Modern Day Lessons from Arjun’s Dilemma!

Karmanye Vadhikaraste, Ma Phaleshu Kadachana, Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani

Literal translation of this verse: You have the right to work but never to its fruits; let not the fruits of action be your motive. Nor, let your attachment be to inaction.

As many of us already know, this was Lord Krishna’s message to Arjun when he hesitated to fight against his immediate and extended family, the Kauravas, in the epic war of Mahabharata. Krishna explained that regardless of the result of the war, Arjun must fight, as it is his duty to do so. The result of the war must not be the purpose behind his action.

It is rather hard for us to incorporate this moral in a goal-centric and result-oriented world, where most of us work towards success. Be it the pressure to excel at work, score high grades professionally, in sporting events, in career entrance exams, achieve profit targets in business, gain social standing among newsmakers, etc.; the pressure of competition is all encompassing. We become so engrossed in competing that we miss out on the joy of performing, participating and enjoying the smaller pleasures in life.

In my humble opinion, it is not always important to win. Rather, it is important to focus on our performance and give it our best. The real sense of satisfaction and gratification has to be tied in with our actions and inputs, and not the output, which is often beyond our control. No wonder, strategic planning methods such as the SWOT Analysis acknowledge the same scientific fact. Strengths /weaknesses are intrinsic to an organization, but Opportunities/Threats are often governed by external elements, over which one cannot have absolute authority. The possibility of discrepancy between expected and actual outcome always exists.

However, setting the right goals and maintaining healthy competitive pressure encourages us to prepare and perform better. It is important that we differentiate between healthy competition and obsessive competitive stress, to be able to perform. After all, the spirit of participation, like in a game of sport is undoubtedly exciting, regardless of victory or defeat!

Have you ever encountered a situation where performance mattered more than the end result? If you would like to share it, write to me at I look forward to reading about your experiences.

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