No force in the human system can be properly used unless it is properly directed, and as the will is the only factor in man that has the power to direct or control, a thorough development of the will, as well as a clear understanding of its application under every circumstance, becomes absolutely necessary if we are to use all the forces within us to the very best advantage.
To define the will with absolute exactness is hardly possible, though a clear knowledge as to its general nature and special functions must be secured. In a previous chapter, it was stated that the “I Am” is the ruling principle in man, and it may be added here that when the “I Am” exercises this function of rulership anywhere in the human system, will power is the result; or, it may be stated that the will is that attribute of the “I Am” which is employed whenever there is a definite intention followed by actual action, with a view of initiating, controlling or directing. To state it briefly therefore, will power is the result of the “I Am” either taking initiative action or controlling and directing any action after it has been taken.
Among the many functions of the will, the principal ones are as follows: The will to initiate; the will to direct; the will to control; the will to think; the will to imagine; the will to desire; the will to act; the will to originate ideas; the will to give expression to those ideas; the will to will into action any purpose; the will to carry through that purpose; the will to employ the highest and most perfect action of any force or faculty in mind; and the will to push up, so to speak, any talent in the mind to its highest point of efficiency. This last mentioned function has been ignored, but it is by far the most important in the practical life of attainment and achievement.
To illustrate this idea, we will suppose that you have a group of faculties, all of which are well developed, and contain a great deal of ability and power. But how can those faculties be caused to act? The fact is they will not act in the least until the will wills them into action. The will therefore must first be applied, but the act of initiating action among those faculties is not its only function. To illustrate again, we will suppose that your will is very weak. It therefore stands to reason that the original impulse given those faculties will also be weak. Then when we understand that it is necessary for the will to continue to prompt or impel the continued action of any faculty we realize how weak, half-hearted and limited such an action will necessarily be when the will is weak. On the other hand, if your will is very strong, the original impulse given to the faculty will be strong and the continued action of that faculty will be much stronger, larger and more efficient. In brief, when a faculty is backed up, so to speak, with a powerful will, it easily doubles its capacity and efficiency; in other words, it is pushed up to a higher state of action. We understand therefore the great importance of having a strong will, though such a will is not only an advantage in promoting a fuller and larger expression of any faculty we may possess, but also in promoting a larger and more perfect expression of any force that may be applied, either in the personality, in character or in mind.
A powerful will, however, is never domineering or forceful. In fact, a domineering will is weak. It may be seemingly strong on the spur of the moment, but it cannot be applied steadily for any length of time. A strong will, however, is deep, continuous and persistent. It calls into action your entire individuality, and as you exercise such a will you feel as if a tremendous power from within yourself had been calmly, though persistently aroused.
When we analyze the human mind, in the majority we find the will to be weak, and in fact, almost absent in a great many. Such people do not have the power to take a single original step. They have no initiative,and accordingly drift with the stream. Among others, who are a little higher in the mental scale, we find a will somewhat stronger, but not sufficiently strong to exercise with any degree of efficiency a single one of its functions. Among what can be called “the better class,” we invariably find the will to be fairly well developed, and among the great leaders in all the different phases of human life and action, we find the will to be very strong; in fact, there is not a single mental or spiritual giant in history, who did not have a tremendous will, and this was one of his great secrets.
To illustrate further with regard to the last mentioned of the special functions, we will suppose that you have some talent for music. If you should will to exercise that talent to a slight degree only, it is evident that your efficiency along that line would not be marked. On the other hand, if your will was so strong that you could push up, so to speak, your musical faculty to its very highest point of efficiency, you would soon find yourself on the verge of musical genius; in fact, musical genius is absolutely impossible unless you have a strong will, no matter how much musical talent you may possess. Though it must be remembered in this connection that it is not sufficient simply to have a strong will.
The majority do not possess a strong will, and most of those who do have a strong will, have not learned how to apply it so as to secure greater efficiency in anything they may do; and here it is important to state that any one who will increase the power of his will, and properly train it for the purpose just indicated, may expect to increase his efficiency anywhere from twenty-five to two hundred per cent. The majority have many times as much ability and working capacity as they are using at the present time; in fact, they apply only a small fraction of what is in them, and the principal reason why they do not apply all that is in them, is that they do not have sufficient power of will to act on this larger scale.
In this connection, we find another condition which is very important, and with regard to overcoming circumstances. A great many people have good intentions, and they have sufficient will power to originate those intentions, but they have not sufficient will power to carry them out; in other words, they have the will to think, but not the will to act. And here we can use our own imagination in picturing that state of human affairs that would inevitably come into being if all good intentions became actions.
Thousands of people start out right, but they have not the power of will to continue, so that where ten thousand make a good beginning, less than a score finish the race. We find this condition in all walks of life and in all undertakings, and it illustrates most eloquently the necessity of a strong will in every mind.
Realizing the importance of a strong will, and knowing that the will is weak in the minds of the great majority, we may well ask what might be the cause of this weakness; and the answer is that there are several marked causes, all of which we shall proceed to consider.
The first among these causes is alcohol. The use of alcohol weakens the will, not only in the individual who partakes of it, but in his children and grandchildren, and many generations following. It has been estimated by those who have studied this subject carefully, that the use of alcohol from generation to generation through the centuries is one of the principal causes for this weakness in the human will that we find to be almost universal. And when we study the psychology of the subject we soon discover the reason why.
Nearly every nation, as far back in history as we can go, has been using alcohol in some form or other, and as its weakening effect upon the will is transmissible from one generation to another, we realize that practically every member of the race has been burdened, more or less, with this adverse inheritance. But in this connection, we must remember that it is not necessary to be disturbed by this dark picture, because no matter what we have inherited, we can overcome it absolutely. However, we do not wish to do anything that will be in our own way, or in the way of generations that are to follow. It is therefore necessary that we consider this subject thoroughly, and act upon it accordingly.
The fact that the human race has transmitted a weak will from generation to generation explains why the human family does not have enough power to produce more than an occasional mental giant. Here and there we find in history, men and women who tower above the rest. Their minds are strong, their wills powerful, and their souls invincible; but how different is the condition among the majority. Most of them constitute mere driftwood, and follow blindly the leadership of these mental giants the race has produced. This, however, is not the intention of nature. Nature intends all men and women to be mental and spiritual giants, and does not intend that any one should follow the will of another. But the human race has, in this respect, ignored the intentions of nature.
The reason why the use of alcohol weakens the will, is very easily explained. When you take anything into the system that tends to take control over your desires, feelings or intentions, you permit yourself to be controlled by an outside agency, and accordingly, the will for the time being is laid aside; and the law is, that whenever the will is laid aside by anything whatever, it is weakened; that is, you undermine, so to speak, that element of the will which gives it the power to direct and control. When this practice is continued and repeated a number of times, we can readily understand how the power of the will is gradually decreased more and more, until its very foundation has been practically removed.
When you permit an outside agency to control your feelings and emotions at frequent intervals for a prolonged period, your system will soon get into the habit of submitting to the control of this outside agency, and will not respond any longer to any effort that the will may make to regain its original power of control. This being true, we find an explanation for a number of perplexing questions. We learn why great men and women are not more numerous. We learn why the majority are so easily influenced by temptations. We learn why powerful characters are found only here and there, and we also learn why every great nation of past history has fallen.
When we study history, we find that every great nation, after coming to a certain point of supremacy, began to decline, and there are several reasons for this strange termination of national power. But there is only one reason that stands out as the most vital of them all, and as possibly the cause of them all. We refer to the fact that a decrease of great men and women invariably precedes the decline of a nation. To keep any great nation up to a high standard of civilization, there must be enough superior characters to hold the balance of power, but the very moment the balance of power gets into the hands of second grade men and women, a decline of that nation is inevitable. Therefore, if any great nation in the present age is to continue to grow in real greatness and real power, we must make a special effort to increase the number of great men and women in every generation. The greater a nation becomes, the more great men and women are required to govern and direct the forces of progress and growth that are at work in that nation. We therefore understand what is required of us in this generation if we want present civilization to advance and rise in the scale.
Another cause of this weakness in the will is found in what may be called psychical excess. And it is unfortunate that so many people have permitted themselves to be placed under psychical influences during the last fifty or seventy-five years; though it is a fact that a great many people have permitted their minds to be controlled or influenced by the psychical or the occult in every age. Another tendency therefore towards weakness in the will has been transmitted from generation to generation down through the ages, and we all have the effect of this misuse of mind also to overcome at the present time; but again let us remember that we have the power to overcome anything that we might have inherited.
Whenever you give up your individuality, or any part of your mind or thought, to some unknown force or influence that you know little or nothing about, you are permitting an outside agency to usurp the function of the will. You lay the will aside, you undermine its power to some extent, and thereby weaken those elements in its nature that constitute self-mastery and self-control. That psychical excess has this tendency to a most pronounced degree is well illustrated by the fact that every individual, who is fascinated with psychical experience, invariably lacks in self-control. Such people are usually so sensitive that they are swayed in every direction by every suggestion or influence or environment with which they may come in contact.
But here we may well ask what we are living for–if we are living to give up to the influence of environment, visible or invisible, or if we are living to attain such full control over the powers and talents that are within us, that we can not only control, modify and perfect environment, but also so perfectly control ourselves that we can become all that nature intends that we should become. If we are to rise in the scale, we must attain greater degrees of self-mastery, but we cannot learn to master ourselves so long as we are constantly permitting ourselves to be mastered by something else; and those who indulge in psychical experiences to any degree whatever, are permitting themselves to be mastered by something else. They are therefore losing ground every day. Their characters are becoming weaker, their standards of morality and rightness becoming more and more lax, as we all have discovered, and their power to apply those faculties and forces in their natures through which they may accomplish more and achieve more, are constantly decreasing, both in working capacity and in efficiency.
If man wants to live his own life as it should be lived; if he wants to master circumstances and determine his own destiny, he must have the power to say under all sorts of conditions what he is going to think and what he is going to do; but he cannot exercise this power unless his own will is permitted to have absolute control over every thought, effort and desire in his life.
Emotional excess is another cause that weakens the will, and by emotional excess we mean the act of giving way to uncontrolled feelings of any kind. To give way to anger, hatred, passion, excitability, intensity, sensitiveness, grief, discouragement, despair, or any other uncontrolled feeling, is to weaken the will. The reason is that you cannot control yourself through your will when you permit yourself to be controlled by your feelings; and any act that rules out the will, weakens the will.
Whenever you permit yourself to become angry, you weaken the will. Whenever you permit yourself to become offended or hurt you weaken your will. Whenever you permit yourself to become or discouraged, you weaken your will. Whenever you give way to grief, mental intensity or excitability, you weaken your will. You permit some artificial mental state to take possession of your mind, and your will at the time is put aside. We therefore should avoid absolutely all emotional excess. We must not permit any feeling whatever to take possession of us, or permit ourselves to be influenced in any form or manner by anything that may enter the mind uncontrolled through the emotions; but this does not mean that we should ignore emotion. Emotion is one of the most valuable factors in human life, and should be used and enjoyed under every normal circumstance, but should never become a ruling factor in mind, thought or feeling.
You may look at a beautiful picture, and lose yourself, so to speak, in its charms. You may listen to exceptional music, and be carried away, or be thrilled through and through by the joy of its harmony; or you may witness some scene in nature that causes your soul to take wings and soar to empyrean heights. You may permit yourself to enjoy any or all of these ecstasies at any time, provided you have conscious control over every movement of your emotions at the time.
Whenever you feel the touch of some sublime emotion, try to direct the force of that emotion, into a finer and a higher state of expression; thus you will not be controlled by it, but will exercise control over it, and accordingly will enjoy the pleasure of that emotion many times as much. It is a well-known fact that whenever we control any feeling, whether it be physical or mental or spiritual, and try to turn it into a larger sphere of expression, we enjoy far more the pleasure that naturally comes through the exercise of that feeling. To control our emotions therefore is to lose nothing and gain much.
Another cause of weakness in the will is what might be called mental dependence. To depend upon anybody or anything outside of yourself, is to weaken the will, for the simple reason that you let the will of some one else rule your actions, while your own will remains dormant. Nothing, however, that remains dormant can grow or develop. On the other hand, it will continue to become weaker and weaker, like an unused muscle, until it has no strength whatever. We therefore understand why those multitudes of people, who have followed blindly the will and leadership of others, not only in religion but in all other things, have practically no will power at all. And here we wish to state that it is positively wrong for any individual or any group of individuals to follow any one man or any one woman or any group of men or women under any circumstances whatever. We are here in this life to become something. We are here to make the best use of what we possess in mind, character and personality; but we cannot cause any element, faculty or power within us to express itself to any extent so long as we are mere dependent weaklings.
In everything, depend upon yourself, but work in harmony with all things. Do not depend even upon the Infinite, but learn to work and live in harmony with the Infinite. The highest teachings of the Christ reveal most clearly the principle that no soul was created to be a mere helpless instrument in the hands of supreme power, but that every soul should act and live in perfect oneness with that power. And the promise is that we all are not only to do the things that Christ did, but even greater things. Man is no credit to supreme creative power if he remains in the puppet stage, but he is a credit to that power if he becomes a giant in character, mind and soul. In our religious worship we have given unbounded praise to God for his wonderful power in creating man, and the very next moment we have announced the hymn, “Oh To Be Nothing.” The absurdity of it all is too evident to need comment, but when we understand that character and manhood, as well as practical efficiency in life, are the products of strength and not of weakness, we must come to the conclusion that every system of thought in the present age, be it religious, moral, ethical or philosophical, needs complete reconstruction.
We are here to become great men and women, and with that purpose in view, we must eliminate everything in our religion and philosophy that tends to make the human mind a dependent weakling. If you would serve God and be truly religious, do not kneel before God, but learn to walk with God, and do something tangible every day to increase the happiness of mankind. This is religion that is worth while, and it is such religion alone that can please the Infinite.
Another cause which is too large and diversified to outline in detail, is that of intemperance; that is, immoderation in anything in life. To indulge excessively any desire or appetite, be it physical or mental, is to weaken the will. Partake only of that which is necessary and good, and observe moderation. Control yourself under all circumstances, and resolve never to go too far in anything, because too much of the good may be more of an evil than not enough of it.
The effects of weakness in the will are numerous, but there are two in particular that should receive marked attention. The first is that when the will is weak, the human system becomes incapable of resisting temptations, and therefore moral weakness or a complete moral downfall is inevitable. Character in the largest sense of the term is impossible without a strong will, and it is impossible to accomplish anything that is of permanent value without character.
The second is that weakness in the will inevitably implies weak mental actions; that is, no matter how much ability you may possess, if your will is weak, you will apply only a fraction of that ability; and there are thousands of able men and women who are failures in life simply because they have not the will to apply all their ability. If they would simply increase the power of their will, and properly train that will, they would immediately pass from failure to success, and, in many instances, remarkable success. It is the power of the strong will alone that can give full expression to every talent or faculty you may possess, and it is only such a power that can push up the actions of every faculty to a point of high efficiency.
In learning to develop the will and to use the will, realize what the will is for. Understand clearly what its functions actually are, and then use it in all of those functions. Avoid anything and everything that tends to weaken the will, and practice every method known that can strengthen the will. Do not give in to any feeling or desire until you succeed in directing that feeling or desire as you like. Feel only the way you want to feel, and then feel with all the feeling that is in you. Whatever comes up in your system, take hold of it with your will and direct it so as to produce even greater results than were at first indicated. Use the will consciously as frequently as possible in pushing up your faculties to the highest point of efficiency; that is, when you are applying those faculties that you employ in your work, try to will them into stronger and larger actions. This is a most valuable practice, and if applied every day will, in the course of a reasonable time, not only increase the capacity and ability of those faculties, but will also increase decidedly the power of the will.
Whenever you will to do anything, will it with all there is in you. If no other practice than this were taken, the power of the will would be doubled in a month. Depend upon the power that is in you for everything, and determine to secure the results you desire through the larger expression of that power. Never give in to anything that you do not want. When a certain desire comes up that you do not care to entertain, turn your attention at once upon some favorable desire, and give all the power of your will to that new desire. This is very important, as the average person wastes more than half of his energy entertaining desires that are of no value, and that he does not ask yourself if you want it. If you do not, turn your attention in another direction; but if you do want it, take hold of it with your will and direct it towards the highest states of mind that you can form at the time. In brief, every action that enters the system, whether it comes through thought, feeling, desire or imagination, should be redirected by the power of the will and turned into higher and greater actions.
Whenever you think, make it a practice to think with your whole mind. Make your thinking wholehearted instead of half-hearted. Whenever you act, act with all there is in you. Make every action firm, strong, positive and determined; in other words, put your whole soul into everything that you feel, think or do. In this way, you turn on, so to speak, the full current of the will, and whenever the will is used to its full capacity, it will grow and develop.
Try to deepen every action of mind and thought; that is, do not think simply on the surface, but also think subconsciously. Think and act with your deeper mental life. You thereby give the power of the will a deeper field of action, and it is established in the larger life of your individuality instead of in the surface thought of your objective mind. The difference between a superficial will and a deeply established will is readily found in everyday experience. When you will to do anything and your intentions are easily thwarted by the suggestion of some one else, your will is on the surface. But when your intentions are so deeply rooted in the subconsciousness of your mind that nothing can thwart those intentions, your will has gained that great depth which you desire.
The more easily you are disturbed, the weaker your will, while the stronger the will, the more difficult it is for anything to disturb your mind. When the will is strong, you live and exercise self-control in a deeper or interior mental world, and you look out upon the confusions of the outer world without being affected in the least by what takes place in the external.
Whenever you exercise the will, try to place the action of that will as deeply in the world of your interior mental feeling as you possibly can; that is, do not originate will-action on the surface, but in the depth of your own supreme individuality. Try to feel that it is the “I Am” that is exercising the power of the will, and then remember that the “I Am” lives constantly upon the supreme heights of absolute self-mastery. With this inspiring thought constantly in mind, you will carry the throne of the will, so to speak, farther and farther back into the interior realms of your greater mental world, higher and higher up into the ruling power of the supreme principle in mind. The result will be that you will steadily increase the power of your will, and appropriate more and more the conscious control of that principle in your greater nature through which all the forces in your possession may be governed and directed.
He who would become great must live a great life.
Happiness adds life, power and worth to all your talents and powers. It is most important, therefore, that every moment should be full of joy.
However much you may do, always remember you have the ability to do more. No one has as yet applied all the ability in his possession. But all of us should learn to apply a greater measure every year.
While you are waiting for an opportunity to improve your time, improve yourself.
The man who never weakens when things are against him, will grow stronger and stronger until he will have the power to cause all things to be for him.