Setting goals through Discipline. Perseverance. Ideals. “Self-Help” by Samuel Smiles – written in 1866 (Sept. 2009)

Susan's Thursday morning note September 10, 2009 
Self-Help by Samuel Smiles (Setting goals through discipline, perseverance, ideals)

Good morning!  Strong coffee…not enough sleep…all mixed together to bring you something to think about this week!  Let’s see if the caffeine has hit my bloodstream yet!  This week I have been reading a book written in 1866 called Self-Help by Samuel Smiles.  (How’s that for an author’s name of a self-help book?!)  This book has been fascinating from the first opening.  He gives example after example of those that set goals for themselves and through discipline, perseverance, and believing in their ideals, met their goals (or found fulfillment in knowing they were working towards them.)  I am at a loss for what to write – it’s just too much, so I’ll write some of what I’ve underlined, hoping you get encouragement in redefining your own personal goals and going for them…taking your personal life up a level that only can be reached through clarifying your thoughts, your desires…and then having the discipline to go for them.  You would not regret having this book on your side table…one of those books that every page is different….every page giving examples of those that have taken their lives up to a level that only self-discipline could lead….encouraging us to do the same…(and I like that every footnote & reference is from the 1800’s!)

Biographies of great, but especially of good men…teach high living, high thinking, and energetic action for their own & the world’s good.  The valuable examples which they furnish of patient purpose, resolute working, and steadfast integrity, issuing in the formation of truly noble and manly character…

Great men of science, literature, and art – apostles of great thoughts and lords of the great heart – have belonged to no exclusive class nor rank in life.  They have come alike from colleges, workshops, and farmhouses – from the huts of poor men and the mansions of the rich.  The poorest have sometimes taken the highest places; nor have difficulties proved obstacles in their way.  Those very difficulties, in many instances, would ever seem to have been their best helpers, by evoking their powers of labour and endurance, and stimulating into life faculties which might otherwise have lain dormant….Notwithstanding their comparatively adverse circumstances in early life, these distinguished men achieved a solid and enduring reputation by the exercise of their genius, which all the wealth in the world could not have purchased.

He then goes on to list all the men who have had influence in sciences, math, arts, politics…and what their fathers did for a living.  He begins paragraph after paragraph with…From the weaver class sprung…Nor have tailors been undistinguished…were the sons of butchers….from the sons of bakers…the sons of clergymen… The amount of research (before computers!) put into this book is unbelievable!

Gesner, the naturalist, (son) of a skinner or worker in hides, at Zurich.  This last began his career under all the disadvantages attendant on poverty, sickness, and domestic calamity; none of which, however, were sufficient to dampen his courage or hinder his progress.  His life was indeed an eminent illustration of the truth of the saying, that those who have most to do and are willing to work, will find the most time.

On one student that was disadvantaged, but had goals for himself after taking on an apprenticeship for an apothecary…But the apothecary would not permit him to spend any part of his time in learning; and on ascertaining this, the youth immediately determined to quit his service.

On energy and courage to set goals & follow them…

In every work that he began…he did it with all his heart.  II Chron 31:21.

It is not eminent talent that is required to ensure success in any pursuit, so much as purpose – not merely the power to achieve, but the will to labour energetically and perseveringly…Even if a man fail in his efforts, it will be a satisfaction to him to enjoy the consciousness of having done his best.

“In life,” said Ary Scheffer, “nothing bears fruit except by labour of mind or body.  To strive and still strive – such is life; and in this respect mine is fulfilled; but I dare to say, with just pride, that nothing has ever shaken my courage.  With a strong soul, and a noble aim, one can do what one wills, morally speaking.”

Nothing that is of real worth can be achieved without courageous working.  Man owes his growth chiefly to that active striving of the will, that encounter with difficulty, which we call effort; and it is astonishing to find how often results apparently impracticable are thus made possible.  An intense anticipation itself transforms possibility into reality; our desires being often but the precursors of the things which we are capable of performing…the timid and hesitating find everything impossible, chiefly because it seems so…It is will, – force of purpose, – that enables a man to do or be whatever he sets his mind on being or doing.

The greatest difficulties could neither embarrass nor intimidate Wellington (general who defeated Napoleon); his energy invariably rising in proportion to the obstacles to be surmounted.  The patience, the firmness, the resolution

Human character is molded by a thousand subtle influences, by example and precept; by life and literature; by friends and neighbors; by the world we live in as well as by the spirits of our forefathers, whose legacy of good words and deeds we inherit.  But great, unquestionably, though these influences are acknowledged to be, it is nevertheless equally clear that men must necessarily be the active agents of their own well-being and well-doing; and that, however much the wise and the good may owe to others, they themselves must in the very nature of things be their own best helpers.

Okay, I won’t try to top those thoughts!  What are you discouraged about right now?  Have you solidified your goals?  Do you know what you want to be in 10 years…intellectually, spiritually, in your relationships, in your health?  (Remember Eat That Frog – the book I wrote on last month – that’s my favorite book for clarifying my goals)…let no difficulties embarrass or intimidate us…sounds easier than the reality of that, right?  I truly do recommend that you get this book.  Just seeing the cover on your shelf will help you to rethink your goals and have the opportunity to read about others that courageously pursued their goals.  Surround yourself with authors that mold you….but be selective on who you read….find an author that influences you to grow…then find the books that influenced that author…there is no end to uncovering what is worth your reading. Thanks again for letting me come into your Thursday & for your business at the store.  There is no way you’ll know what your support & encouragement mean.  I hope I’m working when you come over, but if not, know I see you were there & I thank you in my mind!  Go take on your day – make your time and thoughts be worth writing on your epitaph tonight – for the time that you can never get back.  No matter your personal circumstances, if you are hurting make the decision to look up to the hills….peace that passes even your understanding is there…a promise.  Have a great rest of the week!  Susan

Latin for this week:
Perseverando - by perseverance  (Motto on the seal of the State of Virginia)
Persevero -  I persevere.
Vi et animo - By strength and courage

Works Cited:
Smiles, Samuel.  Self-Help. Virginia.  IndyPublish.  2002.