n preparing the 'expression of interest' application to become the proprietor of a cafe and POM shop I have been reminded of some wise advice from Master Shantideva related to achieving any goal in life.
Master Sharntideva was an 8th Century Indian Buddhist monk and author of the 'Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life', (A text on how to live a good life).This ancient truth is as relevant today as it was, way back then.
The particular verses that I have found helpful are from Chapter 7, which is on Joyful Effort or Enthusiasm. The verses are.......
Before beginning (any task) take stock of your resources and then decide whether to undertake a project or not. It is better not to begin at all, than quit something you have started
This habit (of not doing what you say you will) extends into future lives. And because of this vice one's suffering increases. Another timely opportunity to act is wasted and what needs to be done is left unaccomplished
These are two verses are for anyone who wants to accomplish any goal in life. They also present a method to build up enthusiasm, self-esteem and healthy pride.
Let's look at Verse 47 first. Firstly, Master Shantideva is reminding us to consider our resources before committing to a particular project.
In this consideration it is helpful to .......
1. Decide if the project or commitment is important to do
2. Consider your resources. Resources like time, money, skills, or support
3. Decide if it is realistic and possible to do
4. Then, if it is possible - do it!, Come hell or high water!
Now with regard to the 'hell or high water' - sometimes unforeseen things happen and despite our best efforts or intentions things prevent us from keeping our commitments. Like when the other day I was late for my mother after committing to be on time. I had allowed enough time (though plenty of times in the past I have not!) but there was an accident on the freeway which made me late!
In the second part of this verse he reminds us it is better not to start something that to quit after having started. This requires us to....
1. Consider the above 4 steps before we commit
2. Set realistic goals
If we set our expectations too high we are setting ourselves up to fail. We feel bad and our self esteem suffers when we constantly fail to meet unrealistic goals, or high expectations. So that is why it is better not to have started.
Conversely if we set realistic goals and achieve them we can feel good with a healthy sense of self-esteem and pride in our achievements. We also feel enthusiastic about continuing to set and achieve realistic goals.
This consideration of resources in setting realistic goals also avoids the bad habit which is mentioned in Verse 48 - the habit of not doing what you say you will. Master Shantideva reminds us this unhelpful habit causes us to suffer. We see ourselves make commitments both to others and ourselves, we can't or don't intend to keep and we feel bad. As we have discussed this type of behaviour erodes our self esteem. Fortunately these unhelpful habit can be changed.
When he talks of this extending into future lives, as I am unsure of my belief in future lives, I like to consider the many lives I have had this life. I have had lives as a child, teenager, adult, parent and middle aged person. I carry this unhelpful habit with me throughout all these 'lives'. So time to make my words, both to myself and others, count! And to remember to keep the promises I make to myself and to others.
If in the past you have failed to keep a commitment or lacked perseverance to achieve a particular goal, due to your own lack of understanding or unforeseen circumstances, or you have said 'lets catch up' with no intention of doing so, don't go into guilt mode, but rather take on Master Shartideva's advice and do a better best next time.
So wether it is setting a goal to exercise, keep you promises to yourself and others, get to tap dancing each week or take on a particular project like running a cafe, remember to....
1. Decide if the goal/commitment is what you want, truthful and realistic (maybe running 5k every day is a bit unrealistic, but a 15 minute run around the block 3 times a week is achievable)
2. Check your resources - (do I have the time, runners, stamina and can I still run?)
3. Commit to do it (except of course when unforeseen circumstances prevent it - reset and get back to it)
4. Rejoice in achieving every goal, no matter how small
So I am preparing the application with Master Shantideva's wise advice and lots of kind help from friends. And then I am going to trust that, if it is meant to be, it will be! And if I commit to it I will do my best to follow it through.
I am very grateful to you all for sharing with me.
Have a great fortnight! Gratitude, Kind Regards and Best Wishes,