Dr. Orison Swett Marden
“The attaining of an equilibrium between ourselves and the hostile forces that constantly threaten us”—such is Dr. Marden’s definition of Poise. And it is true to life. The poised man—the man of balance, dignity, judgment and purpose—it is he who carries weight, compels conviction and challanges admiration. Hence the importance of Poise as an element in character building.
THE superbest character in the world is he who has conquered himself so completely that his equanimity, his balance cannot be disturbed by anything which can happen to him.
His serene character is beyond the reach of “hard times” and any material disaster, for he is founded upon the rock of faith, a stable, staunch character. There is no wealth like this, no accomplishment, no achievement comparable to it.
He has failed, no matter how much money he may have piled up, whose experience has not developed within him the philosophy of optimism, and who has not gained that supreme command over himself which will enable him to stand calm and unmoved and perfectly poised, even when all of his possessions are swept away from him and he has nothing left but his character and a clean record.
It is the poised, balanced man that carries weight. The world has little respect for the man who has no poise or dignity, who dances around like corn in a hot skillet, who gets excited over little nothings and goes all to pieces at little annoyances which the balanced man would not notice.
“When a man does not find repose in himself,” says a French proverb, “it is vain for him to see it elsewhere.”
Do not mistake insensibility for poise or serenity.
Poise is the attaining of an equilibrium between uurselves and the hostile forces that constantly threaten us.
“If you would acquire overcoming power you must cultivate poise. You must be able to stand alone. All ptower is associated with immovability. The mountain, the massive rock, the stormtried oak, all speak to us of power, because of their combined solitary grandeur and defiant fixity ; while the shifting sand, the yielding twig, and the waving reed speak to us of weakness, because they are movable and non-resistant, and are utterly useless when detached from their fellows. He is the man of power who, when all his fellows are swayed by some emotion or passion, remains calm and unmoved.”
The poised person is not a football for all sorts of influences that shake others from their centres. Like the Eddystone lighthouse, all the storms of error, of disease, of fear, hatred and jealousy, of malice, do not move him a particle.
Many people are easily disconcerted, thrown off their equilibrium by the thoughts of other people, because they arc not positive enough, not well-poised enough to act as a balance-wheel for all the conflicting vibrations which strike them.
The great balance-wheels of our big factories take up into themselves all of the violent shocks of the machinery and prevent its being racked to pices. The machinery runs smoothly because of the enormous reserve power in the balancewheel.
Every individual should have a mental balance-wheel, a character, so that no matter how great the shocks of error, or discord, of hatred, of malice, or of jealousy, the mental machinery would run quietly, smoothly, without a quiver.
The person who is the victim of all sorts of influences that are constantly changing his vibraton never knows where he stands. There is no poise in his life. People do not have confidence in him because they never know when he is going to be shaken from his centre. It is the balanced soul that carries weight, that is always looked to for great responsibility.
I know one of these serene souls, a man so perfectly poised, so exquisitely balanced that it does not matter what happens to him. Nothing disturbs his serenity. No matter how the storms of jealousy and envy, of malice, hatred rage about him, the flame of his life burns without a flicker. He seems immune to all these influences. Their destructive shocks are all taken up and neutralized by his great mental balance-wheel.
I do not believe the person lives who could disturb this man or make himangry by any threat or criticism, any denunciation or vituperation. He would smile through it all.
# There are plenty of people whose vibrations are changed, who are thrown off their balance by foods which they believe do not agree with them. Their vibrations are also changed by any reflection upon their conduct, upon their honesty or their judgment. They are thrown off their balance a dozen times a day by the merest trifles.
Now, these people never exert a great deal of influence, never carry much weight in their community. It is dependableness that counts. The world must know where to find a man before he gets its confidence. We not only want to know where a man is going to stand in pleasant weather, but we also want to know where he will stand when the storms which topple light-weights and up-root hollowhearted superficially planted human trees rage about him.
Worriers, people whose lives are full of fear, are always unpoised, ineffective. They are playthings for all sorts of discordant vibrations which come from others, because they are not positive, be-
cause they have not discovered their own powers and are unable to neutralize them.
The soul that is centred in the great “I am,” has touched power. He cannot be afraid, and he will not know want. He does not doubt his strength, does not lack confidence.
Nothing will have power to disquiet or discourage him, because he will know that nothing outside of himself can cripple him or work him harm. He will be master of his forces, mental and physical, and will work in perfect harmony with the Divine Power, which knows no shadow of weakness or discord.
Men who topple over easily, who are easily thrown off their balance, never become leaders. They do not furnish the bulwarks of civilization. It is the man who cannot be shaken from his centre that is in demand everywhere.
When you have lost your temper and are being tossed this way and that way by the passion raging within you, your vibration has been changed by some outside influence—either a tone, a voice or an insulting word—someone’s mistake, some fancied injury, you cannot control yourself because you have lost control of your own vibration, and your agitation is caused by someone else, or by some source outside of yourself.
Now, when a person is perfectly poised, he is in a very positive mental condition, and he is able to change all negative vibrations that come to him from others. As long as he can do this, as long as he is master of the situation, he cannot be thrown off his centre or lose his poise. And no one is in a position to express his maximum of power until he reaches this perfectly poised state.
Poise delays old age. People who are constantly losing their mental balance, who live much of the time in an unpoised state, age rapidly, because all friction wears the delicate mental mechanism. Like sand in the bearings of a delicate machine, it grinds, rasps. Friction always favors the old age processes, while harmony retards them. If we could always live in harmony and keep the mind active, growing, fresh with the constant contemplation of youthful, fresh, progressive ideals, the aging processes could not get in their deadly work.
Many people sap a lot of their energies by their insisting habit. They are always trying to control the conduct of other people. They are set in their idea of things and want everybody about them to do things their way, to follow in their steps.
We have all had experience with the man who wants to run everything and everybody, and tries to make everybody think as he does, who wants to dictate other people’s religion and politics.
For the sake of our own peace of mind and growth we must learn to let things go which we have not the right to control or regulate and not to feel troubled that we have to do so.
Quit trying to run things, to control everybody. You will find that learning to let go, ceasing to try to control everybody will give your own life a wonderful poise and uplift. You can never control yourself while you are trying to control the acts of others. Quit resisting, it saps your energy. Get your life poise and then you will express power.
“ Who is serene ? Not he who flees his kind,
Some desert fastness, or some cave to find ;
But he who in the city’s noisiest scene
Keeps calm within—he only is serene.”
Everyone should be so balanced as to be able to control himself, to remain harmonious, no matter what negative vibrations are beating upon him from the outside.
He should be so perfectly poised that he can always predict his actions, always know to a certainty that, no matter what may arise, he can keep his balance and control his act.
Discord is an abnormal condition, and has no right or part in the world which God made and pronounced “perfect.” God is Harmony and could not create discord. He is Love, and He could not create hatred or jealousy or envy. Hence they cannot be real, because there is only one Creator, and He cannot make anything unlike Himself. In God’s world fear, dread, anxiety, melancholia, pessimism, sin, deformity, disease, jealousy, envy, have no rightful place. The man God made must be perfect because there is no imperfection in His nature, and He could not produce anything unlike Himself.
Yet a man may thrust himself out of this God-made world, out of harmony, out of beauty, out of joy, happiness, success, into a world of wretchedness, darkness, of disease, or deformity and death through his own voluntary wrong thinking and acting.
There is a great help in thinking of, holding mentally, the quality jwhich you are trying to produce in your mind, to bring' about in your thought.
If you hold persistently the thought that you were made for happiness, and that no discordant condition, no unhappy thought has any right to mar your harmony, you will soon learn to drive away all discordant conditions, and you will live in perpetual serenity.
If, for example, you are trying to produce mental peace, think a great deal about peace and serenity, hold the peace model graphically, persistently in your mind; this will be a powerful suggestion and will tend to bring about what you desire. No matter how discouraged or nervous you feel, just say to yourself, “I am poise, I am peace, serenity, in the truth pf my being, because I am the product of perfection, and I must reflect the image of perfection, and perfection is peace.” Try to feel the part you are trying to play, just as an actor would; try to feel serene, poised, balanced, quiet. You will be surprised to see how this suggestion will react upon the discord and tend to produce the harmony which you desire.
No matter what you seem to lack, you will be wonderfully helped by the constant affirmation of the “I am.” It will work wonders in restoring, building up, strengthening your confidence in yourself, and giving you poise and self-control.
People who lack poise are the “I can’t,” “It is no use” people. The failure army is full of them.
Few people fail in this world who have discovered themselves and become conscious of their real power, who have become poised, and consequently proof against all discordant vibrations.
No man has really succeeded who has not arrived at complete self-mastery, who does not hold all of his powers and faculties in hand so that they obey his will implicitly. Of what use are powers and faculties if we cannot command them, if
they are going to fly off on a tangent in an emergency, just at the time when we need them most?
The man who cannot keep his centre under all circumstances, who cannot com; trol the fires of temper within him, who has not power to smother the volcano of his passion, cannot boast of self-mastery —he has not arrived at real success. The man who gets off of his throne and lets anarchy reign, who lets passion rule in the place of his will, has not arrived at real manhood. When the beast has assumed the seat of government, the man has lost his centre; when he allows passion to usurp his place, he is off his balance, and he acknowledges that he has not arrived at self-mastery.
If you have found your centre, if you have become complete master of yourself, it does not matter what happens about you, what disasters or misfortunes may come to you, you will not lose your head, you will not be disturbed, for you revolve upon a true centre.
One of the secrets of Grant’s power was his wonderful serenity of mind, his mental balance, his perfect poise under all circumstances. Men who were with him in great emergencies, in accidents when everybody around him was greatly agitated and excited, marvelled at his wonderful balance and calmness. He kept his equanimity of temper, his perfect balance under the most trying circumstances. It did not matter what the aggravation was, or how trying the situation, nothing could throw him off his centre.
Gov. Boutwell, who was Secretary of Treasury in his Cabinet, said that he was with him in a railroad accident, arid that when the train was off the track and the wheels struck the sleepers, General Grant simply reached forward, took hold of the seat in front of him, without showing the slightest agitation of mind, or fear and held on firmly until the train came to a standstill.
Undoubtedly this serenity of mind had a great deal to do with the fact that he “was the one great military general in history who never was driven by fear when he was in command.”
Most of us have some vulnerable point, some weak, sensitive spot where we are
easily wounded. It is a great art to learn
to guard this weak point.
The gaining of one’s centre, the attaining to this complete self-mastery, becoming so perfectly balanced that one never hesitates, no matter what happens, is success indeed. This is the last lesson of culture.
When your vulnerable point, your weak point is assailed, ah! there is the test of character. There is no difficulty in protecting ourselves when assailed where our armor is thick and strong, where we are thick-skinned; but when a thrust is made at oursore spot where we are weak and sensitive and thin-skinned, when attacked at our vulnerable point, this is quite another matter.
I know a business man who is so strong in most parts of his character that it is almost impossible to throw him off his centre. He can stand almost anything when attacked at most points, but has one vulnerable spot, and, at the slightest attack there, goes all to pieces.
Hit him anywhere else, pound him as much as you please, and you cannot disconcert him; he will remain calm, unmoved. But the moment you touch him on his sensitive spot, he will rave like, a madman and fly into a fearful passion.
This man towers so high above most people about him in most respects, that they seem dwarfs, mere mannikins beside him ; and yet he will sacrifice position, reputation, everything if his sensitive spot is touched.
The result is, that instead of the giant he might be, he is a weakling. He does not carry so much weight in his community as men with a tenth part of his ability, but who are better poised, because everybody knows that he is likely to go to pieces at a very critical moment if this weak point is touched.
I know another young business man who never loses his temper or selfcontrol under any circumstances, no matter how trying, or provoking, or how aggravating; and yet he is naturally extremely sensitive.
He has gained this self-mastery by years of training in self-control. He early made up his mind that he could not command others if he could not control himself.
His wonderful mind poise seems to be largely acquired, because he says that he was very quick-tempered in his youth. But he has become a leader of men. And he says that no one who has not experienced it can have any idea of the great satisfaction, the gratification, the advantage of being able to keep a perfectly poised mind.
He says that it is an immense advantage to be able to say just what he wants to—the wisest, the most prudent thing— in a perfectly calm manner even under the most aggravating conditions, when the other man has lost his head completely and does not say what his wisdom dictates, but what his passion, his prejudice, his spleen, his love of revenge, his innate desire to get square with the other fellow impels for the moment. In other words, it is the brute that rules, and not the man.
The man who loses his temper and cannot say what he ought to or wants to until his fit of anger has passed, or until his hot temper has cooled and the damage has been done, has a great respect for the man who can stand calm and unmoved amidst a storm of abuse, and be able to say and to do the wisest and the best thing.
I know a man who was a natural born actor, who had great mental power, who is a superb impersonator of character, yet he has never risen above the little, petty stage parts, because he cannot get along with the managers. He is alwavs quarrelling with anyone who touches his sensitive spot. He uses good judgment in most things, but he sacrifices all of his prospects by his hot temper. He is going through life a disanpointed, disgruntled man, conscious of great powers which he cannot use, doing little, pica-
yune things when he is really capable of doing great things but for this weakness which handicaps him.
Everywhere we see people capable of taking star parts in life’s great drama, playing little, petty roles on life’s great stage, because of some little weakness which they have never been able to master.
“Who does not love a tranquil heart, a sweet-tempered, balanced life?” says someone. “It does not matter whether it rains or shines, or what comes to those possessing these blessings, for thev are always sweet, serene, and calm. That exquisite poise of character which we call serenity is the last lesson of culture; it is the flowering of life, the fruitage of the soul. It is as precious as wisdom, more to be desired than gold, yea, than even fine gold.”
It was characteristic of the late Grover Cleveland to keep his mental balance, and this made him a power when other people around him became agitated, excited; he was alwavs calm, serene, and seldom showed the slightest agitation.
When man learns the great secret of power, he will not be troubled at all by the things which upset others; he will not lie awake nights worrying about his business; he will not be so filled with fear of dyspepsia or physical derangement that he cannot eat; he will know that he is a part of the Creator’s principle that rules everything, and that nothing can harm him except his own delusions or misconceptions.
The man whom God made will have perfect poise and be calm and serene on all occasions; the coming man and woman will not know unrest or worrv, for thev will absorb the secret of the Eternal principle of omnipotent power.
Love is not getting, but giving; not a wild dream of pleasure, and a madness of desire—oh, no, love is not that—^it is goodness and honor, and peace and pure living —yes, love is that, and is the best thing in the world, and the thing that lives longest. —Henry van Dyke.
We do not know anything about our own resources until we have taught ourselves to stand alone. Not until we can think for ourselves, decide for ourselves, and act for ourselves do we become more than infants in the moral universe,