We all would agree that in order to give some structure to our life, we must have goals and priorities. Goals and planning can be as long-term as retirement goals for someone who is just entering the workforce, to as short-term as “what do I want to eat for my next meal?” Then, in order to achieve that goal, we need to prioritize our tasks and finally act. Without these three necessary aspects – goal, priority, action – our life would be very chaotic, confusing and unproductive.
A common force which supports all three tenets is “clear thinking.”
Since thoughts are creations of the mind, clear thinking comes from a clear mind. An analogy we frequently hear in discourses is that one cannot see one’s face in muddy, disturbed water. If the water is still, the mud settles at the bottom and we can see a clear reflection. In essence, just as still water is clear water, a still and motionless mind brings about clarity to our thinking process.
Lack of clear thinking causes us to react to one situation after another, creating more pain and suffering. Sardar Bahadur Jagat Singh Ji points out:
Why do we lose our temper? Because we do not reflect. Why do people fall prey to the attack of lust? Because they do not think. Why do people commit suicide at the loss of property or wealth? Because they do not think. Vichar, clear thinking, is 90 percent abhyas (practice). Clear thinking is a blessing. It can easily be attained by a little practice.1
He is essentially stating that clear thinking, like any other skill, can be learned by practice! So we need to have absolute clarity at each step of the above-mentioned life structure, as to:
- What is our goal in life?
- How do we prioritize in order to always keep it in focus (or) not lose sight of it, while attending to other obligations and responsibilities (keep a balance)?
- How do we execute it (take action)?
Goal: Some believers of destiny might argue – out of complacency – that if everything is predestined, then why must we have a goal or even take any action? However, on a practical level, we do – and must – have a life purpose in order to give meaning to life and to have some sense of a secure future – regardless of its unpredictability.
The common underlying goal or purpose of life is to achieve happiness. We may adopt different means to that end. Clarity of thought comes into play here because we must strive to seek what brings everlasting happiness, rather than short-lived bursts of pleasure. Saints tell us from their experience that permanent happiness comes from searching for and realizing our true Self, which is the essence of the Divine, and ultimately merging in our Source.
Priorities: Life is full of distractions. Once we have clearly defined our goal, the next challenge is to always keep it in focus and build our routine around working towards it. There will be many storms in this life. The goal becomes our anchor. Life’s necessary obligations and responsibilities must be tended to, and amidst all the squalls, we can’t lose sight of our goal. The path of self-realization is also called the path of the valiant for this very reason. In a battle, there is chaos, commotion, pandemonium, and so forth, but a brave soldier is one who is focused on his duty.
Action: Without acting upon what we have set out to achieve, theoretical goal-setting and priorities become meaningless. Taking Sardar Bahadur Ji’s advice, let us practise clear thinking by trying to still our mind. It is by action that we have created our destiny. It is by action that we can create a future. There is very little that we can control in life and in this world, but we can control how we handle the situations we encounter. A positive action born of clear thinking is like a seed that can become a giant tree of positivity, for us and for those around us.
As the saying goes, “I am not what happens to me; I am what I choose to become.”
- Science of the Soul, p. 189, #18.