Image by Arek Socha
How Do You Discover Your Mission In Life? You won't find it by standing still. What's important is that you challenge yourself in something, it doesn't matter what. Then by making consistent effort, the direction you should take will open up before you naturally. It's important, therefore, to have the courage to ask yourself what you should be doing now, this very moment.
The key, in other words, is to climb the mountain that is right before you. As you ascend its slopes, you will develop your muscles, increasing your strength and endurance. Such training will enable you to challenge still higher mountains. It is vital that you continue making such efforts.
Climb the mountain in front of you. When you reach the summit, wide new horizons will stretch out before you. Little by little, you will understand your mission.
Those who remember they have a unique mission are the strong ones. Whatever their problems, they will never be defeated. They can transform all of their problems into catalysts for growth toward a hope-filled future.
Life is about scaling one mountain, then facing the next one, followed by the one after that. Those who persevere and finally succeed in conquering the highest mountain are victors in life. On the other hand, those who avoid such challenges and take the easy route, descending into the valleys, will end in defeat. To put it simply, we have two choices in life: We can either climb the mountain before us or descend into the valley.
Everyone has some kind of gift. Being talented doesn't just mean being a good musician, writer or athlete -- there are many kinds of talent. For instance, you may be a great conversationalist or make friends easily or put others at ease. Or you may have a gift for nursing, a knack for telling jokes, selling things or economizing. You may be always punctual, patient, reliable, kind or optimistic. You may love new challenges or be strongly committed to peace or to bringing joy to others.
As Nichiren taught, each of us is as unique as a cherry blossom, plum blossom, peach blossom or damson blossom. Each blossom is distinctly wondrous; accordingly, each blooms in the way that only it can.
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Without a doubt each person has an innate talent. The question is: How do you discover that talent? The only way is to exert yourself to the limit in whatever is before you. Your true potential will emerge when you give everything you've got to your studies, sports, extracurricular activities or whatever you are engaged in.
The important thing is that you get into the habit of challenging yourself to the limit. In a sense, the results you get are not so important. The actual grades you receive in high school, for instance, won't decide the rest of your life. But the habit of pushing yourself to the limit will in time bear fruit. It will distinguish you from others without fail. It will bring your unique talent to shine.
THE RIGHT JOB
What should I look for when trying to find the right job?
Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, the first president of the Soka Gakkai, taught that there are three kinds of value: beauty, benefit and good. In the working world, to find a job you like corresponds to the value of beauty; to get a job that earns a salary that can support your daily life corresponds to the value of benefit; and the value of good means finding a job that helps others and contributes to society.
Not many can find the perfect job from the start. Some may have a job they like, but it doesn't put food on the table; or their job may pay well, but they hate it. That's the way things go sometimes. Also, some discover that they're just not cut out for the career they had dreamed of.
My mentor, Josei Toda, emphasized the importance of first becoming indispensable wherever you are. Instead of moaning that a job falls short of what you'd like to be doing, he said, become a first-class individual at that job. This will open the path leading to your next phase in life, during which you should also continue doing your best. Such continuous efforts are guaranteed to land you a job that you like, that supports your life, and that allows you to contribute to society.
Then, when you look back later, you will see how all your past efforts have become precious assets in your ideal field. You will realize that none of your efforts and hardships have been wasted.
What if you start following one dream but have a change of heart and want to pursue a different path? That's perfectly all right. Few people end up doing what they planned or dreamed of doing in the beginning. In my case, I wanted to be a newspaper reporter, but my poor health prevented me from pursuing that profession. Today, however, I have become a writer.
At one point, I worked for a small publishing company. Because of its small staff, I had to work very hard -- but, because of that, I gained a great deal of practical experience.
After the war, I worked for another small operation, but what I went through on that job gave me a chance to really look at myself. Everything I learned back then is of value to my life now. The important thing is to develop yourself in your present situation and to take control of your growth. Once you have decided on a job, I hope you will not be the kind of person who quits at the drop of a hat or is always insecure and complaining. Nevertheless, if after you've given it your all, you decide that your job isn't right for you and you move on, that's all right, too.
Taking your place as a member of society is a challenge; it is a struggle to survive. But wherever you are is exactly where you need to be, so strive there to the best of your ability.
A tree doesn't grow strong and tall within one or two days. In the same way, successful people didn't become successful in only a few years. This applies to everything.
Some view work as an unpleasant chore they must do to earn money to support their leisure activities. But in the words of a character from The Lower Depths, by Maxim Gorky: "When work is a pleasure, life is a joy' When work is a duty, life is slavery." Your attitude toward work -- even your college class work, which may take up the better part of your day -- decisively determines your quality of life.
A friend of mine, the late philosophy professor David Norton, once said:
Many students are caught up in the notion that the only purpose of employment is to earn money, that happiness means having money to gratify their desires. But since there is no limit to those desires, they can never truly be satisfied. Real happiness is found in work itself. Through work, one can develop (and fulfill oneself and bring forth the unique value that lies within -- and share that value with society. Work exists for the joy of creating value.
It is just as he says. A person's work should bring happiness to others. Life is truly wonderful when you're needed somewhere. How boring and empty life would be if just because we had the means, all we did every day was pursue idle diversions.
Especially for young people, it's important not to be overly concerned with salary. Along with doing your best where you are, it is best to have the spirit, "I'll do more than I'm paid for!" This is how you can train yourself.
To slack off at work just because the salary isn't generous is foolish. To receive a salary -- anything earned through honest labor -- is precious, regardless of the amount.
Of course, it is satisfying to receive a good salary, but $100 earned through one's hard work and efforts is a golden treasure -- whereas stealing that same $100 or acquiring it through other illicit means has no more value than dung or rubble. Stolen or extorted money is dirty. It will not bring happiness. As the saying goes, "Ill gotten, ill spent." Influential government officials who once enjoyed great prestige but who have been caught accepting bribes must live the rest of their lives labeled as criminals.
Ultimately, the greatest happiness is found in applying yourself with confidence and wisdom in your workplace as an exemplary member of society, working hard to achieve a fulfilling life and the well-being of your family. Those who do so are victors in life.
WORKING FOR A CAUSE
Is working for a good cause better than just having some job? Aspiring to devote yourself to a humane cause, to uphold human rights and act on your desire to work for the happiness and welfare of others, is a truly laudable ambition.
In no way does that mean, however, that you cannot contribute to peace and to the betterment of society unless you are in some special profession or organization. While I highly commend anyone who works for a charity or becomes a volunteer worker, there are many people striving for peace in their own humble specialties.
I have met many such people, like Rosa Parks, the mother of the American civil rights movement, who was working as a department store tailor's assistant when she became the catalyst for the famous bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955; and Argentina's Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, a sculptor and architect, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his activities to protect human rights.
The main thing is to be proud of the work you do, to live true to yourself. Activity is another name for happiness. What's important is that you give free, unfettered play to your unique talents, that you live with the full radiance of your being. This is what it means to be truly alive.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Middleway Press. ©2002.
The Way of Youth: Buddhist Common Sense for Handling Life's Questions
by Daisaku Ikeda.
Daisaku Ikeda, who offers spiritual leadership to 12 million Soka Gakkai Buddhists throughout the world, responds to the complicated issues facing American young people in a straightforward question-and-answer format. He addresses topics that include building individual character, the purpose of hard work and perseverance, family and relationships, tolerance, and preservation of the environment. Written from a Buddhist perspective, this collection of answers to life’s questions offers timeless wisdom to people of all faiths.
Click here for more info and/or to order this book. Also available as a Kindle edition.
About the Author
DAISAKU IKEDA is president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI). With 12 million members in 177 countries, the SGI promotes education, international cultural exchange and the establishment of world peace. A peace activist, Mr. Ikeda has traveled to more than 50 countries conducting dialogue with political and intellectual leaders and received the United Nations Peace Award in 1983. He has written more than 200 books in Japan, many of which have been translated into several foreign languages, including The Way of Youth; For the Sake of Peace; Soka Education; The Living Buddha; Unlocking the Mysteries of Birth and Death; Choose Life (a dialogue with Arnold Toynbee) and A Lifelong Quest for Peace (a dialogue with Linus Pauling). He's also the author of numerous children's books and books of poetry. To see some of his books, click here.