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The Mastery Of Will


Manifest Your Desires Effortlessly

There is probably no phase of mental activity which is more difficult to define than that called the Will. All of us know quite well what is meant by "the will," but when we attempt to express the knowledge in formal words we find it most difficult. When we refer to the dictionaries for assistance, we are but little better off, for they generally hold fast to the old philosophical conception of Will as (1) the desire or inclination to act in a certain way, or (2) the power of choice exercised by the mind, by which it decides which of several courses of action to follow. The third, and according to the modern view the most important phase of will, namely, that of the act of voluntary effort and actions, is passed over in most cases as being merely incidental.

The modern conception of the Will is that of mental states concerned with action, the other phases being regarded as subordinate to this. As a popular psychologist has well stated: "Will concerns itself with action. The student must keep that fact before him, no matter how complex the process seems. We are never without the activity of the will, in the broadest sense of that term.

The Will may be said to present three general phases of itself for our consideration, namely: (1) The phase in which Desire is being transformed into Will; (2) the phase in which there is the process of Deliberation concerning the respective values of several desires, or several courses of action represented by their respective ideas or mental images; this phase of Deliberation begins with conflicting motives, and ends with a Decision or Choice; (3) the phase of action resulting from the Decision or Choice. The following somewhat fuller statement of each of these phases will aid the reader in perceiving the special characteristics of each.

1. Desire-Will. All activities of the Will may be said to have been preceded by Desire. One may Desire without actually setting the Will into operation, but one can scarcely be thought of as Willing without having first experienced the Desire to Will (it being, of course, understood that such Desire may have manifested subconsciously rather than in the conscious field). It is almost impossible to conceive of one willing to do a thing unless from the motive of Desire, either in the form of "wanting to" on the one hand, or that of fear on the other hand. At the last, as at the first, Will is seen to be the active expression of some form of Desire.

A writer says: "Desire is aroused by feelings or emotions rising from the subconscious planes of the mind, and seeking expression and manifestation. In some cases the feeling or desire first manifests in a vague unrest caused by subconscious promptings and excitement. Then the imagination pictures the object of the feeling, or certain memory images of it, and the desire thus rises to the plane of consciousness. The entrance of the desiring feeling into consciousness is accompanied by that particular tension which marks the second phase of desire. This tension, when sufficiently strong, passes into the third phase of desire, or that in which desire blends into will-action. Desire in this stage makes a demand upon will for expression and action. From mere feeling, and tension of feeling, it becomes a call to action. But before expression and action are given to it, the second phase of will must manifest at least for a moment; this second phase is known as deliberation, or the weighing and balancing of desires."

2. Deliberative Will. In this second phase of Will activity, there is a balancing and weighing of desires, or at least a weighing and balancing of several courses of action in order to determine their values as a channel of expression of the strongest desires.

Sometimes there is present a dominant desire that presses aside all other desires, and asserts its strength and power; in such a case the deliberation is simply that of determining the best possible channel of expression of that desire. But, as a rule, there is first a conflict of desires, which results either in the victory of the strongest desire present at that moment, or else an average struck between several strong desires then present.

In the case of an uncultured person, the struggle is based upon the most primitive and elemental factors of feeling, but with the development of intellect new factors manifest themselves and exert their influence. Also, the more complex the emotional development of the individual, the more intense and complicated becomes the process of choice. Reference to the foregoing chapters in which the subject of the nature of Desire is considered, will throw additional light on this subject. In the case of individuals of higher emotional and intellectual culture, it will be found that the desires concerning the welfare of other persons in whom the individual has a keen interest and for whom he has a great affection will often prove stronger than the more personal feelings. Likewise, in such an individual the prospect of a future greater benefit will often outweigh a lesser though immediate benefit.

As a writer says: "The judgment and action of an intelligent man, as a rule, are far different from those of an unintelligent one; and a man of culture tends toward different action than that of an uncultured one; and, likewise, the man of broad sympathies and high ideals acts in a different way from one of the opposite type. But the principle is always the same—the feelings manifest in desire, the greatest ultimate satisfaction apparent at the moment is sought, and the strongest set of desires wins the day."

Finally, the balance is struck, and the decision or choice is made, and the individual "makes up his mind" to act in accordance therewith. And, in the ordinary course, the process of Will then passes on to the next phase, i.e., the phase of Action.

3. Action-Will. The older psychologists usually passed at once from the phase of Will called "Deliberation," into that phase called "Action." But the newer school is more discriminating, and insists that there is an intermediate stage between the two said phases—a stage in which, though decision and choice be made, and though action may be determined upon, still there is a holding-back from actual action.

A typical illustration of this intermediate stage is the familiar experience of rising in the morning. We may resolve to get up, because we see the need of doing so and the penalty for not doing so; then we firmly "make up our mind" to rise, but for some reason we linger a little longer, and our resolve does not take form in action. Finally, for some reason, we suddenly seem to appreciate the need of immediate action, and then the spring of the will is released, and we throw off the covers and step out of the bed.

A well-known psychologist says: "From a subjective point of view, decision may end the matter, but in a practical world decision is of little account unless it is followed by action. The road to hell is said to be paved with good intentions, or decisions. A good decision never moved a person an inch heavenward. For a completed act of will, there must be action along the line of the decision. Many a decision has not raised the motor centers to action, nor quickened the attention, for any length of time. There are persons who can frame a dozen decisions in the course of a morning, and never carry out one of them. Sitting in a comfortable chair, it may take one but a very short time to form a decision that will require months of hard work. Deciding in this way is very different from laboring wearily to carry the decision into effect. The decider does not generally realize the amount of effort involved when he airily declares his intention of performing a certain action.

"Some persons can never seem to understand that resolving to do a thing is not the same as doing it. Such are utterly worthless in this world of action. They talk; they feel; they do anything but act. They appear to derive almost as much comfort from resolving to answer a letter, which should have been answered two months before, as they would from actually writing the reply. There may be desire, deliberation, and decision; but if these do not result in action along the indicated line, the process of will is practically incomplete."

Training the Will

Just as the Master Mind may train the faculties of Thought, and the faculties of Feeling and Emotion, so may it train, control, direct, and master the faculties of the Will. And this last is perhaps the most important of all the various forms of mastery manifested by the Ego, or Master Mind, because the Will is the instrument which the Ego applies to control the other mental faculties—and control of the Will is control of the entire situation.

It should be mentioned here, however, that if the student has put into practice the various forms of the control of the other mental faculties, the Will itself will be found to have gained strength and power from such use and exercise. Particularly is this so where the Attention has been mastered and controlled, for the Attention is the principal weapon of the Will—the one by which it imposes its authority upon the other faculties.

The following Rules for Will-Training will furnish the student with a simple, practical method or system of training and cultivating the Will. It consists of the application of a few elemental principles, which may be afterward elaborated, added-to, and developed into a much more imposing structure of method and system.

The Rules of Will Development

1. Finding the Center of Power. This rule consists of bidding the student to find the center of his mental being—the place where dwells the Ego, the Master of Mind, the "I." This consists not alone of him merely assenting to the presence of the Ego on the part of the intellect, but rather of the conscious feeling of the presence, reality and power of the "I," in the center of the mental field, where it masters, directs, controls, and manages the feelings, emotions, thought processes, objects of attention and desire, and finally of the activities of the will.

The Ego must learn to turn its attention inward upon itself, and to be conscious of its own presence and existence. It must inwardly cognize itself as the "I"—an actual living entity or being. To do this fully, the Ego must for the moment separate itself from the various instruments and faculties belonging to it—it must see and feel itself simply as the pure Ego—the "I AM!" It may take some time and practice for one to attain this particular stage of self-consciousness, but progress will be made from the beginning, and each step of the path will be repaid with actual results. Each time you control or direct the mind, say to yourself "I, the Ego, the Master Mind, am doing this"—and you will be made conscious of a dawning realization of the Ego which is Yourself—your Real Self.

2. Exert Your Will Power. Exert Your Will Power by practicing the control over the several mental and emotional faculties. Will to think; Will to feel; Will to act. For instance: you may feel a desire to do, or not to do a certain thing—here is your chance to prove your Will Power. Deliberately determine that you shall and will desire and feel the exact opposite of your present desire, and then proceed to manifest in action that idea and determination. You will find that the original desire or feeling will struggle and rebel—it will fight hard for life and power—but you must oppose it to the deadly cold steel of your will, as directed by the Master Mind, or Ego. Persevere, and yield not an inch—assert your mastery of your own mental domain. Ask no quarter, and give none; and as sure as tomorrow's sun will rise, so surely will your will triumph, for the Will is positive to the other mental states, when it is properly applied and persistently exerted.

3. Consider Your Actions. Cultivate the faculty of careful deliberation and intelligent determination. In short, look before you leap. Test your feelings, emotions, impulses, and desires by the light of your intellect. Test every desire and impulse by the Touchstone of Positivity: "Will this make me stronger, better, and more efficient?" Do not prolong your deliberation too long, however—learn to decide carefully but at the same time quickly and without dawdling or waste of time. Then, when you have determined upon your course of action—have decided what to do, and how to do it, as well as understanding why you should do it—then proceed to actually do it with all your might. Follow the old maxim: "Be sure you're right, then go ahead!" Hold the wild horses of your mentality firmly in hand, using the guiding reins of the reason and judgment—but see that they go ahead!

4. Cultivate the Attention. Carefully cultivate the Attention until you can focus it upon any object or subject with concentrated force and insistent direction. The Attention determines the path of the will—either toward or away from the object of the Attention, as the case may be. Attention is the eye of the Ego, or Master Mind, the driver of the mental chariot. Note the following quotations from leading psychologists on this point: "The first and great task of the will is the control and direction of the Attention. The will determines the kind of interest that shall prevail at the moment, and the kind of interest largely determines the character of the man, his tastes, his feelings, his thoughts, his acts."

"Cooperating with a pre-existing influence, the will can make a weaker motive prevail over a stronger. It determines which of pre-existing influences shall have control over the mind."

"If the will relaxes its hold over the activities of the mind, the Attention is liable to be carried away by any one of the thousands of ideas that the laws of association are constantly bringing into our minds."

5. Acquire the Habit of Mastery. Carefully cultivate and acquire the habit of controlling your mental faculties, feelings, desires, and thoughts, as well as your actions, by the power of your awakened will. When you have acquired this habit— and the mental faculties have discovered your power over them, and they also have acquired the habit of obeying—half the battle is over. Then will the wild horses of the mind have learned the lesson of control, and will interpose a constantly decreasing degree of resistance, and they will manifest a constantly increasing obedience. Don't allow your mental steeds to run away with the chariot. They will do wonderful work if properly controlled and directed, but if they are permitted to rush along unrestrained by and heedless of the hand of the Master Mind, they will run into mire and morass, and may even wreck the chariot and throw the charioteer into the ditch or over the precipice. Habit becomes second nature, remember—and habit is strengthened by repetition. So keep at it, and your power of control will increase daily, and their response and obedience will increase in like proportion.

6. Occasionally Perform Disagreeable Tasks. You will find that it is of great benefit to occasionally drive your mental steeds in directions contrary to that in which they wish to travel. This course is advisable, not because the agreeable way is necessarily wrong, but simply because such exercise of control trains them and accustoms them to the control and direction of the Master Mind. One of the best methods of Mind Mastery is to compel yourself to occasionally perform some disagreeable task, something you do not wish to do, or do not feel like doing. Here you will have a fight worthy of the mettle of the Master Mind. The rebellious feelings and desires will rear and plunge and use every art and wile in order to defeat your purpose. Finding that you are determined to rule, they may even seem to acquiesce for the time being, only to afterward take you by surprise and off your guard when you relax your efforts and rest secure in the feeling that you have conquered. They sometimes act like the mule in the well-known story of Josh Billings, the American humorist; this mule, he said, would sometimes stay good for three months just to get a chance to kick the hostler when he wasn't expecting it.

Desires and feelings are wily animals—watch them and do not be caught napping or off your guard. By doing a few disagreeable things once in a while—doing something that you do not feel like doing, or leaving undone some thing you do feel like doing, you will gain a wonderful control over your emotional nature, and desire-mind, that will serve you well in some future hour of need when you require every available ounce of your Will Power in order to act right. Moreover, by following this course, you will educate your mental faculties in the direction of acquiring the habit of yielding to the control and mastery of the will—that is to say, of course, to the Will directed by the Master Mind or Ego. Many great men know this law, and apply it to their advantage. One writer mentions the case of a man who was found reading a particular "dry" work on political economy. His friend expressed surprise at his choice of a book, and the man replied: "I am doing this because I dislike it!" He was training his mortal horses. One of the best and simplest methods of putting this rule into practice is that of heeding the popular adage: "DO IT NOW!" Procrastination is a particularly balky horse, and one that requires careful and persistent attention.

A writer says on this point: "Nothing schools the will, and renders it ready for effort in this complex world, better than accustoming it to face disagreeable things. Professor James advises all to do something occasionally for no other reason than that they would rather not do it, if it is nothing more than giving up a seat in a street car. He likens such effort to the insurance that a man carries on his house. He has something to fall back on in time of trouble. A will schooled in this way is always ready to respond, no matter how great the emergency. While another would be crying over spilled milk, the possess of such a will has already found another cow. The only way to secure such a will is to practice doing disagreeable things. There are daily opportunities. Such a man has the elements of success in him. On the other hand, the one who habitually avoids disagreeable action is training his will to be of no use to him at a time when supreme effort is demanded. Such a will can never elbow its way to the front in life. We gradually make our characters by separate acts of will, just as the blacksmith by repeated blows beats out a horseshoe or an anchor from a shapeless mass or iron. A finished anchor or horseshoe was never the product of a single blow."

The "James' Formulas"

No presentation of the best modern thought concerning the Cultivation of Will Power would be complete without mention of the celebrated Formulas of the great American psychologist, the late William James. Professor James based these formulas upon those of Bain, elaborating the latter and adding some equally good advice to them. Here follows a condensed statement of the "James' Formulas," including a condensation of those of Bain which are quoted by James.

1. "In the acquisition of a new habit, or the leaving off of an old one, launch yourself with as strong and decided an initiative as possible. This will give your new beginning such a momentum that the temptation to break down will not occur as soon as it otherwise might; and every day during which a breakdown is postponed adds to the chances of it not occurring at all."

2. "Never suffer an exception to occur till the new habit is securely rooted in your life. Every lapse is like the letting fall of a ball of string which one is carefully winding up—a single slip undoes more than a great many turns will wind again." "It is necessary, above all things, in such a situation, never to lose a battle. Every gain on the wrong side undoes the effect of many conquests on the right. The essential precaution is so to regulate the two opposing powers that the one may have a series of uninterrupted successes, until repetition has fortified it to such a degree as to enable it to cope with the opposition, under any circumstances."

3. "Seize the very first possible opportunity to act on every resolution you make, and on every emotional prompting you may experience in the direction of the habits you wish to gain. It is not the moment of their forming, but in the moment of their producing motor effects, that resolves, and aspirations communicate their new 'set' to the brain. The actual presence of the practical opportunity alone furnishes the fulcrum upon which the lever can rest, by which the moral will may multiply its strength and raise itself aloft. He who has no solid ground to press against will never get beyond the stage of empty gesture making."

4. "Keep the faculty alive in you by a little gratuitous exercise every day. That is, be systematically ascetic or heroic in little, unnecessary points; do every day something for no other reason than that you would rather not do it, so that when the hour of dire need draws nigh, it may find you not unnerved and untrained to stand the test. The man who has daily inured himself to habits of concentrated attention, energetic volition, and self-denial in unnecessary thing will stand like a tower when everything rocks around him, and when his softer mortals are winnowed like chaff in the blast."

Inspiring Ideals. The student who is striving to develop his Will Power will do well to hold before his mental vision the Inspiring Ideal of the Goal toward which he is struggling and striving. The following quotations from well-known writers will perhaps serve the student well in this regard. Let him commit some of these quoted lines to memory, and frequently repeat them to himself, and thus create a Living Ideal which will stimulate and inspire him to continued and renewed effort—this will aid him greatly in the work of making the Ideal become REAL. Here follow the said quotations:

The star of the unconquered will,

It rises in my breast,

Serene and resolute and still,

And calm and self-possessed.

So nigh is grandeur to our dust,

So near to God is man,

When duty whispers low, "Thou must!"

The youth replies, "I can!"

"The longer I live, the more certain I am that the great difference between men, between the feeble and the powerful, the great and the insignificant, is energy— invincible determination—a purpose once fixed, and then death or victory. That quality will do anything that can be done in this world, and no talents, no circumstances, no opportunities will make a two-legged creature a man without it."

"Resolve is what makes a man manifest; not puny resolve, not crude determination, not errant purpose, but that strong and indefatigable will which treads down difficulties and danger as a boy treads down the heaving frost lands of winter, which kindles his eye and brain with a proud pulse beat toward the unattainable. Will makes men giants."

"Let the fools prate of luck. The fortunate is he whose earnest purpose never swerves, Whose slightest action, or inaction, serves the one great aim. Why, even death itself stands still and waits an hour sometimes for such a will.''

"I have brought myself by long meditation to the conviction that a human being with a settled purpose must accomplish it, and that nothing can resist a will which will stake even existence upon its fulfillment."

"A passionate desire and an unwearied will can perform impossibilities, or what may seem to be such to the cold and feeble."

"It is wonderful how even the casualties of life seem to bow to a spirit that will not bow to them, and yield to subserve a design which may, in their first apparent tendency, threaten to frustrate. When a firm, decisive spirit is recognized, it is curious to see how the space clears around a man and leaves him room and freedom."

"I am bigger than anything that can happen to me. All these things are outside my door, and I've got the key! Man was meant to be, and ought to be, stronger and more than anything that can happen to him. Circumstances, 'Fate,' 'Luck,' are all outside; and if he cannot change them, he can always beat them!"

"Man owes his growth chiefly to that active striving of the will—that encounter which we call effort—and it is astonishing to find how often results apparently impracticable are thus made possible. It is Will—force of purpose—that enables a man to do or be whatever he sets his mind upon being or doing. Let it be your first duty to teach the world that you are not wood and straw—that there is some iron in you."

Tender-handed stroke a nettle,

And it stings you for your pains.

Grasp it like a man of mettle,

And it soft as down remains

Parting Words

And now, my good reader, we have come to the end of this book. Its pages are filled with information of vital importance to you—information which will make your character what you wish it to be, providing that you so Will it, and providing that you will back up that Will with persistent, determined purpose and effort. I can do no more for you, however, than to point out the way for you to travel—you must tread the path yourself, for no one else can tread it for you.

Decide which you wish to be: Master Mind or Slave Mind! You have the choice— make it! I have led you to the spring from which bubbles the Waters of Mastery—but I cannot force you to drink thereof. In the words of an old writer: "Man must be either the Anvil or the Hammer—let each make his choice, and then complain not.''

If you are the Hammer, strike your fill

If, the Anvil, stand you still