By Mahatma das
Since the new year is around the corner, it’s natural to talk about new year’s resolutions. You might be thinking about doing something you’ve put off or making some changes for the new year. You might even be making the same resolutions you made last year at this time. Or maybe you just don’t make them anymore because you never follow through on them anyway.
Do You Just Want It or Are You Committed to Get It?
Srila Prabhupada cites Dhruva Maharaja as a perfect example of determination. He says that we should be as determined to be Krsna conscious as Dhruva was to see Krsna. Dhurva was willing to undergo any austerity to see Krsna. We learn from this that there’s a big difference between wanting something and being committed to achieving it. This is the difference between determination in the mode of ignorance and determination in the mode of goodness. In the mode of ignorance determination doesn’t get past the dreaming stage. In the mode of goodness determination is unbreakable and sustained by constant self control.
Have you ever thought it would be nice to achieve something – but then not do much about it? If you have, you probably didn’t achieve it. However, have you ever committed yourself to achieving something no matter what the cost? If you have, it’s likely you succeeded. So if you make a new year’s resolution and are not committed to achieving it, there’s a really good chance you won’t follow though.
There can be many reasons why you wouldn’t commit, but one of the most common is to think you can’t do it. We often tend to minimize our own abilities and thus see many of our goals as difficult or impossible to achieve. Yet it’s more often the case that we are qualified to do it and either we haven’t tried hard enough or we simply haven’t learned how to do it (BTW, successful people as a class are not super talented and don’t have super high IQ’s).
Although there may be many obstacles on the path of the sincere devotee who is preaching the glories of the Lord, such obstacles increase the determination of the devotee. Therefore, according to Srila Jiva Goswami , the continuous obstacles presented by the demigods form a kind of ladder or stairway upon which the devotee steadily progresses back to the kingdom of God.
One of the common factors among very successful people is that they all had tremendous obstacles to overcome. It was the problems they had to overcome that drove them to greater and greater heights.
In 1982 I went to Johannesburg, South Africa to be the temple president. When I first arrived I quickly learned that things had not been going well. It was a constant uphill battle just to keep things from falling apart. After some time I was finding it difficult to maintain my enthusiasm. One devotee suggested that it would be beneficial for me to read the Prabhupada lilamrita. As I read about all the struggles that Prabhupada faced in establishing, maintaining and pushing on Iskcon, I understood that if I allowed myself to become deterred by obstacles I would never be able to achieve anything significant. I then felt strongly that Krsna had put Prabhupada through so many difficulties in order that we have his example before us. Prabhupada faced the greatest challenges. And these challenges simply made him more determined.
How do you react when you are faced with repetitive challenges?
“Walking on the Head of the Obstacle”
In the previous chapter it was explained that although the demigods place obstacles in the path of the Lord’s devotees, by the mercy of the Supreme Lord the devotees are able to place their feet on the head of such obstacles and thus pass beyond them to the supreme destination.
You can tell the caliber of people by the amount of opposition it takes to discourage them. Obstacles will look large or small to you according to whether you are large or small. Did you know that legal immigrants – most of whom have fewer advantages over native-born Americans – are four times more likely to become millionaires? Therefore, we shouldn’t pray that Krsna put smaller obstacles in our way, but we should pray that he give us the strength to overcome the obstacles.
When Prabhupada told devotees how to deal with their problems (which was always to be more Krsna conscious), he would often say, “What is the difficulty?” He meant Krsna consciousness is the easily available solution and the only difficulty is not taking this solution.
“Change Doesn’t Come Easy”
Following through on a resolution usually entails making a change – and change is not always easy. If we don’t like something, we want to change it. The problem is we desire change for everyone other than ourselves! Changing ourselves often entails changing long standing habits, and that can be difficult. Did you know that when Columbus set sail for new lands most people thought the world was flat and that he was going to fall off the end of the planet? Of course that didn’t happen, proving that the world wasn’t really flat. Yet people were so resistant to change that most everyone kept on believing the world was flat while the younger generation was being taught in school that the world is round.
“From the Inside Out”
Unless you make a change within it’s unlikely that you will make a change without. One of the difficulties we face in changing is that we cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are. When you want something you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.
“Act like the person you want to become. Before you can do something, you first must be something.” (Goethe)
That can be scary. We tend to cling to what we know, even if we are not satisfied with it. Fear holds us back. Yet the only way to overcome the fear is to go out and do the very thing we are afraid of doing.
If you make new year’s resolutions, realize that you probably desire improvement – yet at the same time resist change. The problem is you cannot get one without having the other. The reality is that change is possible only if you want it bad enough. You are the way you are because that’s the way you want to be. If you really wanted to be any different you would be in the process of changing right now.
One of the most important things to understand is that committing to change is not a one time affair. You must commit continually. I think a lot of us make the mistake of thinking we have committed to something when what we did was make a decision to change or commit, but not a decision to commit daily.
“Focus on Solutions”
If you make a resolution and have trouble following through and then start to become discouraged, you can do one of two things – and the one you choose will color your perspective. You can look to place the blame or you can look at yourself to discover your opportunities. The choice is yours. Life is usually 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it. So think what you can do, not what you can’t do. The more you hit roadblocks, the more you need to devise ways to get around them. Keep trying if something doesn’t work.The more you think about solutions, the more solutions you’ll come up with (dadami buddhi yogam tam).
Success is really just the ability to solve problems. Overcoming an obstacle is simply solving a problem. Every person has to face obstacles, make changes, and deal with problems. Successful people are just better than the average person at dealing with the same kinds of problems you and I face everyday.
So if you are dealing with difficult problems, imagine yourself sitting in front of Srila Prabhupada as he instructs you to be more determined to follow Krsna consciousness and then asks you, “What is the difficulty?” That one question can make the biggest problems appear insignificant.
Here are some questions to answer that will help you move forward.
1) What specifically is holding you back from making or following through on a resolution?
2) What must you do to overcome what’s holding you back?
3) Which of these will you pursue, what will you do, and when (write down on your a calendar or daytimer what you will do and when you will do it)?
4) If you don’t get anywhere, go back to question one.