How to acquire initiative
by Paramhansa Yogananda, March 1930
When you look at the vast panorama of this world, when you look at the vast crowds of humanity rushing hot-haste throughout their string of life, you wonder what this is all about. Where are we going, what is the motive, what the best way to get to our destination? Most of us rush aimlessly, regardless of our destination, like a runaway automobile, driving heedlessly in the pathway of life, never realizing the purpose of the path, the winding ways and straight paths that lead to our destination. How can you find your destination, if you never think of it? Many people, though they don’t know their destination, still have initiative enough to find out and seek the thing they need—in connection with their desires, in connection with their environment, they always try to use the initiative within them. What is initiative within a person, what is it? Initiative is some creative faculty within you, a spark of that Infinite Creator within you.
America is a land of initiative in business, applied mechanism; India is a land of initiative in spirituality. What is this mysterious faculty? Examine a dozen minds; they all remind you of one horse-power engines. Most people are like that; the whole process, the whole activity of their life consists in waking ,eating, amusements and sleeping. What is the difference between yourself and the animals? One difference, psychologists say, is that man is a laughing animal. It is good to laugh. You need this consciousness of being human beings—if you cure yourself of your laugh, you lose one human evolution. Some people, day in and day out, take life seriously,—they don’t enjoy life at all, are afraid to smile. One quality of human beings is to laugh. Another quality, the greatest of all qualities, is initiative.
Initiative means power of creation, the power of creating something nobody else has ever created. What have you ever done in this life, something nobody else has done? Initiative means trying to do things in new ways and trying to create new things. Initiative means creative ability, which is derived from your Creator directly. How many people try to use that ability? Weeks, months, years pass, and they are always the same, they have not changed, except in age. The man of initiative is like a shooting star—creating something from nothing, making the impossible possible by the great inventive power of the Spirit. There are three kinds of initiative people—the extraordinary class, the medium class and the common class, and in “no-man’s land” are hundreds huddled together. Ask yourself this question—”Have I ever done anything new in life, have I ever done something new which nobody else ever did?” That is the starting point of your initiative, you must know that, before you can start at all. Some people think they have absolutely no power to act differently; they are walking in their sleep, affected by somnambulism. Their subconscious mind has suggested them into one horse-power people. In order to wake up, you must say: “I have man’s greatest quality, every human being has some spark of power by which he can create something new which the world did not create before.” How easily I could be deluded with the consciousness of the world, if I let myself be hypnotized by my environment! “Every line is crowded, why try at all?” That is why in every walk of life so many remain unsuccessful, because of lack of initiative, hypnotized by the consciousness of the world.
How to have initiative? The first quality of initiative is the common quality—the man with little initiative tries only to improve on others, somebody’s else invention. And in spiritual things, many people just follow the same path,—they were born in some denomination and they die in that denomination. Or, “I was born a Baptist, but when I changed my residence, I happened to be near the Congregationalist Church, so I became a Congregationalist.” You have a spark of Divinity within yourself, and you want to adapt yourself conscientiously according to its dictates.
My Master used to say, “Remember this, if you have that faith within you, and if there is something you desire which is not in the universe, it shall be created for you.” And I had that peculiar belief in my own strength, in the strength of my will, and I found that some new lines were created to give me the things I wanted. The power of initiative within you remains undeveloped, unformed, unexploited, unused,—and that power is native to the soul, actually given to all of you, but you have not used it. You have lots of solar energy in you. Your first attempt is to try to improve on somebody else, if you have not developed the power to think for yourself, the initiative to have your own way.
The second quality of initiative, the medium quality, is shown by people who write a little new book, make some new inventions, something new, but small. That is the medium quality. The extraordinary quality of initiative is that which makes you stand in blazing fame before the world, like Burbank, Edison, men of initiative, spiritual initiative. Is God partial to these great men, that they had this particular greatness? Were they chosen by Divine will to take so much glory? Those who look for glory are never great,—in their inflated pride, they never receive the strength of God. Those who enjoy giving,—giving strength, courage, music,—they are great.
There is one way to be great, to have this extraordinary power of initiative, which not only gives you a medium quality, but can give you an extraordinary quality of initiative by which you can stand blazing before the eyes of the world. Most people who have become great have been subconsciously guided, have had a tinge of heredity which gave them the initial advantage,—and they used that in their life and thereby became extraordinary. Remember, if you have that extraordinary quality, you are led by unconscious forces of mind by which you change your environment, and in that new environment you can bring forth that great quality.
I believe, and I know, that great men can be made. By training and practice of Yogoda, they can develop that initiative quality and bring it into play. The ones who struggled long ago, see now the fruition of their activities. You must step out of that great horde who are just like automatons, step out and discover how much power you have, overcoming apparent impossibilities. At first, I was afraid to be a teacher—the name of teacher frightened me. You have to be a shock-absorber, love everybody and understand humanity. The moment you get disturbed, you are one with the one who has come to get help from you. You must always be ready to withstand the opinion of the world, in order to succeed. Stay away from one horse-power people; and then think differently, speak a little differently. And you must be untiring in your zeal. The man of extraordinary initiative swallows all difficulties, and says, “I am right.” With unflinching steadiness march on your path, believing that the Infinite Creative Power is behind you. You must first get yourself in conscious contact with that Infinite Power. When you contact that Power, which is the source of all initiative, your subconscious mind becomes super-powerful. I used to be apprehensive that if I created a little initiative it might run out quickly under different tests. I know now that within myself is that great Infinite Principle, which is the source of all art, all music, all knowledge. If that is behind me, how can I fail? Whenever you want to create something wonderful, sit quietly and go deep. That Infinite Power, that inventive, creative power is within you. Try something new, and always be sure that that great creative principle is behind anything you do, and that creative principle will see you through. Every human being is guided by the great creative power of Spirit. You have choked your fountain—clear it out. Show infinite determination in everything you do.
People live in dead quotations, go on collecting ideas of others without ever showing themselves. Where are you? Where is the distinctiveness in you, where is the great distinctive power of God in you? You have not been using it. I made up my mind I would not lecture by learning but by inspiration, believing that the Infinite Creative Power was behind my speech. In other things, too, I have utilized that, helping others in business, etc. I have used mortal mind to bring immortality. I did not say: “Father, do it,” but “I want to do it! only, Father, You must guide me, You must inspire me, You must lead me on!”
Do little things in an extraordinary way, be the best one in your line. You must not let your life run in the ordinary way—you have got to do something which nobody else has done, which will dazzle the world, do something that will show that God’s creative principle works in you! You may get the power of that great principle. Never mind the past. Errors as deep as the Atlantic Ocean cannot stop you, because the soul can never be darkened. Have unflinching determination to move on your path unhampered. Life may be dark, difficulties come, all chances may go, but never within yourself say—”I am gone, God has forsaken me.” One cannot do anything for that kind of a person. Your family may forsake you, destiny seemingly forsake you, all the forces of nature be against you; but by that initiative quality you can go into paradise and defeat the invasions of fate created by your own wrong actions. I may be defeated one hundred times, but I am going to conquer! Defeat is not meant for eternity, defeat is a test for you. Disease, lack of prosperity, are not meant to crush you. Naturally, God wants to make you invincible, bringing into play the almighty power that is within you, so that on the stage of life you can fulfill your destiny. How are you going to find out what suits you! If we all want to be kings, who will be the servants? On the stage, king’s and servant’s parts are all the same if they play them well. Only remember, that is why we are sent into this world with various desires, various vocations. God meant the world to be a play, an entertainment, a huge show to entertain us. But we forget the Stage Manager and want to play our own parts. So on the stage of life, you are failing because you are trying to play a different part than the one designed for you. Tune yourself with Spirit, and in this earth-play play your part well! Sometimes, the buffoon attracts more attention than the king; so no matter how little your duty is, do it conscientiously.
The world is a stage wherein you are not meant to suffer—the ones who play the tragedy parts must know they are but play. Never mind, always strive to play your part well, in tune with the Stage Manager, so that your little play will dazzle the world. Play your part well, realizing that on the stage of the world the Infinite Power of the Spirit is there! Infinite Spirit creates new success! Infinite Spirit does not want you to be a mechanism! Tune yourself with Cosmic Power, and whether in the factory or the business world mixing with people, always say, “Infinite Creative Power is within me, I shall not go into the grave doing nothing. I am God-man, a rational animal; I am power of Spirit, dynamic source of soul; I shall create revelations in the world of business, in the world of thought, in the world of wisdom—