Parth looked at Gopal intently, “Gopal, what do you think I need to do to have a happy life? Because I am anything but happy. Malini and children are unhappy with me, my boss is never happy with me, my finances are dodgy as usual and now even my health is going haywire. How do I make things go my way?
Gopal looked sympathetically at him and said, “By making better choices Parth.”
“What do you mean?” asked Parth.
“I believe, we are nothing but a net result of our choices. Our each day is filled with choices. Some are big ones like who we marry, what profession we are in, how well we manage our finances, or where we decide to live; most are smaller but not necessarily less impactful, such as our lifestyle choices: what and how much we eat/drink/smoke, how much we exercise, what we spend time on, who we hang out with. Even an act of making your to-do list or calendaring is nothing but choosing what to give time and attention to. Each decision is a choice. Every action is a choice. Even every inaction is a choice. And every choice has consequences - every decision, every action, every inaction and even every intention and thought. Slowly but surely they all add up. This karma of choices creates our consequent reality. We make the choices and eventually the choices make us. Ergo, we are a net result of our choices.”
Parth gazed blankly at the wall, trying to take it all in and to connect it with his reality and his choices. Gopal did not rush in to fill the silence, but waited for Parth to respond, “So you think my bad health is a result of my choices. And my finances, my relationships, my career, my marriage. Everything!! Don’t you think I am smarter than that?”
Gopal explained, “A large majority of our choices are unconscious. And even the ones we believe are our conscious choices are actually governed by our sub-conscious and unconscious patterns. For example, the decision to attend a office meeting versus watching your child perform at a school function or vice versa is based on how you rank the values in that context – doing the task well or deepening the family bonds. How you rank the values depends on the beliefs buried deep inside you about your roles of a father, of a provider and of a professional. This applies to all decisions, big and small.”
“What do you mean by the sub-conscious and the unconscious? How does that work?” asked Parth
“Remember the iceberg?” Gopal continued “We were taught that only about 10% of an iceberg is above the water and the rest invisible under the waterline. That’s how human personality is, Parth. The visible 10% is our actions and behaviours – what others can see; and what’s not visible is a complex web of value rankings, motives, beliefs, impressions, desires, and fears. And if you believe in the karmic theory, add a healthy dose of prarabdha (the karma you are meant to void in this present life) as well, along with sanskara (conditioning), gunas (primodial qualities) and the vasanas (inclinations). This 90% determines our choices and actions. So when you reach out for chips instead of a fruit for a snack, when you spend your entire bonus on a new gadget or a holiday instead of putting it in your savings, when you prefer beer and TV to a family activity on a Sunday you are not necessarily making a conscious choice. Your unconscious is driving it. You, of course, do a good job of rationalising it."
Parth leaned back and said, “Gosh! Then what can one do? They control my life? If I’m not even conscious of them, how am I supposed to make any changes?”
Gopal took a deep breath and looking directly at him and said, “Foremost, Parth, you have to take responsibility for your circumstances. The primary cause of their existence is you and choices you have made;both conscious and unconscious. If you keep feeling and thinking you are a victim you will remain one. Unless you develop your ability to choose, you will continue to create similar circumstances in your life.”
Parth asked, “What about things outside my control, like the government, the state of the economy, my company’s performance, other people? What about luck and fate?”
Gopal explained,“I agree, Parth, that you do not control everything and things will happen to you. But you can choose how you respond to them. And that’s the real game. Do you choose consciously or unconsciously? To reach a better place we need to make more conscious choices and to do that we need to understand how those choices are getting made. This means, becoming more aware of our unconscious - what’s driving me, how am I making these choices, what beliefs are at work, what fears are lying buried deep down, basically, getting to the bottom of our iceberg. And this can happen by making the unconscious conscious; by becoming aware.
“And how does one do that?”
“This journey from unawareness to awareness is a lifelong one and it is not an easy journey. It needs intent and willpower and committed inner work, which means the willingness to become aware of your feelings and thoughts. People who are spiritual say that this is the very purpose of spirituality. One will need to use every opportunity to learn so that awareness continuously increases as also the quality of our decisions. Many need a guru or a life coach but many read, reflect, learn and grow by giving it time and attention. It’s your choice, Parth, your choice.
“What if I were to choose you to be my guide on this journey, Gopal?”
“Then I too will need to make a conscious choice, my friend,” Gopal, guffawed and shook his hand.
A few months later Gopal was happy to see Parth walk into his room - cheerful, confident, fitter and seemingly more content. He was clearly making better choices.