The aim of life is not God-realization, it is the acquisition of excellence in life. That is the sankalpa I have taken. I don't care whether I see God or not. That is not my intention, not the ambition or aspiration of my life. If it happens, it will happen because it is bound to happen. My direction in life is the attainment of excellence in everything. In yoga try to excel in every moment, in relationships, in speech, thought and behaviour. Excel in frustration, in love, in passion. Excel in meditation. If you have this attitude, you will find that you live a spiritual life.
The defeatist tendency comes in material life. "Defeat the defeatist tendency within you" were Swami Sivananda's words to the former president of India, Dr A. P. J. Abdul Kalam. When Dr Kalam was a young man, he wanted to become a fighter pilot but failed the exam. Feeling dejected, he came to Rishikesh on his way home. He was sitting by the river Ganga, contemplating his future, when Swami Sivananda came walking along. He stopped and asked the young man what he was doing there. Dr Kalam explained what had happened, and said he felt without a purpose in life. Swami Sivananda said, "You have failed because you are not destined to excel in those areas. Your destiny is to do something else, so don't be dejected. Defeat the defeatist tendency in your mind, and again participate in the world wholeheartedly." Fifty years later, Dr Kalam still says, "This sentence has inspired me and continues to inspire me."
This is the essence of spiritual life. In material existence, in outer connections, we are defeated by situations, or we feel defeated. Defeat indicates the tamasic state. If we can defeat that tendency, then we are in a sattwic state and we are spiritual, because that is one of the greatest instincts to be overcome. Therefore, spiritual life is not a religious or a devotional life, not a life of contemplation, not a life of thinking airy-fairy things. It is a pragmatic life in which we are aware of ourselves and what we wish to become in the course of time. The movement from tamas to sattwa is spiritual life.