It's amazing to me how sometimes one can be exposed to multiple unassociated things that direct his thoughts toward a single subject or object. Such was the case with my experiences recently.
At the start of last week, my mail brought a publication that contained two related essays, one titled "The Power of the Thought Life" and the other titled "The Cultivation of the Mind." At the start of this week, while researching a totally unrelated topic, I ran across a little booklet published in 1902 or 1903 titled As a Man Thinketh. All three of those texts seemed to express similar ideas, and those expressions set my own mind in gear on the same topic: my thought life.
The title of that little booklet is a variation on the wording of Proverbs 23:7: "As he thinketh in his heart, so is he." The first of the articles expounded on the power of one's thoughts--for good or ill--and the second one encouraged the care and cultivation of one's mind so that its thoughts lead only to good results.
The gist of all three sources is that one's dominant thoughts make him what he is. Negative, evil thoughts tend to produce negative, evil results. Conversely, positive, good thoughts tend to produce positive, good results. It's the law of cause and effect, or sowing and reaping, at work in one's life.
But to produce good results, good thoughts must be wedded to a vision or purpose. "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Pro. 29:18).
It was Dr. Walter Fremont who first helped me realize the need for setting goals if I expected to achieve anything worthwhile in life. His life exemplified the principles he taught. He walked with purpose, like a man who had somewhere to be and something important to do. It was also Dr. Fremont who exposed me and his other education majors to the thinking of W. Clement Stone, a bowtie-wearing multimillionaire insurance magnate and motivational speaker and author (e.g., Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude).
To be worthwhile, one's vision must be larger than himself. And one must focus on the desired end result, not on self. Moreover, it requires that one establish priorities, exert efforts, and make sacrifices in realizing the achievement of the vision.
Chance, fortune, and luck are the subjects of which the lazy speak and what they seek for themselves. Whenever they fail to accomplish their goals, they blame their lack of such things for their failure. Those who achieve, however, talk of effort and purpose, trials and struggles, and lessons learned and applied in renewed efforts toward achieving their purpose.
These principles are certainly true in the world of writing and publishing. But they all begin with one's thoughts. Serious positive thinking produces a vision, a purpose, and that leads to thoughts about how one can best exert efforts that will result in the conducting of research that leads to the writing of a text and the landing of a publisher and the faith to see it through to the accomplishment of the goal: publication. It requires the discipline to sit in the chair and do the work--researching, writing, editing, revising, and proofing. And it requires perseverance when setbacks and failures occur, as they inevitably will.
The thought process behind each stage of the publishing process must be cultivated, just as a garden is cultivated. The soil must be prepared, the seed planted, the weeds pulled, and the plants watered regularly before one can reap the fruit of all those labors. Without those efforts, one's writing will resemble the stereotypical "English garden," which looks like nature gone wild and Paradise Lost.
I recall attending an address by W. Clement Stone, whom I mentioned earlier, when I was a young, wet-behind-the-ears college student. I sat on the aisle seat of the second row. Stone sat on the aisle diagonally opposite me in the first row. He looked as though he had stepped from the pages of Dress for Success. He wore a neatly tailored and pressed dark-gray, pin-striped business suit over a crisply starched white shirt. On his upper lip he wore a neatly trimmed, faint line of a moustache. Under his chin was his predictable hand-tied bow tie. He looked every bit the part of a successful businessman with an important message for anyone who was willing to listen. I could have reached across the aisle and touched the legend. And I was as giddy as a schoolgirl experiencing her first crush as I sat in anticipation of what the great man would tell us about how to be successful.
After Dr. Fremont, Dean of the School of Education, introduced him, Stone rose from his seat near me and walked slowly to the podium. He stood silently for a few moments as he studied the crowd of expectant future teachers, and then spoke softly, the audience becoming suddenly quiet and straining to hear his every word.
"The key to success, in teaching and in everything else worthwhile in life," he said, "is to think." He paused for what seemed to be several minutes, letting his profound statement sink into our thick, distracted, undergraduate brains. Then he repeated with greater volume and force the key word of his statement: "Think!"
He then turned from the podium and strode slowly across the platform, down the steps, and back to his seat across from me. Every few steps, he repeated loudly, "Think!" It was so quiet in the auditorium that it seemed as though no one was breathing, and we could hear each of his footsteps as he approached his seat. Arriving there, he turned, stood momentarily with his back to the audience, and then seated himself. As he plopped down, he uttered a final loud, "THINK!"
I left that meeting utterly disappointed in spite of the fact that the speaker had given each attendee a copy of his book Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude. But after reading the book, especially during the approximately 49 years since that evening, I've come to realize that Stone was absolutely right. "As a man thinketh, so is he."
Do you have a vision, a purpose in life bigger than yourself toward which you are working? Has it become your "magnificent obsession," your highest duty? Are you cultivating positive thoughts for its achievement?
For me, as I mentioned in an earlier blog post, that purpose is to honor and glorify God. Teaching, editing, and writing have been mere avenues for achieving that overarching goal.
It's never too late to begin. And it all starts with your thoughts, which are either self-defeating or positive, effectively moving you ever closer toward the achievement of your vision.
What are you thinking?