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Prophylactic thinking in life, will power and growth

In chess, usually we tend to think about our own moves and plans. What will be my next move? How do I improve my position..etc. But it is also very important to think about what our opponent wants. 

What is his plan? What does his last move suggest? 

This method of thinking allows us to look deeply into our opponents intentions and take measures to restrict them. This is defined as prophylactic thinking in chess. It is a very important method to take right decisions in chess.

Prophylactic thinking in life

I was thinking about how we can apply prophylactic thinking in life. We don’t have opponents in life, but we have habits. Habit is something that works automatically, without the need of attention.

We are sometimes too busy making our own plans and next moves. But there are also some plans that we need to stop in order to maintain a strong position. Our plans may be fantastic and we may work really hard. We also start getting some good results. But soon we find ourselves being dragged back by just one or two inappropriate habits.

These habits are fundamentals. They are deeply rooted in us. We have rarely given attention to them let alone thought about taking measures against them.

So, It is worth looking at your habits, beliefs, thought patterns and asking,

  • What do my habits want me to do? Is it good for my health, career and my growth? Where are they taking me?
  • Where will I end up if I do nothing about my habits and thought patterns?
  • Can I identify some of my automatic behavior which has let me down many times?

You may find that there are some things which must be stopped for you to make a break-through.


To give more weight and meaning to this idea, you can start thinking about ‘consequences’. Even a small unhealthy behavior repeated everyday for years can lead to a huge health problems.

For example,

  • lack of concentration in work automatically leads to more and more distracted mind. It leads to lower self-esteem and lack of depth in our work.
  • sitting in wrong posture everyday for years will obviously lead to permanent health problems with back and neck.
  • A mindset of regular complaining and whining about small things will keep growing over the years to reach the level of insanity.

These are very small things, but unless they are actively resisted, they will automatically grow over long term. Thinking about such long term consequences, you will realize the need to stop them!

Now that you have used prophylactic thinking to understand consequences of your habits, it is time to resist them.

Will power and Growth

Change is going to be painful. You cannot change anything within your comfort zone. Change requires will power. The power to resist all temptations which want to drag you back.

“self-restraint is a manifestation of greater power than all
outgoing action. A carriage with four horses may rush down a hill
unrestrained, or the coachman may curb the horses. Which is the
greater manifestation of power, to let them go or to hold them?”

Swami Vivekananda

Will power is the ability that we rarely use these days. Normally, our life is so comfortable that we don’t think about breaking that comfort. And yet, growth demands that we break free from comfort.

Growth demands that we take pain. It wants us to take more pain today than yesterday. It demands us to watch our minds which scream to go back to the natural tendencies. Growth demands will-power and decisive, bold actions.

Beyond Comfort

So why would we convince ourselves to take pain willingly? Why would we not rather stay in comfort? Why do we need to grow?

A thought of remaining in comfort comes out of selfishness. Thinking only about ‘me’ and ‘myself’ is what keeps us in comfort. Search for pleasure, comfort and happiness is only there in the narrow world of ego, a little imagined ‘self’.

On the other hand, being unselfish doesn’t mean that you start thinking totally about a better world.

‘Unselfishness’ is not about making others happy. It simply means to forget your little ‘self’. To give up your temporary pleasures and happiness. Because only that surrender will open up a new way of doing things. Only the sacrifice of the little ego ‘self’ will make you want to grow, to take pain and to rise beyond imagination.

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