Noted fashion designer Tarun Tahiliani asks yogi and mystic, Sadhguru, about the significance of aiming high and doing what matters. Sadhguru looks at how the social milieu and education system discourage one from aspiring for what matters most, and instead encourages them to settle for the easy.

Tarun Tahiliani: I was watching your conversation with Shekhar Kapur, and he said about the brahmacharis that they have such incredible energy. Everyone’s threshold is different, so how does one achieve the balance between aspiring for things and aiming high, and being connected to what makes us feel good and happy?

Sadhguru: It is a question of choice and of doing what matters to you. For example tomorrow, I am going on a trek in Tibet. When I do this 120km-trek, the legs will hurt; the bathrooms are bad; we sleep outdoors in all kinds of weather. I could be sleeping in a nice bed, comfortably tucked up, and eat well instead of eating half-cooked camp food. This is not a sacrifice – it’s a choice. Everyone has to make their choice in terms of doing what matters to them most. Today, a lot of children are choosing what’s easy, not what they want to do. What you want may not necessarily be easy. If you choose what is easy, it means you don’t want to live. The next level of ease is sleep. The ultimate level of ease is death.

Aiming high: Everyone is capable of great things

Life is not about difficulty. Whether you experience something as difficult or easy simply depends on how much it matters to you. If something really matters to you, it does not matter how much it hurts, you still want to do it. Trekking in the mountains up there, everything is going to hurt, but if you look up at the peaks and the sky, nothing else matters, even if the legs fall off. Everyone has to choose. You said everyone’s threshold is different – I don’t believe that. Everyone is capable of doing great things, but the society and the families around them are culturing them to do things that are easily achievable. Their idea of achievement is just being one step ahead of a lame person. This is not success. This is sadistic nonsense. The whole idea of wanting to be better than someone else is a very pathetic way to exist.

Tarun Tahiliani: But our entire education is such that you are always marked against others – either you are in front of or behind someone else.

Sadhguru: When I was in school, I never ever opened the report card. I just took it and gave it to my father, because I thought this is a transaction between my teacher and my father. I had no business in this. Anyway I knew I had the most valuable number inside because I always gave empty papers.

Stretching to the limits

Right from childhood, people are being conditioned to believe that they have to be better than someone else rather than finding fulfillment to who they are. If you look at a mango tree and a coconut tree, and your idea of being better is being tall, then what you will do with the mango tree is you chop off all the branches except the highest one, hoping that it will grow. It is never going to be a coconut tree – it is only going to be a crippled mango tree. This is what has happened to most human beings. They have become crippled because they are trying to be better than someone else. What is the purpose of an education system like this?

This education system has been evolved at the time of industrialization. When industrialization was happening, their idea of education was to produce cogs in a larger machine. True human genius will not flower if this kind of education happens. When you are trying to race with someone, you will think only one step ahead of them. That’s all. You are not thinking of what is your ultimate potential. True human capabilities will find expression only in absolute relaxation. Only when a human being is in extended periods of joyfulness and blissfulness will he stretch himself to the limits and do what he could do to the fullest.

Editor’s Note: Sadhguru offers Isha Kriya, a free, online guided meditation that helps bring health and wellbeing. Daily practice of this simple yet effective 12-minute process can transform one’s life.

For more insights from Sadhguru, follow him on twitter and facebook.

This article is based on an excerpt from the December 2013 issue of Forest Flower. Pay what you want and download. (set ‘0’ for free). Print subscriptions are also available.