(An alternative view on excellence in work in the light of Yogic Psychology)
We all say or think that we have to work with passion, which is now accepted universally as the source of highest motivation and excellence in work. But is this the only right attitude to work? Is it necessary that we always have to be passionate about our work in order to excel? Can the work be done with a deep calm, with equal or even better results? Let us examine these questions in the light of yogic psychology.
What is precisely the nature of this ‘passion’ in work? What we call passion is actually some form of emotional involvement and attachment to work reinforced or magnified by egocentric self-appreciation of our work and its achievement. A certain amount of emotional involvement in work in the form of a liking or loving the work we are doing and feeling a joy in it is indispensable for intrinsic motivation and excellence in work. But if it degenerates into an intense emotional attachment or involvement with a bloated vanity and pride in our achievements, pouring excessive emotional energy into our work, then it leads to too much of avoidable wastage of vital energy. We must note here that our emotions are part of our vital energy, which is the source of all dynamism, efficiency, effectiveness and excellence in work and life; when our emotional energy is wasted in excessive passion, our efficiency and effectiveness in work suffers. In contrast, the yogic approach to work counsels the worker to maintain a certain inner detachment to work and its results or achievement, which brings calmness to the mind and the dynamic faculties of action in the vital. The emotional energies wasted in passion remain as vital energy and flow into the work, reducing its effectiveness. In the following passage Swami Vivekananda brings out this yogic approach to work:
“I have been asked many times how we can work if we do not have the passion which we generally feel for work. I also thought in that way years ago, but as I am growing older, getting more experience, I find it is not true. The less passion there is, the better we work. The calmer we are, the better for us, and the more the amount of work we can do. When we let loose our feelings, we waste so much energy, shatter our nerves, disturb our minds, and accomplish very little work. The energy which ought to have gone out as work is spent as mere feeling, which counts for nothing. It is only when the mind is very calm and collected that the whole of its energy is spent in doing good work. And if you read the lives of the great workers which the world has produced, you will find that they were wonderfully calm men. Nothing, as it were, could throw them off their balance. The man, who gives way to anger, or hatred, or any other passion, cannot work; he only breaks himself to pieces, and does nothing practical. It is the calm, forgiving, equable, well-balanced mind that does the greatest amount of work.” (Collected Works of Sri Vivekananda, Vol. 2, p.239)
This yogic approach to work, based on inner detachments and calm, has many other advantages over the passion-driven work. It is now recognized that to awaken the deeper creative layer of our consciousness, our surface mind has to be calm. But too much of passion and excitement disturbs the mind and prevents it from becoming receptive to the creative domains of our being. Secondly, work is not the whole of our life but only a part of it. Relationship with others is an equally important part of our life. When we invest most of our emotional energies in our work–life with a passionate attachment, this other relational aspect of our life, which requires as much or more emotional support, is deprived of it. Those who are passionately attached to their work tend to neglect their family or the relationships with their colleagues and co-workers become strained. Intensity of passion and attachment, when it meets criticism, obstacles or failures, can degenerate into violent feelings such as anger, resentment, hatred or heavy depression. On the other hand, when we are calm and detached it gives an inner poise to our emotional being which helps in maintaining harmonious relationship with others and equanimity under all circumstances. Someone whose mind and heart are calm and detached can understand better and love better than the other one who lives in the turmoil of his attachments and passions.
There is one more advantage of the Yogic approach. When we are inwardly calm and detached from our work and its results, it is easier to concentrate all our energies in the present, which is now regarded by all corporate and spiritual gurus as the source of highest efficiency in work. And finally, when we work from this yogic approach, we can take up or leave any work according to the changing needs, circumstances and situations of our outer life or inner guidance.
M. S. Srinivasan