- Aim of Life
It is the aim that makes the man, and without this he is nothing as far as the utter destitution of force, weight, and even individuality among men can reduce him to nonentity. The strong gusts and currents of the world sweep him this way and that, without steam or sail to impel, or helm to guide him. If he be not speedily wrecked or run aground, it is more his good fortune than good management. We have never heard a more touching confession of utter weakness and misery than these words from one singularly blessed with the endowments of nature and of Providence: “My life is aimless.”
Take heed, young man, of an aimless life. Take heed, too, of a low and sordid aim. A well-ascertained and generous purpose gives vigor, direction, and perseverance to all man’s efforts. Its concomitants are a well-disciplined intellect, character, influence, tranquillity, and cheerfulness within—success and honor without. Whatever a man’s talents and advantages may be, with no aim, or a low one, he is weak and despicable; and he can not be otherwise than respectable and influential with a high one. Without some definite object before us, some standard which we are earnestly striving to reach, we can not expect to attain to any great height, either mentally or morally. Placing for ourselves high standards, and wishing to reach them without any further effort on our part, is not enough to elevate us in any very great degree.
Some one has said, “Nature holds for each of us all that we need to make us useful and happy; but she requires us to labor for all that we get.” God gives nothing of value unto man unmatched by need of labor; and we can expect to overcome difficulties only by strong and determined efforts. Here is a great and noble work lying just before us, just as the blue ocean lies out beyond the rocks which line the shore. In our strivings for “something better than we have known” we should work for others’ good rather than our own pleasure. Those whose object in life is their own happiness find at last that their lives are sad failures.
We need to do something each day that shall help us to a larger life of soul; and every word or deed which brings joy or gladness to other hearts lifts us nearer a perfect life; for a noble deed is a step toward God. To live for something worthy of life involves the necessity of an intelligent and definite plan of action. More than splendid dreamings or magnificent resolves is necessary to success in the objects and ambitions of life. Men come to the best results in every department of effort only as they thoughtfully plan and earnestly toil in given directions. Purposes without work is dead. It were vain to hope for good results from mere plans. Random or spasmodic efforts, like aimless shoots, are generally no better than wasted time or strength. The purposes of shrewd men in the business of this life are always followed by careful plans, enforced by work. Whether the object is learning, honor, or wealth, the ways and means are always laid out according to the best rules and methods. The mariner has his chart, the architect his plans, the sculptor his model, and all as a means and condition of success. Inventive genius, or even what is called inspiration, can do little in any department of the theoretic or practical science except as it works by a well-formed plan; then every step is an advance towards the accomplishment of its object. Every tack of the ship made in accordance with nautical law keeps her steadily nearing the port. Each stroke of the chisel brings the marble into a clearer likeness to the model. No effort or time is lost; for nothing is done rashly or at random.
Thus, in the grand aim of life, if some worthy purpose be kept constantly in view, and for its accomplishment every effort be made every day of your life, you will, unconsciously, perhaps, approach the goal of your ambition. There can be no question among the philosophic observers of men and events that, fixedness of purpose is a grand element of human success. When a man has formed in his mind a great sovereign purpose, it governs his conduct as the laws of nature govern the operation of physical things.
Every one should have a mark in view, and pursue it steadily. He should not be turned from his course by other objects ever so attractive. Life is not long enough for any one man to accomplish every thing. Indeed, but few can at best accomplish more than one thing well. Many—alas! very many—accomplish nothing. Yet there is not a man, endowed with ordinary intellect or accomplishments, but can accomplish at least one useful, important, worthy purpose. It was not without reason that some of the greatest of men were trained from their youth to choose some definite object in life, to which they were required to direct their thoughts and to devote all their energies. It became, therefore, a sole and ruling purpose of their hearts, and was almost certainly the means of their future advancement and happiness in the world.
Of the thousands of men who are annually coming upon the stage of life there are few who escape the necessity of adopting some profession or calling; and there are fewer still who, if they knew the miseries of idleness—tenfold keener and more numerous than those of the most laborious profession—would ever desire such an escape. First of all, a choice of business or occupation should be made, and made early, with a wise reference to capacity and taste. The youth should be educated for it and, as far as possible, in it; and when this is done it should be pursued with industry, energy, and enthusiasm, which will warrant success.
This choice of an occupation depends partly upon the individual preference and partly upon circumstances. It may be that you are debarred from entering upon that business for which you are best adapted. In that case make the best choice in your power, apply yourself faithfully and earnestly to whatever you undertake, and you can not well help achieving a success. Patient application sometimes leads to great results. No man should be discouraged because he does not get on rapidly in his calling from the start. In the more intellectual professions especially it should be remembered that a solid character is not the growth of a day, that the mental faculties are not matured except by long and laborious culture.
To refine the taste, to fortify the reasoning faculty with its appropriate discipline, to store the cells of memory with varied and useful learning, to train all the powers of the mind systematically, is the work of calm and studious years. A young man’s education has been of but little use to him if it has not taught him to check the fretful impatience, the eager haste to drink the cup of life, the desire to exhaust the intoxicating draught of ambition. He should set his aim so high that it will require patient years of toil to reach it. If he can reach it at a bound it is unworthy of him. It should be of such a nature that he feels the necessity of husbanding his resources.
You will receive all sorts of the most excellent advice, but you must do your own deciding. You have to take care of yourself in this world, and you may as well take your own way of doing it. But if a change of business is desired be sure the fault is with the business and not the individual. For running hither and thither generally makes sorry work, and brings to poverty ere the sands of life are half run. The North, South, East, and West furnish vast fields for enterprise; but of what avail for the seeker to visit the four corners of the world if he still is dissatisfied, and returns home with empty pockets and idle hands, thinking that the world is wrong and that he himself is a misused and shamefully imposed-on creature? The world, smiling at the rebuff, moves on, while he lags behind, groaning over misusage, without sufficient energy to roll up his sleeves and fight his way through.
A second profession, seldom succeeds, not because a man may not make himself fully equal to its duties, but because the world will not readily believe he is so. The world argues thus: he that has failed in his first profession, to which he dedicated the morning of his life and the Spring-time of his exertion, is not the most likely person to master a second. To this it might be replied that a man’s first profession is often chosen for him by others; his second he usually decides upon for himself; therefore, his failure in his first profession may, for what he knows, be mainly owing to the sincere but mistaken attention he was constantly paying to his second.
Ever remember that it is not your trade or profession that makes you respectable. Manhood and profession or handicraft are entirely different things. An occupation is never an end of life. It is an instrument put into our hands by which to gain for the body the means of living until sickness or old age robs it of life, and we pass on to the world for which this is a preparation. The great purpose of living is twofold in character. The one should never change from the time reason takes the helm; it is to live a life of manliness, of purity and honor. To live such a life that, whether rich or poor, your neighbors will honor and respect you as a man of sterling principles. The other is to have some business, in the due performance of which you are to put forth all your exertions. It matters not so much what it is as whether it be honorable, and it may change to suit the varying change of circumstances. When these two objects—character and a high aim—are fairly before a youth, what then? He must strive to attain those objects. He must work as well as dream, labor as well as pray. His hand must be as stout as his heart, his arm as strong as his head. Purpose must be followed by action. Then is he living and acting worthily, as becomes a human being with great destinies in store for him.
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