5 Ways to Avoid Burnout and Achieve Inner Peace

Many people accept the common equation of material success with monetary profit, but monetary profit, without corresponding inner satisfaction, is a hollow victory. Material success means nothing if, in the act of seeking it, we lose our peace of mind.

But I want to do more than urge you to make your inner peace a priority. I want to show you how, by preserving that peace, you will succeed better at whatever you do than if you were always on the job.

The pressures of a “business tycoon”
Money is something I myself have never sought for personal gain. Yet I have certainly had to earn it for the benefit of others. Being a swami didn’t exempt me, unfortunately, from the pressures of modern life. I had a work to develop, and had therefore to place myself willingly under a stress not so different from that of the “business tycoon” whose way of life I had renounced for God!

The spiritual communities I founded could not have come into being without money, and it was I myself who, in the early years, had to earn almost all of it. There were times, in fact, when my financial needs must have been as pressing as those faced by any family man whose interests are focused entirely on his personal needs. Indeed, mine may have been heavier, for hundreds of people came, in time, to depend for their material security on my activities, and thousands more for their spiritual well-being.

Always, in spite of these pressures, I have never allowed my “bottom line” to become monetary. That place of priority was given to my inner peace. When merchants stood in line, figuratively speaking, demanding payment, and when people tried to block whatever I attempted (as not a few did), I never allowed my inner peace to become affected. Peace was my priority.

With God’s grace I succeeded. I don’t believe it would have been possible, however, had I not made inner peace my priority. Let me sort through a few of the deliberate choices I was obliged to make, only to preserve my inner peace. These few hints may be of help to you whenever you face similar circumstances in your life.

1. Stay true to your priorities
One choice I made was never to let myself be drawn into other people’s priorities. Among the many letters I received, there were a few that I didn’t answer promptly—or, in some cases, at all. I paid my bills promptly, and met all my important obligations, but I simply accepted, with a sense of inner freedom, that I was not the legendary Atlas: I could not carry the whole world on my shoulders!

If, then, someone wrote me a letter that I didn’t feel to answer, even though that person was obviously anxious to hear from me, I sometimes didn’t answer him.

“Well,” I told myself, “I didn’t ask him to write!” Only if someone’s well-being was concerned did I try conscientiously to help him as soon as possible. What use would I have been to anyone, however, had I done everything that was asked of me, but sacrificed my inner peace? Interestingly, I found that if I didn’t address an issue that to others seemed urgent, it usually resolved itself anyway within a couple of months!

2. Focus on the present
Having decided on peace as my “bottom line,” I refused to worry over decisions that were important but couldn’t be faced yet. Rather, I addressed them with full concentration only when the time came to do so. Meanwhile, I concentrated more on keeping my inner peace and joy, while doing whatever needed to be done at present.

My “bottom line” has actually helped me to accomplish far more in my life than would have been the case had I allowed problems to engulf me. If I’d sacrificed my inner peace, but succeeded thereby in getting more done, I would not only have ended up accomplishing less in the long run, I also would have diluted my powers of concentration and creativity.

I knew a very successful American businessman—a multimillionaire, indeed—and a disciple of my Guru. This man was exceptionally busy, being the chairman of several boards of directors. Yet his practice was often not to come to work until sometime in the afternoon. His morning hours were devoted to meditation. Colleagues would sometimes remonstrate with him, “With all your responsibilities, how can you afford to be away from your office so long?”

“Because I have so many,” he answered, “I need those morning hours to deepen my peace. In that way, I can handle matters more efficiently when I do address them, and can accomplish more in a minute than would be possible for me if I were to sit at my desk all day long. Decisions that some people take weeks to make I am able to make almost instantly.”

3. See God in everything, including money
It is important also, not to divide your life into airtight compartments: business, personal life, family interests, social obligations, and spiritual practices. You, at the center of all your activities, need to be balanced as a human being. Be centered in yourself, always, and never fully identified with anything outward that you do.

I met a wealthy man in Canada years ago who was also a spiritual seeker. “My real life,” he told me, “begins after I return home in the evenings from work, bathe, change my clothes, and enter my meditation room.” When he said that, I thought (though I didn’t say), “What a pity not to bring a meditative spirit also into your daily work! In that way, you’d be able to live your ‘real life’ all day long.”

Concentration on money-making, when that is the issue, need not at all prevent you from making progress spiritually also. Don’t separate your duties to the world from your duty to God. See them as aspects of one and the same thing. God is in everything, including money. “Nishkam karma (action without desire for its fruits),” the teaching of the Bhagavad Gita, is not a caution against action: It is a warning against acting with selfish motive.

4. Concentrate one-pointedly from your inner center
Concentration is important for every type of success. So also is meditation. The more important an undertaking, the more essential it is to exercise all your faculties. By scattering them, you will deprive yourself of your latent power.

The way to true success is to be so focused on anything you do that your energy flows one-pointedly toward that, and consciously outward from your own inner Self. In business, to work from your inner center is necessary if you want to put your vibrations into your work. Moreover, it is those vibrations, even more than the work itself, that will truly determine the outcome.

Interestingly, some of my Guru’s most highly advanced disciples were successful businessmen. It was their ability to concentrate that gave them their success. They applied that same power of concentration to their spiritual search and achieved much greater success in this field than others managed by restlessness.

5. Heed the voice of your conscience
One factor essential to inner peace is a clear conscience, born of facing every moral difficulty vigorously, from within. People too often allow their actions to be guided by social convention, or by others’ opinions, or by the line of least resistance—even to the point of cutting corners ethically.

Learn to heed the quiet voice of your own conscience. Always keep in mind, whenever questions arise regarding what is truly in your best interest: You owe this decision of conscience to no one but your own self.

Never do what others urge upon you unless your conscience endorses their advice. Seek assurance first of all in your inner Self. If you fail to do so, you may feel, someday, that you’ve let yourself down in accepting the priorities of others. Let your conscience tell you where your true duty lies, and don’t hesitate to let it override the usual chorus of opinions. It is to your own higher Self, finally, that you are answerable. Intuition is the voice of wisdom.

For myself, I strongly feel that if I have once given my word, I must abide by it. I may sometimes give that word only to myself. It may even regard something quite trivial, like buying a newspaper. If later on, however, it becomes inconvenient for me to go out and get it, I will go buy it anyway just so as to keep my word to myself.

What is true inner peace?
Everyone wants peace. What everyone really wants is permanence: lasting security, lasting peace, lasting happiness.

By inner peace, I refer not to that sort of peace which comes, for example, by avoiding all difficulties, conflicts, and challenges. Peace cannot result from shirking one’s duty, which is what the avoidance of conflict often entails. Peace must be won by inner victories.

“Do your duty, which is to fight!” was Krishna’s advice to his disciple Arjuna. That advice was meant above all spiritually. Only in self-conquest can one find the peace of everlasting fulfillment. Self-conquest means victory especially over one’s lower self. Your job is to know God, and your heart will never know peace until it knows Him who is your true Self.