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Make the Impossible, Possible!

Happiness Challenge / September 13, 2019

Have you ever looked at someone who accomplished something incredibly difficult like climbing a mountain peak and wondered - where do they get such will power from?!!

Not all of us may want to climb mountain peaks or run marathons. However, we all wish to expand and grow through accomplishing challenging and difficult goals.

There is only one way to do so - becoming disciplined in our daily pursuit of goals. When we lack discipline to follow through on small steps towards our larger goals, those goals eventually start seeming unreachable. We compromise, setting ourselves up for the possibility of future regret. Think carefully - twenty years from now do you really want to be thinking, "I wish I had tried harder?"

"The great danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark." –Michelangelo

Trying hard to accomplish goals requires will power and self-control. It requires forcing yourself against the whims of the mind to do what is necessary for long term happiness. 

Self-control, therefore, is a mental strength. One needs to systematically subdue the urge for short term pleasure derived from a destructive habit pattern. This can be exhausting for the mind if done daily! For example, if you want to setup a morning exercise routine, you will need self-control to resist the urge to get back under the covers when the alarm clock wakes you!

Is there perhaps a happier way to build this self-control instead of forcing yourself in vain? 

Turns out there is! Meditation is an easy, blissful way of developing will power and self-control.

In this video Swamiji explains how meditation can be used to harness the greatest power on earth to achieve the impossible- the power of the mind! 

Podcast - Self Control and Will Power Through Meditation

Video Transcript - Self Control and Will Power Through Meditation

It is said good ideas are a dime a dozen, but they are not worth of a broken nickel until you implement them. We may have the knowledge of all the libraries of the world in our head, but if we don’t utilize it, that knowledge is really no help to us. So the gap between knowledge and its implementation is bridged by one word called discipline.

Today on day seventeen of this happiness challenge, let us ponder over the importance of discipline and self-control in our lives.

In the 1950s a researcher in Stanford called Walter Mischel, did an experiment to study the self-control of four-year old toddlers. His experiment was ingenious. He would leave the child in a room by itself with a sweet in front. Having told the child, “If you like, you can enjoy this sweet, but if you hold on for 20 minutes, I will come back, take this away and give you two sweets instead.” For some of them it was a no-brainer. There is a sweet, it is the source of pleasure, there is nothing to think about, eat it. Some children held on for two minutes, but then succumbed and ate it. Some children held on for seven to eight minutes. And some children continued holding on for the full 20 minutes and were rewarded with two sweets.

Many years later, the study was continued to find out how the children had been performing in life. Some very interesting facts came out. It was discovered that the children with maximum self-control, they were excelling in studies as well. They had better physique, they were not plump, they were better at interpersonal relationships because they could control their emotions and their moods. They were having a less disrupted marriage or lost jobs, and practically no criminal conviction.

On the other hand, the children who were at the lowest end of the spectrum, without self-control, had been getting into all kinds of problems. They were dropping out of their college, they were loosing jobs, they were having broken marriages, and many of them had repeatedly visited the prison as well. This led to the interesting observation that one important factor that correlates to success in every field of human endeavor is self-control, discipline, based on the virtue of willpower.

Social researchers further analyzed this and they discovered that proficiency in any field of human activity is directly correlated to two virtues of the personality. One is the intellect and the second is the willpower. Now intellect is somewhat innate, there is not so much one can do to expand it. But willpower is something that is very much in our hands. And this is also the attribute that is maximum tested in modern times. Because our ancestors, a few centuries ago, did not have as many willpower tests as we do. Today you may be working in your office on the dreary task of preparing the memo for your boss, but at the mere click of a mouse, you can take your mind away to surf the internet. So in the days of social media, Internet, video games and television channels, the challenges to willpower have multiplied greatly.

Now, as grown ups what can we do to enhance our willpower? Fortunately for us, willpower to grow with exercise, like the muscles do. For example, if you engage in typing, the portions of the brain required for trying keep on adding the grey matter. Similarly, this willpower comes from the prefrontal cortex of the brain, and the more you exercise it the more it develops. Thus, willpower too can be enhanced with exercise, and the best exercise for enhancement of our self-control is meditation.

Meditation entails avoiding distracting thoughts though they may be pleasurable, keeping our focus on the object of meditation, though it may be painful. Studies have revealed that in a three-hour meditation session the functioning of the brain changes and in eleven hours of meditation the brain activity transforms completely.

So utilize this tool and grow in your self-control and willpower to increase your proficiency in all fields of human activity. If you are not already meditating, let today be the day when you launch yourself on this wonderful journey. And even after that if you find that your willpower is still insufficient, I will give you another tool tomorrow, which is the power of habits.

Thank you!