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Power Of Will - Some General Rules

( Originally Published 1907 )

THE exercise of the Will, or the lesson of power, is taught in every event. From the child's possession of his several senses up to the hour when he saith, ' Thy will be done ! ' he is learning the secret, that he can reduce under his Will, not only particular events, but great classes, nay the whole series of events, and so conform all facts to his character."— Emerson.

Part I may be closed with some general rules.

The purpose in suggesting a number of practical rules at this point is two-fold: in the first place, the rules furnish examples of what is conceived to be the right use of the Will; and, in the second place, the effort to employ them and fix them in mind will bring into play that fundamentally important factor of our nature, the sub-conscious self. A sea captain wrote the author in regard to these rules : " I found myself during a stormy passage without effort calling the rules to mind and bringing them into action, and l never got through bad weather so easily."

" There exists in all intellectual endeavor," says Jastrow in " The Subconscious," " a period of incubation, a process in great part sub-conscious, a slow, concealed maturing through absorption of suitable pabulum. Schopenhauer calls it ' unconscious rumination,' a chewing over and over again of the cud of thought preparatory to its assimilation with our mental tissue; another speaks of it as the red glow that pre-cedes the white heat. * * * We develop by living in an atmosphere congenial to the occupation that we seek to make our own; by steeping ourselves in the details of the business that is to be our specialty, until the judgment is trained, the assimilation sensitized, the perspective of importance for the special purpose well established, the keenness for useful improvisation brought to an edge. When asked how he came to discover the law of gravitation, Newton is reported to have answered, ' By always thinking about it' "


Rules pertinent to the exercise of Will in the conduct of life.

These paragraphs should be studied and thoroughly fixed in mind. They are born of experience, and should be practised daily until they become automatic in the working outfit of character.

1. Be master of your own Will.

2. When in doubt, do nothing; wait for light

3. Cultivate perfect calmness.

4. Never become confusingly excited.

5. Never yield to temper, nor entertain irritation.

6. Make no decision when out of temper.

7. If inclined to rashness, cultivate conservatism.

8. If inclined to excessive — injurious — conservatism (experience must decide this), cultivate the prompt and progressive spirit.

9. Decide nothing without deliberation where deliberation is possible.

10. When deliberation is not possible, keep cool. Confusion is mental anarchy; it dethrones the " King."

11. After a decision under such circumstances, entertain no regrets. The regretful mind is an enemy to a good Will. If the mind has held itself with an iron grip and decided on the spur of dire necessity, the gods could do no more.

12. Make no decision without an adequate purpose. Rely upon your own intelligent idea of adequacy.

13. Permit no difficulties to turn you aside from an adequate purpose. Mirabeau called the word " impossible " " that blockhead word."

14. Never try to make a decision the carrying out of which involves a real impossibility.

15. In the pursuit of an adequate purpose, sift means according to ends, then shift them intelligently. It is folly to tunnel a mountain if you can get a better and cheaper road by going around it. A man in Ohio spent thousands of dollars in laying a roadbed, and abandoned it to purchase another railroad. He should have made sure about the operating road first. But if it is necessary to sink money in a new road in order to compel sale of an old one, that is the thing to do.

16. The best Will is not that which pounds through all circumstances, whether or no, merely for the sake of persistence, but that which " gets there " by taking advantage of shifting conditions. Ends, not means, are the goal of a wise Will.

17. Never lose sight of the main thing in hand.

18. Admit no motive into court which you do not clearly see. A motive is like a would-be soldier ; it should undergo medical examination in the nude.

19. Never permit a motive for a decision to tangle up with a motive against. Example : This city is a good business centre; but then, you have to earn your money a second time in collecting it. Such a marriage of motives breeds confusion. Compel every motive to stand alone.

20. Remember, that a decision of Will involves judge and lawyer. You are merely and always the judge. When desire takes the bench and the judge pleads, it is time to adjourn court. You can get a correct " judgment " only by sticking to the bench. In other words, never permit yourself to plead, either with, for or against a motive.

21. In making an important decision, summons the whole mind to this one act. I RESOLVE TO WILL ! ATTENTION ! !

22. Make no decision while the mind is partly occupied with other matters. It is impossible to angle for fish and shoot buffaloes at the same time.

23. Never work at cross-purposes. Set the Will either for one thing or for the other. The man who tries to kill two birds with one stone usually misses both. Where the two birds are taken a second stone has stolen into the case.

24. Take all the advice that is offered; then act upon your own judgment.

25. Never discount your own experience. This is " dollars "— except to the fool. The chief value of the fool's experience is its worth to others.

26. Never act upon merely passive resolution. This is weakness. It may be phrased in these words : " I guess I will do so and so." One may say thereto, with Shakespeare, " What a lack-brain is this!" Nothing comes of the lackadaisical Will.

27. If this is the general tone of your Will, stimulate it by imitation of fierce resolution.

28. The first secret of persistence is a good start; the second is a constant review of motives.

29. When tempted to discouragement, defer , action to a time of sounder mood.

30. Never embark in an enterprise in which you do not thoroughly believe. To do otherwise is to introduce confusion among the judicial powers. If it turns. out that your want of faith has been wrong, you have nevertheless kept those judicial powers on the bench. That is worth more than the success which you have missed.

31. If you have any settled fears in life, consort with them, resolutely and persistently, until you know them for liars.

32. Don't worry! To worry about the past is to dig up a grave; let the corpse lie. To worry about the future is to dig your own grave ; let the undertaker attend to that. The present is the servant of your Will.

33. Never decide an important matter when the mind is confused by sickness. Store this rule in your soul during health ; it will stand by you in disease.

34. Never yield a resolution after three o'clock in the afternoon. The morning may bring a better thought.

35. Never make an important decision after three o'clock in the afternoon, nor before ten o'clock in the forenoon. Before ten you have not " limbered up." After three you are " unlimbered."

The two preceding rules are merely for suggestion.

36. Never ignore in deliberation a possible consequence.

37. Insist upon seeing clearly all possible consequences.

38. In deliberation, consequences should always be separated from motives; in judgment, motives should always be considered with reference to consequences.

39. Before making a decision, magnify all possible difficulties.

40. After decision, minify every actual difficulty, and throw out of mind every difficulty which seems to be imaginary. Here are some things that are hard to decide; but then, all life is a taking of chances.

41. If you must take chances, take those that lean your way.

42. Learn to emphasize in thought, and to see clearly, remote motives, contingencies and consequences. Be sure that they are not overshadowed by those which are near. Example: I wish to economize in order to secure a home; but at present, I desire a vacation. The home is very remote, while the period of rest is very near and clamorous.

43. In weighing motives, have a care that desire does not tip the scale. " In making an effort to fix our mind on a distant good or a remote evil we know that we are acting in the direction of our true happiness. Even when the representation of the immediate result is exerting all its force, and the representation of the distant one is faint and indistinct, we are vaguely aware that the strongest desire lies in this direction. And the resolute direction of attention in this quarter has for its object to secure the greatest good by an adequate process of representation."

44. Never lie to yourself in the consideration of motives and consequences. If you must lie, practise on other people; they will find you out; but if you continue to lie to yourself, you are a lost foal.

45. Remember always that the lie is the dry rot of Will.

46. Be absolutely genuine and sincere. Yet, withal, this gives you no right to ride rough-shod over neighboring humanity.

47. Never perform an act, nor make a decision, in opposition to what Socrates called his " Daimonion," the inner voice that whispers, " Better not ! "

48. When you write to an enemy a letter in which you scorch his soul, be happy — but do not mail it until tomorrow. You will then see that you have written too much. Condense it by half — but do not mail it until to-morrow. It will keep. Do not destroy it. It is a good letter. To-morrow you will again condense it. When you can write a brief, plain, but courteous letter, in which you reveal good breeding and disclose reticence, do so, and instantly mail it, grateful for common sense.

49. Never resolve upon an act which will, or may --injure other people, or injure yourself.

50. Measure motives by your noblest selfhood.

51. Dismiss without consideration motives or actions which you clearly recognize to be contrary to your best instincts.

52. In all conflicts between duty and pleasure, give duty the benefit of the doubt.

53. Never act contrary to your clearest judgment. Others may be right; but, in the long run, better is mistake in your own judgment than right on the judgment of others. Do not abdicate the throne.

54. Cultivate as a permanent habit of mind the positive Mood of willing.

55. Never will to be an imitator or a follower.

You can so will unconsciously; therefore resolve to lead and to invent and move out on new lines.

It is impossible to deliberate over every detail of conduct. Hence life must become habituated to right general principles. " A force endowed with intelligence, capable of forming purposes and pursuing self-chosen ends, may neglect those rules of action which alone can guide it safely, and thus at last wholly miss the natural ends of its being. To such a being, eternal vigilance would be the price of liberty."


Rules having reference to the Moods of mind.

I.—The Mood of Feeling:

1. Never yield to the Mood of Feeling without scrutinizing it closely.

2. In cultivating this Mood, be sure that it is wholly free from wrong desire, fear, hate, prejudice, jealousy, anger, revenge, nervous disorders, mental depression, misconceptions and partial views.

3. At no time permit this Mood to explode in impulse.

4. Keep the Mood constantly at a high, but rational and controlled, pitch or tone.

II.--The Mood of Energy:

1. Seek every opportunity to intensify consciousness of the determined Will.

2. Maintain the resolute sense of the emphatic personality.

3. Keep the Mood under firm control.

4. Permit no explosion without deliberate decision and adequate cause.

All Problems Close in Adjustment

5. Bring this Mood to all activities.

6. Hold the eye of energy upon life's ultimate goal.

III.— The Mood of Decision:

1. Precede all decision by deliberation.

2. Cultivate decision in so called unimportants.

3. Endeavor constantly to reduce the time expended in arriving at decision. Do everything as swiftly as possible.

4. Never defer decided action. Go immediately into the business determined upon.

5. Always conjoin with this Mood that of energy.

IV. The Mood of Continuity:

i. Count the cost.

2. Repeat constantly the resolution involved.

3. Do not brood over difficulties.

4. Keep the goal in sight.

5. In all continuous effort hold to the fore the Mood of utmost energy, and cause decision to act like a trip-hammer incessantly on the purposed business.

6. Regard each step or stage as a goal in itself. Act by act — the thing is done !

V. The Moods of Understanding and Reason:

1. Know, first, what the matter proposed involves.

2. Know, secondly, what defeat means.

3. Know, thirdly, what success signifies.

4. Understand your own weakness.

5. Understand your own powers.

6. Thoroughly understand how to proceed.

7. Become acquainted with all details connected with an undertaking, and with the reasons for one method of procedure or another.

VI.— The Mood of Righteousness:

1. Have perfect faith in yourself.

2. Have faith in men.

3. Be honest absolutely honest with yourself.

4. Permit nothing in self to hoodwink judgment.

5. Put yourself always in the other man's shoes.

6. Examine all moral traditions.

7. Reject nothing because it is old.

8. Approve nothing because it is new.

9. Settle no question by expediency.

10. Seek all possible light.

11. Live up to all light possessed.

12. Follow your best instincts.

13. Try your ideas by the opinions of others.

14. Surrender to all good and wise impulses.

15. Love truth supremely.

16. Be as anxious to discover duty as you ought to be to perform it when discovered.

The following remarkable paragraph, by John Stuart Mill, almost epitomizes the right use of Will-power:

"He who chooses his plan for himself, employs all his faculties. He must use observation to see, reasoning and judgment to foresee, activity to gather materials for decision, discrimination to decide, and when he has decided, firmness and self-control to hold to his deliberate decision. And these qualities he re-quires and exercises exactly in proportion as the part of his conduct which he determines according to his own judgment and feeling is a large one. It is possible that he might be guided in some good path, and kept out of harm's way, without any of these things. But what will be his comparative worth as a human being? It really is of importance not only what men do, but also what manner of men they are that do it. Among the works of man, which human life is rightly employed in perfecting and beautifying, the first in importance surely is man himself."

But the work of this chapter will not be finished so long as dependence is placed on the objective self alone. There is a deeper self which must be trained to accept and act on the rules above suggested. It is a mistake to expect self-development from external activities exclusively. If you go over the rules until they are thoroughly imbedded in the sub-conscious phases of your mind, they will then " germinate," so to speak, and in time become " second nature." In the mean time, it will be advisable to affirm mentally somewhat as follows : " I am absorbing these principles of conduct, and in so doing am affirming that the moods indicated are surely becoming mine, actual factors in my every day life."

For remember, you cannot find reality, truth, life, a universe, by going forever outside of self nor by gazing into some imaginary sky. So far as you are concerned, none of these things exist save as each is given existence within your selfhood. The Universe passes solemnly through every growing soul from the region of the ungrasped and below the ordinary consciousness. No knowledge comes from upper airs — though half the reality of any knowledge lies there because every individual centers Infinite Existence — but all emerges from the under realm of the unknown in consciousness. No possession is yours until it has swept up from the lower inner fields of life.

Stand, therefore, for the objective life, of course, but always as well for the inner existence which allies you with all worlds. If, taking the outer life as it comes, you will for long affirm that your deeper self is also in relation with all right things and growing because of that relation, you will in this way realize the remark-able quotation from Mill. Otherwise, it is nothing better than commonplace school instruction.

Now the object of these many rules is to bring out the greatness within you. Pertinent thoughts on the subject can be given from Sigurd Ibsen (son of the great dramatist) : " People can be more or less great; some oftener than others. . . . In certain people the genius appears only as an isolated flash. . . . Most well-equipped creatures probably have a great idea, at some moment or other of their lives, but such an inspiration appearing by fits and starts, is not genius. ... The great tragedy of the incomplete man is that his vision is sublime, while the means of expressing it escapes him (power of will)... .

"All greatness, that of the intellect, the feeling or of the will, can finally be comprehended in the concept personality. Great is the man who is equipped with a personality of unusual intensity. And so, what is personality? It is potentiated humanity, humanity in quintessence. The patternable great man would be he who united all purely human qualities in perfect harmony and in the mightiest phase of development.

" Consciousness of any kind whatever is the aim and content of all life. The highest form of life consists in the most intense consciousness, connected with the freest expansion of feeling, thought, and action, and the most supreme beings are those who are capable of securing for themselves such an invigorated existence."

So, practice the foregoing exercises; use the different sets of rules. They will gradually establish in your conscious mind the feeling that you are living and acting according to infallible law. You will soon realize that you are directing your own course that you can deliberately proceed this way or that, as you choose. And with the unfolding of this higher consciousness there will come forward the deep inner confidence that you are your own master that you are unswayed by external forces of men and nature which drive most people with ruthless jocularity.

It is this supreme consciousness this expanding arena of expression which Ibsen refers to as the measure of great men — the gauge of a man's independence — his qualifications to come and go upon the earth, a super-man.

And always does such a career demonstrate the out-working of the power we are all along seeking to develop, the Will.

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