There are many winds blowing about us; there are many forces and many attractions. If our purposes and resolutions are featherweight, like scraps of paper they will fly away. We must put the weight of our wills on them if they must remain in place.
“The great difference existing between individuals in regard to will-power,” says J. F. Donceel, “seems to derive mainly from the availability, the degrees of consciousness, of their motives.”
Most people want to succeed, to forge ahead in their careers, to accumulate wealth, power or knowledge, to have a happy family life, to improve their personalities, and so on. But only those who want these things badly enough are going to get anywhere, because they will make the necessary efforts to achieve them.
Andrew Jackson, seventh President of the United States, was headstrong and quarrelsome in his boyhood. He grew up to be a man of determined and strong will. Many years after his death in 1845, a visitor to Jackson’s home met an old man who knew the President quite intimately. When the visitor asked if Jackson had gone to heaven, the old man answered, “If he set his mind that way, he did”.
The same is the case with all of us. We go the way we set our minds. To want things badly enough, to want them intensely seems to be the essential condition of success.
This is precisely the point where great differences exist between individuals.
Some people are haunted by the desire to succeed, to make money, to help others and so on. They are, in the good sense of the word, ambitious. Whenever they are inclined to slacken their efforts, a powerful motivation, the idea of whatever they want to achieve, rises before their mind and gives them no rest until they are again hard at work. These are the strong-willed individuals. They get what they want.
Paderewski was above eighty when he decided to become a pianist. Till then he never thought of playing piano: he was only a composer.
Once his editor told him his compositions were not up to the mark as no one could play them on the piano. “Only an excellent pianist can play your music,” he remarked.
“Why can’t I be that pianist?” said the composer.
So he went to Vienna to meet Leschetizky who was the best piano instructor of the time. The maestro’s reaction was, “To begin at your age! It is a waste of time.” But the student insisted, and the teacher gave him a few lessons.
The studious old man kept practising. Before long he gave a public concert. People liked it and cheered him enthusiastically. This impressed the maestro and he gave him some more lessons. In his old age, by sheer will-power, Paderewski became one of the best pianists.
There are many people who want the same things which the strong-willed people want, but in a theoretical detached way, which allows them to forget their purpose for long stretches of time during which no endeavour is made to reach it. Some people are unable to want anything badly enough. They may be very intelligent, but they are really wanting in the domain of the will. They delay an unpleasant task over much, weakening their will and forming the habit of laziness.