This section is from the book "Applications of Psychology to the Problems of Personal and Business Efficiency", by Warren Hilton. Also available from Amazon: Psychology and Achievement - Applied Psychology 12 Volume Set.
RICHES and Health do not necessarily mean Happiness. If they did, we should find the poor and feeble invariably wretched and the rich and strong always happy.
Look about you. You will observe many who are sleek and luxurious fretting with ennui or proclaiming their miseries in the divorce courts. And that man whose wealth and health are the envy of others may bear a secret burden of griefs and disappointments. On the other hand some of the cheeriest, happiest people you ever knew have been frail of body and meager of purse.
There need be no glamour of sanctity or religious atmosphere about your idea of Happiness.
Happiness is not peculiarly the emolument of religious faith or of any creed.
In more or less transient forms it pays fleeting visits to the most unredeemed of sinners. Napoleon, who "won his way to empire through a sea of blood," and who came at last to unutterable woe, must nevertheless have tasted in his hours of triumph the sweetest forms of Happiness.
Neither is Happiness a definite and invariable condition. It is never the same. What seems Happiness today would be scorned as a base counterfeit tomorrow.
For Happiness runs the complete gamut of pleasurable emotion from the bovine inertia of contentment to the quivering ecstasy of bliss. Happy is the clod who desires nothing, and happy also is the man who is experiencing the fruition of a lifelong desire.
No thoughtful person will contend that Happiness is dependent upon the physical facts of life.
Some are happy in prison; others are wretched in palaces. This man goes to the stake with gladness in his heart; another mounts the steps of a throne and envies the meanest of his subjects.
Indeed, the physical facts of life -that is to say, "things in themselves" may be said to exert only a very indirect influence, if any, for or against Happiness. Speaking accurately, they do not constitute the environment in which we live.
Sense-impressions are the only assured realities. Our lives are passed in a ceaseless current of sense-impressions.
The sources from which they come may or may not be what our senses report them to be. We cannot know as to that. The mind is a wireless receiving station. No man can know what disturbing influences may intervene between the thing perceived and the mind perceiving it.
So that environment, as an influence, is nothing more nor less than the sum total of sensory images.
Nor is happiness or unhappiness the inevitable result of environment, considered as the sum total of our sensory images, and so as a matter beyond our conscious control. For we may, and do in fact, ignore much the greater part of our sensory images.
Sense-impressions continually throng in upon us from the entire surface of the body. They may convey conflicting messages of one kind or another. Who can tell? No man grasps them all, nor even any considerable part of them.
What we know of the world, what we are conscious of in the world, is not the things-in-themselves that constitute environment, is not even the sum total of our sensory images.
It is those sensory images, and those only, that through the influence of attention as determined by our voluntary and conscious interest are consciously perceived.
What, then, is Happiness? And how is it to be obtained?
Happiness is commonly defined as the pleasurable state of having no unsatisfied desires.
Yet this definition is surely inaccurate. For a desire satisfied is no longer a desire. All living desires are necessarily unsatisfied desires, and this definition amounts to saying that Happiness is the state of desiring nothing.
We cannot deny that this is a form of Happiness.
But it is a poor and unworthy form indeed. It is the lowest possible form.
It is a purely negative blessing. It is merely a state of mental inaction. It is the ignoble physical comfort and satisfaction of the sloth and the sluggard.
If this were all that Happiness could offer, it would not justify pursuit.
Happiness, true Happiness, is positive. So far from being the absence of Desire, it finds its very essence in Desire.
It is more than mere relief from pain; it is more than the security of comfort. It is a positively agreeable condition. It is a definite and conscious delight. It is a vivid and realizing joy. It is a highly emotional state.
It follows, therefore, that different individuals face different possibilities of happiness according to the range of their desires.
He that desires great things will rejoice immeasurably in their pursuit, will revel in their attainment, and even in the event of failure will be consoled by the loftiness of his aspirations. He that desires but little can never reap more than a moderate satisfaction in life, and is without inward resources to sustain him in defeat.
The first rule, then, for the attainment of happiness is this: Aim high.
You need have no fear that your desires may be inordinate. Jesus himself said, "It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom"
Formulate your desires carefully, thoughtfully, wisely.
Make them the expression of your highest ideals.
Do not hesitate to change them as your views of life broaden with age and experience.
And be assured that such desires as touch the topmost pinnacle of hope are also the expression of your highest mental and spiritual self.
Desire is the basic principle of all evolutionary progress. It is at the bottom of all differentiation of species and all racial development. It is the creative impulse that has caused men to live, to do and to enjoy.
Desire is the ultimate source of all splendid structures, of all colorful pictures, of all heavenly harmonies. It is the source of all beauty, of all personal adornment, of all physical grace and of all mental cultivation. It is the source of all that is good, all that makes life worth the living.
Therefore, Desire largely; aim high.
You can never get any more than you desire, and however great your desires, it may come about that every one will be fulfilled.
To desire bravely, to aim high, is one of life's most effective weapons.
And it is the cheapest thing in the world, for it costs absolutely nothing,
Perhaps for this very reason few there are who prize it. Men still insist upon extolling the virtues ok poverty and self-effacement, ideas that were first put forward by races whose necks were galled by the yoke of subjection and who found in such philosophies a balm for their pride.
Leave the church of the preacher who tells you that you are but a worm in the dust. Thoughts tend to work their own realization. Say to yourself instead that, as one made in the image of God, you will hold before you such desires as may be worthy of the Almighty.