1. DEVELOP A CLEAR CUT AIM
First, you must form a correct conception of how you wish to develop and perfect yourself. You must cultivate a clear-cut idea of what you want to become. This will give you a definite and clear-cut aim in life. Without such an aim, your life cannot move forward powerfully and progressively. You will be pulled in different directions and your mind will be distracted and much energy will be wasted. You can avoid all of these if you have a well-defined aim or a set of a few definite objectives. Then there is no confusion in your way. You know what you wish to attain and in which direction to proceed. Therefore, you also understand what is right and what is wrong, what is desirable and what is undesirable, what is to be accepted and what is to be rejected in moving towards your aim of life. Such definiteness gives you great inner strength. It develops will-power. It makes you a positive personality. There will be no more negative trends in your life.
2. DRAW UP A WISE PROGRAMME
The second important thing is to draw for yourself a wise programme of life to help you to develop along the desired lines and to gradually attain the aim of life. Such a programme will provide a plan of action in meeting with all problems that face the young student, the growing youth, to deal with all situations that arise in your life, to meet and overcome temptations with firm mind and to surmount obstacles with boldness and self-confidence. The power to do this exists within you already in its latent state. It has to be unfolded and activated. A proper understanding of your own mind, its behaviour and habits, and the law that governs the inner activity of the mind become very, very helpful in living this wonderful and interesting period of your life.
3. GUARD YOUR HEALTH
Now we come to the factors upon which depends the proper working out of your programme of life. Health is the key factor. Without health you can do nothing. Without health you can succeed neither in studies, nor in character-building, nor in sports and social activities, nor in home-life. Health is a matter of careful living. It is got not only from things you eat and drink, but it is also obtained from your wise and careful avoiding of such things that are not good for your health. Eat for your health. Eat for your strength and not for your taste. Eat to live and to serve. Do not live to eat. Eat simple food. Go to bed early and get up early. Acquire healthy habits. Do regular exercise daily. Be moderate in eating and drinking. Chew your food thoroughly. Do not overeat. Do not eat without hunger. Avoid things that do not agree with you.
4. CONSERVE YOUR ENERGY
Then you must conserve your energy. Never waste your energy in useless pursuits. Too much talking and gossiping, aimless wandering, habit of worrying, losing your temper frequently—all these drain away your energy. Give up, all habits that are likely to have an adverse effect on health. Smoking and illegal drugs are a curse upon students. Be established in perfect Brahmacharya (purity). Abstain from sexual activity. Preserve health, conserve energy, develop physical and mental strength and thus lay the foundation of a successful life.
5. VALUE CHARACTER
Value character more than anything else on the earth. Be perfectly truthful. Do not, let your speech be vulgar or rude. Speech must be clean, polite, and joy-giving. Cast away egoism, pride and selfishness. These three form the blemish upon human character. They arise out of ignorance and greed. Ignorance makes you proud and egoistic. Greed makes you selfish. They lead to dishonour and unhappiness and failure in life. By leading a simple life and having a cheerful disposition under all circumstances, you can overcome selfishness and egoism. Your life and conduct must be the cause of happiness in other people.
6. ADOPT VIRTUES
Adopt certain virtues and principles and stick to them in all your activities of life. Never leave these principles. Never move away from virtue. These principles will be your true friends and helpers. They will assure your progress and ultimately grant you supreme happiness and success. Periodically make certain simple resolutions to practice those virtues. Maintain a personal diary wherein you make a careful note of your day-to-day conduct, speech, and behaviour. This will reveal to you how far you are advancing and show you your mistakes and where you must correct yourself. Such a diary will be your friend. It will reveal your weakness and teach you humility.
7. PRAY TO GOD
Pray to God and ask Him for inner strength and guidance. God’s Divine Name has immense power. Repeat His Name always and remember him under all situations. Remember God constantly with love in your heart. Have absolute faith in your inseparable relationship with Him. Cultivate constant remembrance of God by seeing His invisible presence in and through all things in this universe around you. God is not some remote reality far away from you. But God is here and now. He is all pervading Reality, the ever present Divine Spirit pervading this entire universe. And also He is your innermost self. He is activity, begin to feel the presence of God.
8. REFLECT UPON IDEAL PERSONALITIES
Reflect upon the lives of ideal personalities. Draw strength and inspiration from their lives and teachings. Try to mould your life upon their pattern. Always have a great ideal before your mind. Think of it at all times-morning, noon, evening, and night. Develop it into the constant background of your thought. Then your mind will never be idle or vacant. This is important because right thinking is the key to noble living.
9. BE KIND
Out of your life there must flow out ceaseless love, kindness, and compassion. Never hurt anyone. Never hurt even the least one of God’s creatures either by thought, word, or action. Even in dreams you should never think of harming or hurting any creature. This sublime principle of non-injury, harmlessness, is given a very great place in the eternal Vedic way of life.Be a centre of help, be a centre of benefit, be a centre of happiness and peace to all. Never injure, never hurt, never harm any living creature.
10. BE ABSOLUTELY TRUTHFUL
You must be rooted in absolute truthfulness. Even at the cost of your life, never utter falsehood. Never be dishonest in any of your dealings with anyone in this world. Be a person of integrity, of verity. Become established in truthfulness in thought, word, and deed. Truth is God. One who practices truthfulness rigidly will attain God. God is present in this human world as the sublime principle of truthfulness.
11. SERVE OTHERS
The vexing problems of this modern world, its clashes and conflicts, its greed and exploitation, its hatred and hostilities, its mad craze for selfish acquisition will never cease or be relieved until and unless there is a change of outlook in man towards his neighbours and towards his life around him. Man makes life what it is. And life around man is but a reflection of what he is. The only rational and lasting solution to the afflictions that beset the organized society of civilized men is a reinstating of the spirit of selfless giving into its rightful place in your life. The more you give of yourself, the greater will be your conquest over sorrows and sufferings and your ascent into peace and bliss.
12. THINK NOBLY
As you think, so you will become, just as you reap what you sow. In the same way, you will ultimately experience and attain what you constantly think and feel. Your inner thoughts lead to outer action. Repeated actions grow into habits. Such habits become permanent qualities in your very nature. This nature goes to form your character. Your future and your destiny is the direct result of your character. Understand this very well. Carefully bear this in your mind. Think and act with this knowledge. Your inner thoughts are the seeds of your ultimate destiny. Safeguard your thoughts and feelings. Think nobly and virtuously. You will become a noble man or woman. You will attain greatness and make your life fruitful. More than all the books that you read and study, more than all your lessons and examinations, more important than everything in life is the cultivation of virtue. This is the source of ultimate happiness. Become good and great.
~ Swami Chidananda