Should you do something just because others are doing it?

The questions asked here are these:

  • Even if you are getting good results, should you do something just because others are doing it?
  • Does your reason behind the action matter more than the outcome?

These are very important questions because they deal with the most important element of life: work. Our work is not just something that we do. It is the way we express ourselves and go through life. At its highest state, work is devotion and a path to spiritual progress.

As I try to answer her questions, I also want to explore the deepest ideas related to our work and actions.

Motive and Intention

There is always some motive or intention behind what we do. Some people work to become rich, some work just to get through life, some work to become excellent at what they do…and so on. Even the most unselfish people work and meditate with the intention of liberation.

So there is always an intention or a motive behind whatever you do. It is very important because it is the guiding force that gives meaning to our actions.

So, should you do something just because others are doing it?

You should ask yourself a counter- question, what is your motive for doing it?

Doing something that others are doing is neither good nor bad. It is just an action. It is always great to take inspiration from good work of other people. But before you imitate them, you must make sure that it is congruent with your goals, life situation and overall desired life qualities.

Blind imitation is monkey business. Humans must know the intention behind their every action, even if it is imitating others.

I would ask myself these questions before I do what someone else is doing.

  • Does it resonate with my life goals, plans and situations?
  • Will those actions help me achieve my goals faster and more effectively? Is it a better way of getting what I want?
  • What are the benefits and drawbacks of those actions?

Only after carefully analyzing these questions, I would make a decision. This answers the questions that were posted in the beginning, but I want to get deeper into the nature of ‘work’.

An underlying state of mind

It is different from intention. An intention or motive is your reason for work. But when you are executing work, there is an underlying state of mind. It represents how attached you are with your work and its results. Let me explain it with a story:

“Buddhist teacher Sharon Salzberg tells a story about a terrifying encounter in Calcutta, when she was grabbed out of a rickshaw in a dark alley. Her teacher’s response when, still shaken, she later described the incident: β€œOh Sharon, with all the loving-kindness in your heart, you should have taken your umbrella and hit that man over the head with it!”

In our society, the action of violence is considered wrong and sinful. However, it is the underlying state of mind that matters more than action itself.

Action is neutral. The sin is not in the act of violence. it is in the state of mind that is filled with violence. There is no better example than the Bhagvad Geeta.

When Lord Krishna directs Arjun towards a war, he suggests him to keep his mind purged of all emotions and just fight the war. At that time, the act of killing was not a sin, but rather his duty.

These two examples emphasize the point that the underlying state of mind is what binds us with Karma. The action is just an action. It something that is done or not done, but the real change is made by the state of mind that works behind that action.

Detachment from results

‘Karmayoga’ is the science of using action (Karma) as a path to spiritual growth. The backbone of that is this verse from Bhagvad Geeta:

“To work we have the right, but not to the fruits thereof.”

Bhagvad Geeta

These simple words are very liberating. You have the right only over your work, the results of actions are not your right and not under your control. Therefore the way to be free from Karma is to just do your work and devote the fruits of Karma to the lord.

When we become detached from the expectations of results, we become free from our self interest and thus, we become free from the bondage of Karma.

When a child plays, he plays for the sake of playing. He is not bound by any Karma. When he grows up he learns the concept of winning and losing. Now when he plays, there is a constant wish to win. It is an impurity added to his Karma. Winning makes him happy, losing makes him sad and frustrated. Thus he gets bound by the Karma because of the expectations of the results.

“If you wish to help a man, never think what that man’s attitude should be towards you. If you want to do a great or a good work, do not trouble to think what the result will be.”

Swami Vivekananda- KarmaYoga

Unselfish work

If we are pursuing Karmayoga, our ultimate aim is to reach the state where we are completely unselfish about our work. Of course, it is not as easy as it sounds. Complete unselfishness is the path to knowledge.

“We may all hope that some day or other, as we struggle through the paths of life, there will come a time when we shall become perfectly
unselfish; and the moment we attain to that, all our powers will be
concentrated, and the knowledge which is ours will be manifest.”

Swami Vivekananda- KarmaYoga

I hope this post gave you good insights and helped you look at your work differently. Here are some questions to ask yourslef:

  • How do I look at my work? Is it just something I do or can it be something more?
  • What is the motive and intention behind my work? Am I just trying to make money or become successful? Or can it be something more?
  • What is my usual underlying state of mind when taking actions? How can I change it to become more mindful and compassionate?
  • How can I become more unselfish about my work?

Thank you for reading.

If you have something in mind that you would want me to write, check out this page.

Like, comment, follow and stay in touch! πŸ™‚

Featured image by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

37 thoughts on “Should you do something just because others are doing it?

Add yours

      1. This reminds me of a verse from Gita:
        Death in one’s own path, though imperfect, is better than the path of another followed perfectly.
        πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, Thank you for bringing this up!
        I was thinking of putting that verse in the post, but I thought that its meaning was very ambiguous and unclear in today’s time. At the time of Mahabharat, there were clearly just 4 casts, bhraman, vaishya, shudra and Kshatriya. So everyone knew clearly what they had to do. A Kshatriya would not follow a path of any other cast.. and so on.
        I think today it is very ambiguous to define what exactly is my path. Someone’s father may be a doctor, teacher, carpenter or a soldier. But the son or daughter doesn’t have to follow the same path. The choice of which path to follow is just huge!

        But nevertheless, this verse definitely still makes a lot of sense today. Whatever I choose as my path, I stay on it and do not try to follow someone else just for the sake of it!

        What are your thoughts on that?

        Thank you once again, it is good that you brought it up. Nice to have a discussion!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Great thoughts!
        However, the caste system is a new concept. The concept during Mahabharata was of Varna. As Lord Krishna says: I created the four varnas based on gunas, meaning our actions define our varna.
        For example, founder of nanda dynasty : Ugrasena, was born to a barber.

        The early texts mention that the child has to be initiated into any of the three varnas in a gurukul, and upon completion of education, he becomes a member of that varna. Those who don’t join gurukuls were shudras. Over time this system became rigid and became focussed on birth. Since today most of these rituals are not followed, we can simply decide our path and follow it.
        Many of the greatest brahmins were born to shudras.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Hey! Thank you for answering my questions! I have to say your answer satisfied me. However, I don’t agree with what you said about detachment from results. Often, it is only when we expect certain results that we start to work for it. That may sound like greed but the results do act as motivation sometimes. What do you say?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, results do act as a motivation, but that kind of thoughts bind us with our karma. Most of us work to get results.
      There are three kinds of qualities related to work.
      Tamasi- is the quality that represents laziness, ignorance and inactivity
      Rajas- is the quality where a person works to gain results, as you mentioned
      Satva- is a quality where a person works unselfishly only with the intention of gaining knowledge and spiritual growth.

      Satva is the highest form of work. Most of us work with the quality of Rajas, by expecting some results. When we get lazy and inactive, it is the tamasi quality becoming dominant in us.

      I am not saying that results don’t motivate us, but they also bind us with Karma. Detachment from results is the way to become free from the bondage of Karma.

      Also, detachment form results doesn’t mean less involvement. Our intention can do the same work of motivating us instead of ‘expectations of results’. That way, we can also be free from ‘greed’ as you said it.

      Thank you for reading πŸ™‚ I would appreciate if you share this on your blog. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Wow, the concept of Sayva seems very intriguing. But for that, I must find something that I feel passionate about. I guess life is, after all, just a path to self-discovery. Thank you for explaining things to me. I appreciate it.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Anisha! Yes, I try to write only that which I can explain with with the logic and good examples. I think just putting down my opinions would be useless and won’t help anyone. So I try my best to make it neutral πŸ™‚
      Thank you for reading, have a great day!

      Like

      1. I merely giving the impression of what’s happening with the karma of people. For example Now a days we can see a trend where students competing for better marks. Some make use of wrong motive to achieve their success. And younger students are imitating such kind of acts only because they need a survival and they want to fit into place.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes I think it is an issue that society is facing. It destroys creativity of young students because they start copying just to pass and move to next standard…But if parents are aware enough, they can help their children to be original..:)

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Your thoughts are hopeful and inspiring πŸ™‚ I always was on the notion that I alone cannot stop the issues society face, I came across many people like you. So that definitely will make a change…

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, inspiration is different from emulating others. Taking inspiration is important for any kind of work. But when you imitate someone just by looking at their results, it may not be the best way.

      Like

  2. A well written post with such wonderful meaning. We should think over things instead of hastily jumping to conclusions. We must not succumb to unnecessary peer pressure. Thanks for giving this insight to us!

    Stay safeπŸ€—

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I am glad you liked it! You are right. Response instead of reaction is what we need to achieve. We need to learn to use our own thinking to make decisions!
      You too stay safe! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

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