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Power Of Will - Suggestions For Practice

( Originally Published 1907 )

NATURE is often hidden, sometimes overcome, seldom extinguished. He that seeketh victory over his nature, let him not set himself too great nor too small tasks; for the first will make him dejected by often failings, and the second will make him a small proceeder, though by often prevailings. Let not a man force a habit upon himself with a perpetual continuance, but with some intermission. For both the pause reinforceth the new onset; and if a man that is not perfect be ever in practice, he shall as well practice his errors as his abilities, and induce one habit of both. And there is no means to help this but by seasonable intermissions."— Lord Bacon.

Should the exercises given in this division of our work, Part II, seem unessential or tedious, you are invited to remember that, as Royce has said (" Outlines of Psychology") :

" The development and support of mental activities of every grade is dependent upon the constant and proper use of the sense organs. Every cultivation of even the highest inner life involves a cultivation of the sense organs."

But observe: "The life of the senses does not constitute a sort of lower life, over against which the higher intellectual, emotional and voluntary life stands, as a markedly contrasted region relatively independent of the other, and ideally capable of a certain divorce from it. On the contrary, sensory experience plays its part, and its essential part, in the very highest of our spiritual existence. When we wish to cultivate processes of abstract thinking, our devices must there-fore include a fitting plan for the cultivation of the senses, and must not plan to exclude sense experience as such, but only to select among sensory experiences those that will prove useful for a purpose.

We are now prepared for the actual work of Will-culture in Physical Régime. The present chapter is preliminary yet eminently practical, and it should not only be carefully read but thoroughly studied until its suggestions are deeply grounded in daily life.

At this point certain principles appear which form the basis of all Physical Régime.


Continuous and intelligent thought on the growth of any mental power, with exercises carried on to that end, exerts a developing influence upon the function itself. In the case of the Will this would follow without systematic practice, but regulated exercise tends to hold attention to the desired goal and to increase the power of the idea of Will-culture. The value of the abiding thought, " I resolve to acquire a strong and well-trained Will ! " can scarcely be overstated.


Exercises involving one department of body or mind will exert various beneficial influences:

Great Is Drill

Of the body, on other parts of body;

Of the body, on various powers of mind;

Of the mind, on other powers of mind;

Of the mind, on various functions and organs of the body.

An illustration of the general law may be seen in the increased grip-power of one hand caused by daily practice with the other. Thus, Professor E. W. Scripture, in " Thinking, Willing, Doing," remarks :

" It is incredible to me how in the face of our general experience. of gymnasium work some writers can assert that practice makes no change in the greatest possible effort. At any rate, in experiments made under my direction the change could be traced day by day.

"Curiously enough, this increase of force is not confined to the particular act. In the experiments referred to, the greatest possible effort in gripping was made on the first day with the left hand singly and then with the right hand, ten times each. The records were: for the left, fifteen pounds, for the right, fifteen pounds. Thereafter, the right hand alone was practised nearly every day for eleven days, while the left hand was not used. The right hand gained steadily day by day; on the twelfth day it recorded a grip of twenty-five pounds. The left hand recorded on the same day a grip of twenty-one pounds. Thus the left hand had gained six pounds, or more than one-third, by practice of the other hand."

In practice seeking development of Will, what is true of hands will be true of mental powers. Indeed, steadfast, purposeful exercise of physical powers in general will develop power of Will. The same writer goes on to say on this point :

" A great deal has been said of the relation of physical exercise to Will-power. I think that what I have said sufficiently explains how we can use the force of an act as an index of Will-power. It is unquestionable that gymnastic exercises increase the force of act. The conclusion seems clear; the force of Will for those particular acts must be increased. It has often been noticed that an act will grow steadily stronger al-though not the slightest change can be seen in the muscle.

" Of course I do not say that the developed muscle does not give a greater result for the same impulse than the undeveloped one; but I do claim that much of the increase or decrease of strength is due to a change in Will-power. For example, no one would say that Sandow, the strong man, has a more powerful Will than anybody else. But Sandow's strength varies continually, and, although part of this variation may be due to changes in the muscles, a large portion is due to a change in force of Will. When Sandow is weak, make him angry, and note the result."


Lower forms of exercise in bodily movement pre-pare the way for higher exercises. " All the higher actions of life depend on the attainment of a general control of the bodily organs." This is true even when such control is left to hap-hazard methods. It is immeasurably truer when control is intelligently sought. " Consequently," in the highest sense, " the exercising of these capabilities involves a rudimentary," and a very complete " training of the Will, for a definite reaction on the Will itself is absolutely certain."


Intelligent work in Will-culture must begin with perception. Perception precedes mental growth. The senses are our common miners for raw material of mental life. Yet how few people adequately attend to sensation or intelligently employ their own senses ! Strange as it may seem, here is a large terra incognita. One of the chief differences among men is the matter of vision. By vision is meant the ability to see, hear and feel reality. Some people perceive a great deal on the surface of things; others catch but little even here. Some perceive not only the superficial aspects of reality, but also its inner contents ; others, again, discover neither the surface of things nor their hidden meaning. Eyes, ears, nerves they have; but they see not, hear not, feel not. To such people a strong Will-power is a stranger. They are governed largely by caprice.

The first requisite, then, of Will-growth, is observation. The mind must learn to see things as they are, to hear things as they are, to feel things as they are.

"Eyes and No-eyes journeyed together," says the author just quoted. " No-eyes saw only what thrust itself upon him; Eyes was on the watch for everything. Eyes used the fundamental method of all knowledge observation, or watching.

" This is the first lesson to be learned the art of watching. Most of us went to school before this art was cultivated, and, alas ! most of the children still go to schools of the same kind. There are proper ways of learning to watch, but the usual object lessons in school result in just the opposite. We, however, can-not go a step further till we have learned how to watch."

Hence, the watchword all along must be ATTENTION ! The Will must begin its work by resolving upon persistent ATTENTION. To the various operations of the senses Will must mightily attend! In all exercises the watchword must never be forgotten: ATTENTION! But attention for what purpose? For one sole purpose Will-power! The commanding formula, then, is: " I RESOLVE TO WILL ! ATTENTION ! ! "


Systematic exercise, with power of Will constantly kept in mind as a goal never to be yielded, develops the Will-habit. Hence the value of persistence. Practice develops persistence; persistence perfects practice. Emerson said truly :

" The second substitute for temperament is drill, the power of use and routine. The hack is a better roadster than the Arab barb. . . . At West Point, Colonel Buford, the Chief Engineer, pounding with a hammer on the trunnions of a cannon, until he broke them off. He fired a piece of ordnance some hundred times in swift succession, until it burst. Now, which stroke broke the trunnion? Every stroke. Which blast burst the piece? Every blast. `Diligence passe sens,' Henry VIII. was wont to say, or, ` Great is drill.'

Practice is nine-tenths. . . . Six hours every day at the piano, only to give facility of touch ; six hours a day at painting, only to give command of the odious materials, oil, ochres, and brushes. The masters say that they know a master in music, only by seeing the pose of the hands on the keys ; — so difficult and vital an act is the command of the instrument. To have learned the use of the tools, by thousands of manipulations; to have learned the arts of reckoning, by end-less adding and dividing, is the power of the mechanic and the clerk."

" Not only men," says Thomas Reid, the English Philosopher, " but children, idiots, and brutes, acquire by habit many perceptions which they had not originally. Almost every employment in life hath perceptions of this kind that are peculiar to it. The shepherd knows every sheep of his flock, as we do our acquaintance, and can pick them out of another flock one by one. The butcher knows by sight the weight and quality of his beeves and sheep before they are killed. The farmer perceives by his eye very nearly the quantity of hay in a rick or corn in a heap. The sailor sees the burden, the build, and the distance of a ship at sea, while she is a great way off. Every man accustomed to writing, distinguishes acquaintances by their hand-writing, as he does by their faces. In a word, acquired perception is very different in different persons, according to the diversity of objects about which they are employed, and the application they bestow in observing them."

All such acquired powers are the results of long-continued practice. And back of them lies the persistent Will. In the most of such and similar instances no great amount of Will is required at any one time; they are rather outcomes of steady application to the thing in hand.

Thus, unfailing attention to the exercises here to follow, with the idea of power of Will constantly in mind, will impart facility as regards the directions given, and in turn will develop the controlling faculty of mind to an astonishing degree.

But this work, to be successful, must be conducted with labor and patience. Think not to acquire a great Will without toil. Nor imagine that such a boon can come of a month's training or of spasmodic effort. There is but one way to get a good Will ; to will to will, and to carry out that will with unflinching perseverance.

The insane are sometimes able, for a purpose, to " wind themselves up," and act like the sanest, by a supreme effort of Will. If the present book costs you many months of endeavor, it will " wind up " the Will to great power and persistence, and will justify all time and toil.


The value of drill depends largely upon system. This requires not only regular labor, but regular rest-periods as well.

In the ten-day exercises continue five days, then rest — preferably Saturday and Sunday.

From first to last, cultivate and sustain the Mood of Will. Put the Will at the fore. Here alone is our ne plus ultra!

Finally, in order that the principles involved may become an intelligent part of the system carried out, the following suggestions applicable to the Physical and Mental Régimes should be thoroughly worked into the student's mind as to:

First. In Regard to Perception.

1. Keep the perceptive powers always at their best: eyes, ears, smell, taste, touch, nerves.

2. Attend to the consciousness of each sense.

3. Observe frequent and regular periods of rest. The law that " voluntary attention comes only in beats," requires this rule.

4. With attainment of facility, invent new methods of practice.

5. Carry the idea involved in practice into all your life.

6. While habituated actions that are not naturally automatic are certainly voluntary, the presence of conscious Will should be maintained as much as. possible in all such activities. Example: piano playing; hold the mind consciously to every movement.

7. Continue the practice of the perceptive powers until the greatest willing power has been acquired.

Secondly.— In Regard to Memory.

I. If the memory is weak all round, resolve to strengthen it.

2. Seek to discover the peculiarities of your own memory. Then make the most of it.

3. If the memory is weak in some particulars, but strong in others, cultivate it especially where weak, and compel it where strong to assist in this effort.

4. Subordinate the verbal memory to that of principles.

5. Give memory for principles a good foundation in memorized facts, dates, etc.

6. Rely resolutely upon the ability of your memory to do your bidding.

7. Frequently review all work of the memory with great Will-power.

8. Make use, as often as possible, in conversation and writing, and in public speaking, of all the acquirements of memory.

9. Always put the Will into the effort to remember. Io. Arrange materials by association. Then systematize and associate memory's possessions.

11. Resolve to acquire a perfect memory.

12. Abstain from all use of tobacco and alcohol.

13. Put no reliance in mnemonics, or any arbitrary " helps," but employ natural laws of association, such as

" Contiguity . Horse and rider.

Contrast . . Light and dark.

Resemblance., . Grant and Sherman. Cause and effect . . Vice and misery.

Whole and parts . United States and New York. Genus and species . . Dog and greyhound. Sign and thing signified . Cross and Catholic faith."

Thirdly.— In Regard to Imagination.

1. Do not indulge in revery.

2. Abstain from all evil imaginations.

3. Deal, in the imagination, with facts and essential reality alone.

4. Fill mind with wholly admirable material.

5. Put the Will-sense into the imagination.

6. Make the imagination a conscious and intelligent instrument. Use it for practical purposes.

7. Beware of the " squint " brain. Look at things squarely and without prejudice.

8. Do not fall in love with the wonderful for its own sake.

9. Do not permit the imagination to dwell upon any one thing, nor upon any one quarter of thought or life, for long at one time.

10. Provide for the imagination the greatest variety of material.

11. Rigidly exclude from the realm of fancy all imaginary ills, and especially misconceptions about men or reality. Guard against deception here.

Fourthly.— In Regard to Self-perception.

1. Do not suffer mind to become morbid.

2. Subject the testimony of the senses and of mind to the closest scrutiny of reason.

3. Maintain in all seasons the healthy mood. Keep up your supply of ozone.

4. Live among wholesome people.

5. Companion only with large and vigorous truths.

6. Thrust the Will into all perception of self. Banish the dream-mood. Turn a hurricane in on hallucinations.

7. Become familiar with self-perception in every phase : seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touch, muscular consciousness, nerve-testimony; feeling, memory, imagination, reason, Will, moral states. Be absolute master here.

Fifthly.— In Regard to Self-control.

I. Habituate normal and right actions.

2. Eliminate eccentricities.

3. Study and overcome your personal faults.

4. Destroy immoral, injurious and obnoxious habits.

5. Expend no unnecessary amount of force in legitimate effort, and none at all in illegitimate.

6. Welcome criticism ; but sift it thoroughly, and then act upon results.

7. Never gratify impulse or desire if either offers a single chance of permanent injury to the highest tone of mind.

8. When about to lose self control, anticipate consequences, and foresee especially what you may be required to do in order to regain position.

9. Make discipline an ally, not an enemy.

10. Believe mightily in yourself.

11. Unite belief in self with faith in man.

12. Keep the loftiest ideals fresh in thought.

13. Never, for an instant, lose consciousness of self as a willing centre of power.


"There is nothing which tends so much to the success of a volitional effort as a confident expectation of its success."

Cultivate, therefore, the Mood of Expectancy.

There are underlying, scientifically demonstrated truths of tremendous import in this connection. Space does not allow going into a lengthy explanation. But the idea is: The positive mind that DEMANDS, mentally, the things it wants, is far more likely to get them than the cringing, shrinking, negative state of mind. Some rules in this connection follow :

1. Be sure the intended effort is one within the possibility of your powers to carry through.

2. If it is possible to choose the time of applying the final effort, select a period when you are at your best physically and mentally.

3. Impress upon your mind, over and over again, the demand that you simply MUST win. Scout and ridicule the little flickering thoughts that pipe up : "There's a big possibility that you won't get it."

4. Mentally demand, over and over, and with intensest vigor of thought, that you shall and will get

what you seek. Say: I DEMAND health. I DEMAND luxuries. I DEMAND better things in life. I simply MUST have them. I DEMAND the universal forces to bring into my career the values I seek.


If this seems far-fetched — just bear in mind that you are using that positive state of mind which is exactly the opposite of the cringing, timid condition which you know is the sort that gets " kicked aside." If the negative phases of mind gets what it expects (kicks, drudgery, slights, life's dregs) then beyond any question the POSITIVE mind can get the big things it demands.

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