When I was young, I was often asked – what do you want to be when you grow up? The answer people were looking for was something along the lines of – stockbroker or management consultant. This is what we can grow up thinking life is all about – what can we become? how will we be perceived by society? Because of these subtle pressures, we can unconsciously start to define ourselves by the job we hold or our status in society.
But, imagine we could start with a clean sheet of paper and we had the opportunity to create the person we really want to be. What do we consider important? What qualities would we like to have? What aspects of ourselves would we want to transform?
This exercise is not about creating outer circumstances and outer status, it is about thinking about the person we want to be.
In the spiritual life, transformation is not easy. But, if we don’t have a clear idea of where we want to go, it is nearly impossible. If we can challenge ourselves to keep asking – what do we want to be? then we can at least have a clear idea of where we want to go.
Here is a simple exercise we can all do. Imagine that our thoughts had 100% power to manifest themselves. Suppose that whatever we wanted, we would get. If we wanted to be perfectly forgiving whatever other people did, we could become that. If we wanted to be happy whatever our outer circumstances, we could have that. For the moment, leave aside whether it’s feasible. Just feel anything is possible and imagine yourself as you really want to be. There are no limits, if you want to have a deep and abiding sense of peace all the time, why not choose that?
Factors that can help us in knowing what we want to be.
- Appreciate good qualities in others. It is good to be inspired by the positive qualities of other people. This is not imitation. This is seeing good qualities and feeling that they can become part of ourself. If someone else can be resolutely cheerful, we can make this part of ourself.
- When you were really happy, how did you feel? It is important to remember times when we were sincerely happy or sincerely at peace. What enabled us to do that? When we are in a good frame of mind, we are invariably friendly, kind and compassionate – all qualities we like to see in ourself. If you have ever had a powerful meditation, imagine you could have that consciousness all the time.
- Be wary of the ego. When we visualise who we want to be, we need to be careful we don’t allow the ego to colour our good intentions. The egos priorities are usually to be seen as a great and good person. The ego colours our good motivations with the need for praise. The ego can be very clever and turn good qualities into a subtle desire for name and fame. But, remember we can visualise how we really want to be. Therefore, in our perfect visualisation, we can be free of the egos demands. We can enjoy the freedom of not needing outer praise. We can visualise ourself as inwardly happy, regardless of whether the ego is praised or blamed.
- Wisdom. We can read through the great spiritual books that inspire us the most. The philosophy that springs out, we should make a note of. We should never think spiritual philosophy is only for saints. If we want we can make it part of our life.
The importance of knowing who we want to be
- Overcoming self-doubt. The biggest thing holding us back is our self-doubt. Perhaps we feel these good qualities are not meant for us. Perhaps we feel, it’s our lot to be unhappy and face difficult circumstances. Having the faith to visualise ourselves as we could be, helps us to break this self-doubt.
– Sri Chinmoy 
- If we know what we want to be, we can make it a reality. If we know we need to pass an exam, we will spend several years studying and revising. But, if there is no test, nothing to aim for, our studies will drift and we will never make satisfactory progress. Just reminding ourselves of what we want to be, will give us the motivation and encouragement to focus on these aims. If we want to simplify our life and have a feeling of inner freedom, reminding ourselves of this will help to prevent us adding unnecessary complications and stress to our lives.
- Imagination has a power of its own. We started the exercise by saying that imagine thoughts have 100% power to manifest. If we think ill of ourselves, that would be our reality, if we think ourselves as cheerful and self-giving – that is what we can become. However, this isn’t just an exercise. Our primary thoughts and underlying opinion of ourselves do have tremendous power. Thoughts may not manifest immediately, but they do have a strong influence on what we become. If we always hold onto this ideal of what we want to become, then it will help this aspiration to become a reality.
 Sri Chinmoy, Peace: God’s Heart-Home, Part 1, Agni Press, 1995
Poem top, Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plants, part 28
Photo: Sharani, Sri Chinmoy Centre galleries.