We can never overestimate the power of purpose and will. It takes hold of the heart of life. It
spans our whole manhood. It enters into our hopes, aims, and prospects. It holds its sceptre
over our business, our amusements, our philosophy, and religion. Its sphere is larger than we
can at first imagine.
The indomitable will, the inflexible purpose looking for future good through present evil, have
always begotten confidence and commanded success, while the opposite qualities have as truly
led to timid resolves, uncertain councils, alternate exaltation and depression, and final
disappointment and disaster. A vacillating policy, irresolute councils, unstable will,
subordination of the future to the present, efforts to relieve ourselves from existing trouble
without providing against its recurrence, may bring momentary quiet, bur expose us to
greater disquiet than ever hereafter. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.
Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel.
When a child is learning to walk, if you can induce the little creature to keep its eyes fixed on
any point in advance, it will generally "navigate" to that point without capsizing; but distract
its attention by word or act from the object before it, and down goes the baby. The rule
applies to children of a larger growth. The man who starts in life with a determination to
reach a certain position, and adheres unwaveringly to his purpose, rejecting the advice of the
over-cautions, and defying the auguries of the timid, rarely fails if he lives long enough to
reach the goal for which he set out. If circumstances oppose him, he bends them to his
exigencies by the force of energetic, indomitable will. On the other hand, he who vacillates in
his course, "yawning," as the sailors say, toward all points of the compass, is pretty sure to
become a helpless castaway before his voyage of life is half completed.
There can be no question among philosophic observers of men and events, that fixedness of
purpose is a grand element of human success. Weathercock men are nature's failures. They
are good for nothing.
The men of action, whose names are written imperishably on the page of history, were men of
iron. Silky fellows may do for intrigue, but the founders, and conquerors, and liberators, and
saviors of empires, have all been of the warrior metal. No human being who habitually halts
between two opinions, who cannot decide promptly, and having decided, act as if there was no
such word as fail, can ever be great. Caesar would never have crossed the Rubicon, nor
Washington the Delaware, had they not fixed their stern gaze on objects far beyond the perils
at their feet.
Henry Ward Beecher, in a sermon, remarked: "We see supreme purposes which men have
formed running through their whole career in this world. A young man means to be a civil
engineer. That is the thing to which his mind is made up; not his father's mind, perhaps, but
his. He feels his adaptation to that calling, and his drawing toward it. He is young,
inexperienced, forgetful, accessible to youthful sympathies, and is frequently drawn aside
from his life purpose. To-day he attends a picnic. Next week he devotes a day to some other
excursion. Occasionally he loses a day in consequence of fatigue caused by overaction. Thus
there is a link knocked out of the chain of this week, and a link out of the chain of that week.
And in the course of the summer he takes a whole week, or a fortnight out of that purpose.
Yet there is the thing in his mind, whether he sleeps or wakes. If you had asked him a month
ago what he meant to be in life, he would have replied, 'I mean to be a civil engineer.' And if
you ask him to-day what has been the tendency of his life, he will say, 'I have been preparing
myself to be a civil engineer.' If he waits and does nothing, the reason is that he wants an
opportunity to carry out his purpose. That purpose governs his course, and he will not engage
in anything that would conflict with it.
"These generic principles in the soul are like those great invisible laws of nature, whose
effects are seen in the falling of the pebble-stone, in all the various changes which natural
objects undergo. When a man has formed in his mind a great sovereign purpose, it governs his
conduct, as the law of nature governs the operation of physical things.
"Every man should have a mark in view, and pursue it steadily. He should not be turned from
his course by other subjects ever so attractive. Life is not long enough for any one man to
accomplish everything. Indeed but few can at best accomplish more than one thing well.
Many, alas, very many! accomplish nothing worthy. Yet there is not a man endowed with fair
or ordinary intellect or capacity but can accomplish at least one useful, important, worthy
"But few men could ever succeed in more than one of the learned professions. Perhaps the
man never lived who could master and become eminent in the practice of all of them -
certainly not in them, and also in agriculture and the mechanic arts. Our country, every
country, abounds with men possessing sufficient natural capacity for almost or quite any
pursuit they might select and pursue exclusively. Man's days, at most, are so few, and his
capacity, at the highest, so small, that never yet has he even by confining the united efforts
and energies of his life-time at the most trivial pursuit, much less in the deep and intricate
learned professions, attained to perfection; and he never will. How much less, then, are the
probabilities of his exhausting several, and those perhaps the most complicated spheres of
It requires purpose, will, and oneness of aim and invincible determination to succeed in some
It is will - force of purpose - that enables a man to do or be whatever he sets his mind on being
or doing. A holy man was accustomed to say, "Whatever you wish, that you are; for such is
the force of our will, joined to the Divine, that whatever we wish to be, seriously, and with a
true intention, what we become. No one ardently wishes to be submissive, patient, modest, or
liberal, who does not become what he wishes."
Will is the monarch of the mind, ruling with despotic, and at times with tyrannical powers. It
is the rudder of the mind, giving directions to its movements. It is the engineer giving course
and point, speed and force to the mental machinery. It acts like a tonic among the soul's
languid powers. It is the band that ties into a strong bundle the separate faculties of the soul.
It is the man's momentum; in a word, it is that power by which the energy or energies of the
soul are concentrated on a given point, or in a particular direction; it fuses the faculties into
one mass, so that instead of scattering all over like grape and canister, they spend their united
force on one point. The intellect is the legislative department, the sensibilities are the judicial,
and the will the executive.
Among the many causes f failure in life, none is more frequent than that feebleness of the will
which is indicated by spasmodic action - by fitful effort, or lack of persistence. Dr. Arnold,
whose long experience with youth at Rugby gave weight to his opinion, declared that "the
difference between one boy and another consists not so much in talent as in energy." The very
reputation of being strong willed, plucky, and indefatigable, is of priceless value. It often cows
enemies and dispels at the start opposition to one's undertakings which would otherwise be
Says Shakespeare, "Our bodies are our gardens; to the which our souls are gardeners: so that
if we will plant nettles, or sow lettuce; sow hyssop, and weed up thyme; supply it with one
gender of herbs, and distract it with many; either to have it sterile with idleness, or manured
with industry; why, the power and corrigible authority of this lies in our wills."
Where there is a will there is a way. Nothing is impossible to him who wills. Will is the root;
knowledge the stem and leaves; feeling the flower.
He who resolves upon doing a thing, by that very resolution often scales the barriers to it, and
secures its achievement. To think we are able is almost to be so - to determine upon
attainment, is frequently attainment itself. Thus, earnest resolution has often seemed to have
about it almost a savor of Omnipotence. "You can only half will," Suwarrow would say to
people who had failed. "I don't know," "I can't," and "impossible," were words which he
detested above all others. "Learn! do! try!" he would exclaim.
Purpose and Will
The Royal Path of Life - Aims and Aids to Success and Happiness - 1882 by T.L. Haines & L.W. Yaggy