The Buddha taught that small, good karmic actions lead to great results in the future, a powerful motivation for making even small positive changes in our lives. In this episode we look at the Four Powers of Effort, a process for making positive changes last. 1,200 years ago, the Buddhist Master Shantideva offered this Buddhist approach to lasting change and building confidence in his Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. The Four Powers of Effort are guiding principles to reaching a goal by aspiring to who you want to become, creating a joyful process for change, and steadfastly sticking to it. The Buddha said that “with effort we have all attainments,” meaning we can do anything we aspire to with enough effort—even attain enlightenment!
The Four Powers of Effort
A shift in identity will follow changing our habits, but choosing who we want to become helps us understand what processes we need to adopt in order to become that person. (Emptiness of the self at work here!). The most powerful wishes come when the outcome is meaningful to us and is an expression of our values. Living in accordance with our values is a path toward happiness. Engaging in the positive process is a type of success that can reliably bring us satisfaction. External success may or may not be achieved. External success may not deliver the happiness we believed it would, but acting in accordance with our values will bring us peace whatever the outcome. Outcomes are invariably unpredictable, but good will come if we make positive changes.
“Identity change is the North Star of habit change” —James Clear
From Atomic Habits by James Clear:
I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION].
Meditation. I will meditate for one minute at 7 a.m. in my kitchen.
Studying. I will study Spanish for twenty minutes at 6 p.m. in my bedroom.
Exercise. I will exercise for one hour at 5 p.m. in my local gym.
Marriage. I will make my partner a cup of tea at 8 a.m. in the kitchen.
If by giving up small pleasures great happiness is to be found,
the wise should give up small pleasures
seeing (the prospect of) great happiness. (Verse 290)
—Buddha, The Dhammapada
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References with Links
Buddha (1986).The Dhammapada: Verses and Stories. Translated by Daw Mya Tin, M.A. (Website). Edited by Editorial Committee, Burma Tipitaka Association Rangoon. Courtesy of Nibbana.com. For free distribution only, as a gift of dhamma. https://www.tipitaka.net/tipitaka/dhp/verseload.php?verse=290
Clear, J. (2018). Atomic Habits. Avery. https://www.amazon.com/Atomic-Habits-Proven-Build-Break-ebook/dp/B07D23CFGR/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1QMEEZSP01C91&keywords=atomic+habits+james+clear&qid=1640962723&s=books&sprefix=Atomic%2Cstripbooks%2C142&sr=1-1