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.
THERE are two ways by which you may arrange a content of consciousness in conformity with youn ideals, (a) One way is by Affirmation in a half-waking state; (b) The other, by Visualization in a half-waking state. The primary purpose of both methods is the concentration of consciousness. What you want to do is to hold, constantly before your eyes the picture of the thing you want to have or to do, the sort of man you want to be.
Affirmation is of wonderful efficacy in this respect. To declare that the ideal is already an accomplished fact, is already true, is already the greater power within you, is already determining your conduct and controlling your destiny, is necessarily to hold these thoughts in your consciousness and so to inhibit all contrary and conflicting impulses.
When we say that a person speaks "without thinking," we mean that he speaks without previous reflection. There can be no speech without a concurrent activity of the spoken thought in consciousness.
Words are a mighty instrument.
They have perhaps more influence upon the speaker than upon the person spoken to. They focus the energy of consciousness.
Strong words strengthen. Weak words weaken. Why? Not because of any magic potency in words as words. But because a word, by its very definition, is "the sign of an idea."
Words express thoughts. Consequently, to affirm the qualities that you desire, presupposes at least the momentary life in consciousness of the mental attitude you have been trying to create.
So if you say to yourself, "I will do this thing," your energy will follow your words.
Affirmation, therefore, presages action. It proves to you the efficiency of your own will. It gives you confidence in your own self-mastery.
If you find it difficult to control your thoughts, if they persist in fluttering about over an area as wide as the eternal cosmos when they ought to be concentrated upon a single object, try controlling your words.
Talk of your business, talk of your work, talk of your aims, talk of your ideals.
You will find that your thoughts will cluster around your words like grapes about a stem.
You will find that while you are talking of your ambitions, while you are affirming your ideals, while you are pledging the fulfilment of your promises, the eternal laws of Nature are quietly, silently working to bring about the fruition of your hopes.
Yet affirmation, fruitful as it is, is essentially a complementary method. It should not be used alone. It may even be overdone. It may be carried to such extreme as to result in a comfortable disregard of the actual facts of existence.
This may be contentment, but it is not life. You were created for nobler things than a bovine serenity. You must not rate this practice of affirmation as anything more than it pretends to be, a mental device, a practical aid to mental concentration.
There are those among present-day cults and oc-cults who lift affirmation into a distinct metaphysical doctrine. Observing the good results in the form of an awakened will and self-reliant courage that flow from the practice of affirmation, they have jumped at the conclusion that poverty, disease, old age, death and all things undesirable are in fact as well as in affirmation non-existent. There have been some hundreds, perhaps even thousands, who have passed into the Great Beyond vigorously denying sickness, pain and death to the last conscious breath.
Wherein lies the error? Simply in this: that these people cannot "see the wood for the trees." Like the naturalist who examines a butterfly, they have held the practice of affirmation so close to the eye as to lose all sense of proportion, all appreciation of true beauty and significance. They have mistaken the froth for the substance. They have strayed from the path of scientific analysis and are lost in a metaphysical forest of sounding terms, such as " ego," "error," "mortal mind," "love vibrations," "spirit," and "cosmos."
We do not mean to scoff at any form of religious belief. Every man is entitled to the undisturbed enjoyment of the benefits of his special faith. All are useful. Each is adapted to a special grade of intelligence.
But to you who are versed in the elements of psychology and familiar with mental processes we say, "The practice of affirmation need not be made the basis of a religious doctrine. It will be just as effective if you know it and use it for just that thing that it is - a mental device, workable and startlingly efficacious, but still essentially a de-vice."
A still greater method is Visualization, the practice of creating in imagination the condition to which you aspire.
We are all inclined to give our imaginations free rein in dwelling on our "troubles" and the difficulties and obstacles that we see ahead.
Nothing is easier than to exaggerate difficulties. This looking on the dark side of things, this seeing only the obstacles that strew the way, is what makes the road to success and health so steep for many of us.
But no marksman ever made a bull's-eye while looking at his rival's score. If you want success and health, you must keep your imagination working for you, not against you.