An infinite benefit comes from forming the habit of expecting the best of life for yourself. Do not go about with an expression of discontent on your face, giving everybody the impression that the good things of this world were intended for someone else. Learn the art of stretching your mind over great expectations. In this way you will broaden your position. If you learn the art of expecting great things for and from yourself, you are more likely to prepare yourself for great things. No one can accomplish anything great in this world who is contented with little, who is confident that he was made for little things, or is satisfied with what happens to come in his way.
A man who expects great things of himself is constantly trying to open a little wider the doors of his narrow life, to extend his limited knowledge, to reach a little higher, to get a little farther on than those around him. He has enough of the divine disposition within him to spur him on to nobler endeavors. He looks to get the best of the things offered to him. A false idea of what constitutes genius and real success is one of the greatest stumbling-blocks in the way of self progress.
It would be as reasonable for a mustard seed to refuse to grow because it never can become a pumpkin seed, or for the grape-vine to refuse to extend its tendrils because it cannot become an oak tree, as for a boy to lose precious years hesitating and dallying because uncertain as to his possessing genius. The duty of the acorn is to become an oak tree, not a pine tree, not a rose bush. There is infinitely less of what is called real genius in the world than is generally supposed. Somehow, the average youth seems to think that there is breathed into some men a divine fire, a surpassing gift to do things without effort, thus violating all the laws of persistent ambition to transmute common things into achievements, a power liken to that of the Creator.
The sooner one banishes from his mind all such nonsense the better. Very few really successful men can give a satisfactory explanation as to why they pursued the course they are on. They seem to have been kept going by means of an unseen power. They simply acted in accordance with the best light they had. No man can see the goal at the beginning. Even when he crosses the line in the race he can see only a few steps ahead. He is not guided by a star in the distance which beckons him on, but rather by a lantern which he carries in his hand, and which illumines but a short way in advance, just enough to enable him to take the next step with certainty and without fear.difficulties confront it.
Beyond that, all is shrouded in haze. But, as he travels on, the lantern never fails him. When we are sure that we are on the right path there is no need to plan our journey too far ahead, no need to burden ourselves with doubts and fears as to the obstacles that may bar our progress. We cannot take more than one step at a time. There is a perpetual inspiration in the effort to live one’s best every day. To consider the whole of life at once is too much to grasp, but the effort to live one’s best every day, to determine that for the day before us, at least, our ideal shall not be lying low, but shall aspire, this is practical right living, practical character building.
Nothing else so strengthens the mind, enlarges our manhood, and widens our thoughts, as the constant effort to measure up to a high ideal, to struggle after that which is above and beyond us. No matter what your work may be, or what you may do, put your ideal into it, be sure there is an upward tendency in it, an inspiring quality, a certain indefinable something which allies it to the divine. Everybody loves an aspiring mind, a mind that looks up, never down, out, never in, no matter what difficulties confront it.
How quickly we can distinguish the aspiring from the groveling mind! There is a certain indescribable charm about the person who has formed a habit of looking up, there is a superior quality in everything he does, no matter whether he be a congressman or a day laborer. Did you ever hear of a man who had striven all his life faithfully and singularly toward an object, and in no measure obtained it? If a man constantly aspires is he not elevated? Did ever a man try heroism, magnanimity, truth, sincerity and find that there was no advantage in them, that it was a vain endeavor? Aspiration finally becomes inspiration, and ennobles the whole life. Most of us build Chinese walls around ourselves by our vicious thinking, our low ideals, unnatural living, separating ourselves from all that is best and sweetest in life.
The stones in these walls are criticism, fault-finding, seeing the worst instead of the best in the world about us; they are made of worry, anxiety, trouble. We build these walls about us so high that they shut out the sunlight and we live in perfect darkness. No man can see over the wall which he erects over himself. The character must feel the ideal, it is the aim which modifies the character and shapes the life. It influences motives, colors actions, determines destiny. The whole life points toward the ideal. If that is low, the life points downward, if high, it aspires. If you look toward the light, the faculties will look up, if toward the darkness, you will face night. The leading aim will change the face to suit it, it will look out of the manner, it will speak from the bearing. What we long for and strive to attain, everybody who knows us can read, for we radiate our dominant aim. What we long to express in our life we are constantly expressing in our character.