challenges, problems, and opportunities every moment. Whether at work, at home or being alone, our mind is constantly thinking about one thing or another. It is like, we daily sail through the surface of turbulent tides of our own thoughts. This daily sailing adventure robs us of opportunity to think deeper about what it is that really matters to us and where to put our focus.
Focus in itself is a power and putting things/aspects in focus helps one to feel powerful and motivated enough in life. But, the dilemma is, what to choose for putting under focus. What to choose out of so many roles and responsibilities one is playing in life? Choosing one aspect means ignoring other. How to get the right balance of choices in life?
Fortunately, there is no perfect formula to arrive at a set of balanced choices in life. Why fortunately, because each one of us is different and so are the choices of life.
The hard truth of life is - each one of us is passing through different stages of life, and at every stage there are certain roles, responsibilities, aspirations and desires which must be fulfilled. While carrying out these roles and responsibilities with due sincerity certain compromises and sacrifices are required to be made, and for every compromise and sacrifice made there is a consequence attached. So, conclusively, life is all about the consequences of all choices, compromises and sacrifices we make in our relationships with the world.
If it is as simple as making few sacrifices then why it is difficult to make choices?
The fundamental reason is – the spears of our temptations prompt us to have more pleasures (be it physical or mental) in life and create fear about making sacrifices and compromises required to fulfil that particular role or responsibility. These temptations cloud our mind and blur the vision of what-matters-most at that very particular stage of life and we end up feeling frustrated and disappointed.
Let’s say, currently you are a student and want to complete your studies with flying colours. Being a student, you must be ready to sacrifice and compromise over activities, like, going out for parties, spending time with friends, watching TV or any other activity which takes away your precious time in the name of entertainment. Unfortunately, majority of the students fail to maintain the required discipline and end up making choices which are unfit for expected results.
Similarly, let’s say you are a married individual and want to experience marital bliss. Being in this role, you must be willing to let your partner rule you, should be spending quality time with family than friends. But again, due to spearheading temptations and egoistic behaviour, marital bliss remains just a word and majority individuals end up in mutual conflicts leading to constant stress and anxiety in relationships.
To connect it better to our daily life, here are few sets of choices, from each set try to choose the one which makes most sense to you:-
- Spend time at work VS. Spend time with kids.
- Spend time with spouse VS. Spend time with parents.
- Spend time with self VS. Completing household chores.
- Eat healthy and homemade food VS. Eating out.
- To attain ideal weight VS. Attending wedding party.
- To study for exams VS. Spending time with lover.
- To buy second/third house VS. Helping somebody in need of money.
- To have your own children VS. loving other’s children or to adopt one.
- To live with simplicity VS. To impress others with new car.
- To spend less on clothes VS. To wear something which is in and smart.
If you carefully analyse your choices - each choice that you made reflects what it is that which really matters most to you even if it means sacrificing something to attain that.
Having said that, how about having a prescription which can help an individual to lead a more responsible and blissful life, something which can guide about what is that which really matters at a particular stage of life.
According to Hindu philosophy, life can be divided into four main stages of life, during each stage an individual is suppose to fulfil certain responsibilities towards self, family and society. These main 4 stages or ashrams (in Hindi language) are Brahmachari, Grahast, Vanprast and Sanyas. Each stage spans for 25 years approximately, considering 100 as a full span of life.
Brahmachari – Initial 25 years, where an individual learns under the guidance of enlightened Guru, is to inculcate discipline and values in individual so that s/he can play a responsible role in society.
An individual is supposed to exercise complete abstinence and full focus is on learning and practising to acquire life skills. Nothing matters more than learning and acquiring skills.
Grahast – At the age of 26 – 27, when an individual is ready with knowledge and skills to sail through life challenges, it is time to have life partnership and to extend family by having children.
Here, the main focus is to fulfil individual’s physical and emotional needs through establishing bonds of life with spouse and children. At this stage, nothing matters more than raising a family where every individual feels happy and fulfilled.
Vanprast – At the age of between 50-52, it is a time to retire and hand over homely matters to children. In ancient times, parents used to retire to forest (the literal meaning of Vanprast is – Van – forest, prast - to retire.) to lead a very simple and quite life for experiencing life in more depth. It is about getting in practice of living with less and to develop detachment from worldly affairs. At this stage, nothing matters more than focusing and dedicating full time to self.
Sanyas- At the age of between 72 – 74, it is time to renounce everything and live like a monk. At this stage nothing matters more than attaining enlightenment - the union with God.
The age mentioned here is not a strict number, it should be understood as an approximate range of age where personal choices should be revisited.
There are certain individuals in society who find themselves quite established in first stage i.e. Brahmacharya and don’t want to enter second stage, they directly want to jump to stage fourth i.e. Sanyasa. There is nothing wrong in this as long as an individual is not longing for relationships and has developed dispassion towards materialistic world. In fact, choosing to renounce is truly challenging because personal temptations are so strong that they do not allow an individual to think beyond materialistic pleasures.
This concept of dividing life into four main stages ensures that an individual experience all-round growth and lives a fulfilled life free from regrets, complaints, frustrations and depression which arise at different stages of life.
In context to modern age, more or less we are practicing this concept except the last two stages. The last two stages sound scary to people because leaving everything behind creates a feeling of insecurity and ill-treatment at the hands of children.
The most important take away from this concept is to understand what matters most to an individual at a particular stage of life and what to put under focus.
It might not be the best model to be followed per se in life but it is definitely a good guide to understand for what should be in focus at what stage of life.
To practise this model in your life, at whatever stage of life you are right now, just take an honest look and see what really matters to you and what are your roles and responsibilities at this very moment. Are you really fulfilling those with utmost sincerity and dedication? Is it a career, marriage, wealth or personal growth, what is that which really motivates you and makes you willing to sacrifice other aspects to achieve that. What are those activities which you must pursue now so that you evolve as a mature and seasoned individual?
Until you understand and fulfil your responsibilities sincerely you cannot enjoy a fulfilled life and cannot emerge as a joyful individual. There might be certain situations in life which would compel you to make hard choices, essentially those would be the real instances where you will be put to test for answering what matters most to you.
The fundamental objective of human life is to evolve self to a pinnacle of growth and this is possible only when we know our personal aspirations, needs and desires with utmost clarity. Choosing what to pursue and what to leave can be most effective only when one knows what matters most in life.