Stress is a natural corollary of success, power, position and prestige of 21st century life. And that fact helps to explain why so many people who are dynamic, successful, and prosperous have no peace of mind and no satisfaction, while others who are not dynamic and successful are relatively contented.

How to deal with this dichotomy–to achieve a harmonious balance between one’s professional and personal life and, thereby, inner peace–was the focus of a presentation by Angajan Madathumkandy at the Million Dollar Round Table’s annual meeting in Indianapolis in June.

“With all this success and glory, we still find ourselves struggling with an inner thirst for fulfillment and a hunger for personal congruency,” said Madathumkandy, the founder of the Vedanta Center for Management and Leadership, Tongaat Durban, South Africa. These problems can only be treated by one’s own journey through the process of self-analysis, by gaining the mastery over one’s own self. These external problems have internal solutions.

Standard of life vs. standard of living

Madathumkandy said there are two aspects to life: “standard of life” and “standard of living.” The first entails cultivating the human mind, the spiritual growth of an individual, turning introvert, and gaining self-mastery. The second represents the pursuit of money and the acquiring of material possessions, such as the amenities ones enjoys.

Most people, said Madathumkandy, focus on improving their standard of living and ignore their standard of life. They pay attention to living at the cost of life–sacrificing life for living. They sacrifice physical and mental health for wealth, and at the end of their lives they sacrifice wealth to protect their health.

Unless you develop your standard of life, he said, you cannot enjoy your standard of living and life will be filled with sorrow. Material objects alone cannot bring about satisfaction. Just as the mast and keel of a ship must be proportionate to one another in order for the ship to maintain balance, so also in life external success and inner development must be proportionate.

“People who chase external success before they gain self-mastery indeed achieve considerable worldly success, but eventually, even if they are young, they get burnt out with no more vigor left to pursue life’s aspirations,” said Madathumkandy. “One of the problems today is the obsession with finding pleasure in the external world and a false belief that material objects are the source of that pleasure. However, the abode of happiness is within.”

Most valuable asset, the most wasted resource

An individual’s productivity and success lie not only in the knowledge and experience of the outer world but also in the ability to manage one’s own self, that is, self-mastery, said Madathumkandy. An academic education, knowledge, and skills alone will not make one perform effectively. One may have adequate education, knowledge, and skills to manage one’s business or profession. Yet this work output suffers due to a lack of self-mastery. Self-management is the foundation of any kind of effective external management.

Give life to living people

Lack of self-mastery, said Madathumkandy, leads to stress, which in turn reduces efficiency and impedes clear reasoning, thinking, and creativity. Individuals and organizations need to be educated on the science of holistic self-development, as this will “give life to living people” and “make the human asset creatively brilliant.”

Such self-development, he added, will allow people to be more precise in their decision-making and enable them to better manage mental pressure. It will empower them with work ethics and sound value systems. And it will allow them to have the right mental disposition, nobler ambitions, a powerful motivation, team spirit, management abilities and leadership skills that are already inherent in them.

A life based on self-mastery, he added, makes one physically dynamic and healthy, emotionally mature and stable, intellectually sharp and penetrating, socially conscious and friendly, and professionally creative and competent, he said. Spiritually, the individual can live on the level of pure consciousness.

A human being, said Madathumkandy, is a combination of spirit and matter. Spirit is the soul–the God principle within. The material equipment includes the body, mind, ego, and intellect. The soul is the common factor, but the body-mind-ego-intellect “equipment” differs from individual to individual.

Among the three parts of the inner equipment, intellect is the most important aspect of your personality, said Madathumkandy. The intellect is the ability to think and to decide, providing the capacity to reason, discriminate, analyze and judge. Intellect can guide or “channel” one’s body, mind, and ego in the desired direction. It analyzes, controls, and supervises your actions, perceptions, emotions, and thoughts. Intellect is also the seat of higher values. When one’s intellect is not strong enough to control the mind (the seat of emotions) and ego (the “claimant” within you) they in turn overpower and rule the intellect. One’s decision-making ability is at the mercy of the mind and ego.

“Self-mastery is the capacity of the intellect to control and channel the mind, ego, and body in the desired direction,” said Madathumkandy. “It is the ability to subordinate your impulses, desires, and arrogance to a cause or purpose. Do not allow the mind and ego to overpower the decisions of the intellect. Do not place pleasure before obligation. Do not allow instant pleasure to overpower delayed gratification.

“If you allow the mind and ego rather than the intellect to rule your life, then you remain dissatisfied and agitated,” he added. “The first victory every successful and happy person has won was one of self-mastery. A conquest that leaves no regret is conquest over oneself.”

He noted also that the inner-self–the mind-ego-intellect–can continue growing as long as you live. The growth of the body comes to an end even before middle age, but not the inner self. However, mental growth requires constant input or training. Just as the body needs exercise and nutrition, the mind also needs subtler spiritual values as its nutrition.

The dilemma of choice

Few people, said Madathumkandy, optimally use their greatest power: free will or the ability to think and reason about choices of action. When we make choices or decisions in life, we are tempted to do so based on instant pleasure. Because success and growth are determined by the quality of choices or decisions we make, we empower our intellect with the right values and principles of life in order to make the right decision.

Truly enlightened people–those who experience deep happiness–are prepared to put off short-term pleasure for the sake of long-term fulfillment, said Madathumkandy. To achieve such self-discipline, he added, we must educate and empower our intellect with the right values in life. That will give us the vision and stamina to withstand the instant pain arising out of withdrawal from instant pleasures. This yields to lasting joy and success.

“Life governed by instant pleasure is very stressful later,” said Madathumkandy. “To progress in life you must develop the stamina to endure the pain of discipline. To lead a disciplined life is painful in the beginning, but if you can endure the initial pain, it becomes a source of great satisfaction. The more you endure the pain of discipline, the more your satisfaction increases. That is the law.”

The power of purpose

Human life, he added, is engineered to pursue a purpose: setting a higher cause beyond one’s selfishness and egocentric desires; and committed to the benefit of a larger number of people.

When an unselfish desire is given a proper direction by the intellect, nourished with conviction, and cherished with passion, it becomes a purpose. A well-defined purpose gives inspiration and a sense of direction, enhancing one’s self-esteem and passion. Moving closer to your purpose gives you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that material prosperity cannot provide.

The moment you definitely commit yourself to an unselfish purpose, providence makes the move to fulfill your purpose, said Madathumkandy. If you find the purpose, the means will follow. Once you concentrate your mind, power, and energy on a pursuit that you love, desires are fulfilled and you lead a life of fulfillment.

“In the words of Patanjali,” said Madathumkandy, quoting an ancient compiler of aphorisms on Yoga practice ‘When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary projects, all of your thoughts break their bonds. Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive and you discover yourself to be a greater person than you ever dreamed yourself to be.”