The discipline which leads to mental fitness should be applied unceasingly to the conscious mind, nor should the subconscious be overlooked. The conscious mind thrives under a program of disciplinary exercise. Regular daily practice on the tests, drills, and exercises given here will bring highly satisfactory results. Not half-hearted practice, but careful concentrated conscientious practice is imperative. It is the only way to keep mentally fitto develop a keen, receptive memorya memory with the tenacious grip of a bulldog that never lets go. Keep constantly in mind the fact that you are in training and no lapses are permissible. Mental training requires just as rigid enforcement of training rules as does physical training. Observe the athletes of today in preparation for the Olympic games and profit by their example. Surely a man can afford to do as much for the sake of his own mind; to strive to the uttermost to win the laurel wreath of mental supremacy. Such a program requires elimination of the abuses of memory, to which we have referred in Chapter XII
A WELL-BALANCED MENTAL DIET
Omnivorous reading of trashy literature is one of the worst abuses. Such a mental diet has the same effect as a diet of candy, popcorn, gin and chilli sauce would have on an athlete. Discipline yourself to ” cut it out.” For newspapers, fiction and miscellaneous trash substitute some worth-while books for a change. Dr. Frank Crane said recently, ” There are just two classes of people in the world, those who mad news-papers and magazines, and those who read real books with covers on. them.” But you object, ” I haven’t the time.” Of all excuse’s that is the most worthless! No man can ever discipline his mind or make much personal progress until he is master of the time element. I i you but realize that you have all the time there is, just as much as any one else, then the only problem that remains is how to use it to the best advantage. Every man wastes time enough to read many books. Many men spend enough time on less important things to read some books. Most men could take half the time they spend in newspaper-reading and spend it to better advantage reading a few books. Here again the selective principle should be utilized. It has been well said that some books are to be tasted, some to be chewed, some to be swallowed and digested, and others to be eschewed.
But there is a wealth of rich material from which to choose. No man lives long enough to read a fractional part of the worth-while books which would enrich his mind and inspire him to greater achievement. But the newspaper-hash habit dies hard, and there are many who will not discipline themselves to give it up or to modify it. One member of my class said, ” I don’t give the newspaper a half-hour a day, only about two or three hours a week.” He did not realize what can be done with two hours a week. Why, in two hours you can read that wonderful little book by Bennett, How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day, or Allen’s masterpiece, As a Man Thinketh. In two hours a man can memorize the Twenty-Third and Ninety-First Psalms. Or you can read that marvelous little book by Griggs, The Margin. In two hours spent every week for a month you can read and digest Rabindranath Tagore’s masterpiece, The Realization of Life, the book which won the Nobel prize a few years ago and is probably the best work of modern philosophy to-day. Or you may read Beveridge’s book, The Life of Chief Justice Marshall, or Henry ‘Van Dyke’s great; story, The Other Wise Man, or review that grand old work of fiction Les Miserables, or read the book by Professor Parrington, Main Currents of American Thought, which won the award as the best book on contemporaneous American Life written in 1928, or best of all you may t-ake your two hours a week, which is only seventeen minutes a day, and you can memorize enough memory gems within a year to enrich your mental storehouse and to develop a strong retentive memory.
Possibly your interest may be aroused by these titles: Whither Mankind or The Art of Thinking, both excellent books for our purpose. Among the newer books, there is Living in the Twentieth Century; ” A Consideration of How We Got this Way,” by Professor H. E. Barnes. It will give the reader a sweeping survey of this age in all its aspects. Another brilliant work, recently published, is entitled Motives of Men, by G. A. Coe, a thought-provoking analysis of the modern trend. J. W. Krutch has written in brilliant and masterly style a book called The Modern Temper, which is a study, of modern disillusionment. Such books are stimulating to the mind; they challenge the reader to think. Furthermore, they keep him well informed in regard to the recent developments in human life and thought. An intellectual diet of this kind is sure to result in increased mental power. Those who are interested in present-day physics and are willing to ” dig deep ” should read The Nature of the Physical World, a most profound book by A. S. Eddington. Or if you like fiction, I would suggest All Quiet on the Western Front, by Remarque, a truly great book which strips war of all its illusions and dares to tell the truth. Another book of such rare quality that Glenn Frank has called it a ” bid for Immortality ” is Messer Marco Polo, by Donn Byrne.
Discipline your mind to enjoy such a diet as these books afford, and your intellect will grow strong and keen.
By all means give your memory new material to work upon, new food to digest. As some writer has well said, “It is ghastly to realize the incalculable contempt for opportunity, in the hours, days, nights, years spent in letting the brain sit as idle as a cow in a pasture chewing over the same old cud.” Keep in mind always that it is not alone what you read that counts, but whether or not you digest what you have read. Laird tells of a student who developed a serviceable memory by disciplining himself along this line. His system was very simple, including just three steps:
First: Attention. Second: Talk and think over to himself what he had read, seen or heard. By talking over his memories he was reinforcing them. (You should do likewise.) Third: To associate everything new with what he had already stored in his mind. This method will do much for you or for any one. In all our memorizing, we should continually seek for the under-lying meaning, the gist of the thing. Cast away the chaff before despositing the precious kernels of thought in the subconscious mind.
“Memorize by facts, by thoroughly knowing events, men or things; grasp the meaning of words; seek for the thought, the idea, the soul of the written or spoken matter; and after the facts are understood, the events, men or things comprehended, the meaning of words perceived, and the thought grasped, they may be deposited in the chambers of the memory with the assurance that they will instantly report for duty.”