Four Factors for Success Applied to Worthy Projects

May everyone successfully complete worthy projects. May those projects be beneficial and not harmful.

I would like to share the four factors for success – chanda, viriya, citta and vimamsaa also known collectively in Paali language as the iddhipaada. [source: Samyuttanikaaya 51.1-86]

1. Chanda is the sincere wish to accomplish your goal. It manifests as aspiration and determination.

Be clear about the goal. Visualise, feel, hear or imagine what it would be like to achieve the goal. Create an implementation plan which explains in some detail how to achieve the goal. The plan will include lists of milestones with dates and deliverables. Divide the project into smaller tasks and then note which tasks depend on other tasks (dependencies). Note things that could go wrong (risks) and note resources that will help you along the way. Consider how to minimise the risks and outline the tactics for dealing with risks in the plan. Consider how to marshal the helpful resources and incorporate these tactics in the plan. Include a budget section in the plan.

Plan time and space for your personal life during the period you are working on your project. Make a detailed schedule or calendar showing when things are due. You can modify all of the above as you go. Sometimes there are events outside your knowledge that will impact on deliverables and time frames so you have to be flexible. Even so, it is good to have a clear and detailed implementation plan to achieve your goal.

Write the primary project objective in one or two sentences. Describe it in one page. Prepare this and stick it right above your computer screen, the back of your toilet door, the fridge door, the bed room door and everywhere you will notice it. Read it every day and check if it needs to be changed.

At least once a day you need to spend at least a few minutes focusing on your goal.

2. Viriya is the energy and effort applied to accomplish your goal. It manifests as persistence.

Keep checking the implementation plan to stay on track. Use the plan as a key motivator and guide whenever you are confused or vague about what to do right now.

If sometimes you lack energy then you increase it by developing faith in the worthiness of the goal and building confidence in your own ability to achieve it. Remember why you chose to do this project in the beginning, what inspired you. If you haven’t done so already, write that down quickly with words of exuberance and enthusiasm. Look at that statement when you feel low energy and don’t lose it. You have skills and talents for achieving goals. You can enhance these and become more effective. You have achieved a lot already just to get to this point. Remember your previous successes. Examine how you succeeded before and what personal qualities helped you. You can do that again and again. Look for inspiration around you by admiring other worthy successful people. Respect them and emulate the best in them.

You can also remember that others are counting on you. Your family and friends miss you while you are working. You have all sacrificed time together so you can complete this project. You will not let them down. You will make the best use of your time and resources, right now, to complete this project for your own sake, for the sake of your family and for the sake of others that you may not yet know.

Recognise and celebrate milestones.

Don’t allow setbacks to prevent ultimate success. Keep working!

3. Citta is a purity of mind that is focused on the objective. It manifests as dedication or cool focus.

It is a mind dedicated to the goal of accomplishing the goal. It is non-distraction and not procrastinating. It is staying on track. It is completing the project of high quality in the shortest possible time. It is not paying attention to irrelevant issues that are not your business. It is being very clear about what you are doing right now to achieve your goal.

Complete and total focus on your goal of completing the project.

You can strengthen this by only associating with wise, virtuous, calm people who also work hard and who embody all the good habits and skills you admire. You can avoid those people who are not so focused and who present distractions to your goal. You can stay physically and mentally healthy. You can rest properly, eat properly and exercise properly. Avoid gossip and frivolous talk.

Always keep the five moral precepts to protect yourself and others from harm and to cultivate peace and happiness. Peace and happiness lead to concentration which in turn leads to discernment and wisdom. Practice the eight moral precepts when possible. Go on intensive meditation retreats at least once a year. Daily practice mindfulness of breathing aanaapanasati and build concentration/one pointed mind samaadhi.

Be generous to others and yourself. Cultivate divine mental states such as loving kindness metta, compassion karuna, sympathetic joy mudita and equanimity upekkha.

4. Vimamsaa is the investigation and analysis of the project topic. It is the deep penetration into the project issues, to understand the concepts and relations between concepts in this project. It manifests as expertise and insight.

You can understand concepts and relations between concepts by seeking advice from mentors, elders and expert advisors in books and in person. Keep notes of helpful information. Get advice from more than one respected experts on whether your plan is viable and may be improved. When your project is quality tested or applied in the world, others will examine your thoroughness and knowledge. Do you have the ability to do a presentation on the main ideas in this project topic for people who may not know anything about it? Sustain a network of contacts of people in this field who can help you with your project.

Insight arises when the mind is tranquil and focused. Insight is not controlled by an act of will. Prepare the mind, balance the mental factors of confidence saddha, discernment panna, energy viriya, collectedness samaadhi with mindfulness sati. Mindfulness is the essential mental factor for the arising of skillful kusala mental states. Pay attention, be aware of body and mind at all times.

All the above iddhipaada success factors are powered by sammaa padaana the four right strivings (efforts) and samaadhi concentration.

Sammaapadaana is the four right strivings. 1. to restrain from adopting new bad habits and behaviours; 2. to abandon existing bad habits and behaviours; 3. to cultivate new good habits and behaviours; and 4. to maintain existing good habits and behaviours.

Samaadhi is concentration, focus and tranquillity of mind. Practice mindfulness of breathing aanaapanasati frequently to develop a one-pointed mind. This will build mental power and strength that will support all skillful kusala mental states.

These notes are a personal interpretation of the Dhamma as applied to worthy projects. The suttas describing these principles are not very accessible for casual readers who may not know how to apply them in daily life. I used some creative license to elaborate the basic principles and hopefully share them with a wider audience with a broader application. By applying techniques for spiritual success to worthy worldly projects we may create a more spiritual world.

Perhaps hindering accessibility, I included some Paali technical terms because they are interpreted into English in different ways. Some readers who know Paali may prefer alternative English words to the ones I’ve chosen here.

Lord Buddha originally taught the iddhipaada as The Bases for Spiritual Power, the power that leads to Nibanna – enlightenment.

“Bhikkhus, these four bases of spiritual power, when developed and cultivated, are noble and emancipating; they lead the one who acts upon them to the complete destruction of suffering. What four? Here, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu develops the basis for spiritual power that possesses concentration due to desire [chanda] and volitional formations of striving. He develops the basis for spiritual power that possesses concentration due to energy [viriya] and volitional formations of striving. He develops the basis for spiritual power that possesses concentration due to mind [citta] and volitional formations of striving. He develops the spiritual power that possesses concentration due to investigation [vimamsaa]and volitional formations of striving. These four bases of spiritual power, when developed and cultivated, are noble and emancipating; they lead the one who acts upon them to the complete destruction of suffering.”

[source: SN 51.3 Noble Sutta, The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Saṃyutta Nikāya ; Translated from the Pāli by Bhikkhu Bodhi, Published by Wisdom Publications, 2000, page 1719]