Schoolchildren sometimes play a game called “Honesty.” The rules are simple: For a designated period of time, the participants must tell the truth regardless of the subject. They then ask each other leading questions such as, “Do you like my hair?” “Do you think Lindsay is cute?” Inevitably someone gets angry when he or she discovers that these friends had been shading the truth, telling “little white lies,” to spare the person’s feelings. Even when the game is over, its lessons are not soon forgotten. Being honest with others doesn’t mean being brutal. It isn’t necessary to tell people everything you don’t like about them under the guise of being frank with them “for their own good.” Sometimes it’s better if we don’t know every person’s innermost feelings about us. Respect for another’s self-esteem often means telling them too little truth instead of too much.
Successful people are decisive people. When opportunities come their way, they evaluate them carefully, make a decision, and take appropriate action. They know that indecision wastes time that could be spent on more productive tasks. They also avoid unnecessary risks by implementing their decisions gradually. They don’t attempt to make every decision at the beginning. Each action is contingent upon the success of the one that preceded it. Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s wisest men, is said to have used a simple method to make difficult decisions. He drew a line down the center of a sheet of paper, and on one side he listed the “pros” of the decision; on the other, he listed the “cons.” In addition to simplifying the decision-making process, the list also served as a graphic illustration of the advantages and disadvantages of any decision, regardless of its complexity. The impact of the decision could then be quickly and easily assessed.
The mind is the most powerful weapon known to man. It simply cannot be controlled or contained by an outside force, however formidable that force may at first appear. Throughout history, tyrants have tried to control those who opposed them, but eventually these rulers discovered the power of the imagination was far greater than the threat of the sword. As Victor Hugo said, “An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.”
Far too many people spend more time planning their weekends than their lives. Then they suddenly realize that life has passed them by and they weren’t even aware it was happening. When you intently study what you most desire in life, you begin to focus your mind and concentrate your energy upon that which you wish to achieve. One of the great advantages of having a definite goal for your life is that it helps you prioritize your activities. When your major purpose is clear in your mind, it is unnecessary to analyze each individual situation. You know automatically whether your actions will move you toward your goal or away from it. You can then use all of your resources — time, money, and energy — to best advantage.
A better understanding of what you are about — your goals, your dreams, and your aspirations — leads you to a better understanding of those around you. It is critical, therefore, that you be honest with yourself at all times. The moment you begin to deceive yourself is the beginning of the decline in your character; it is the beginning of a process of rationalization that permits you to justify unacceptable behavior. Make sure you are a person whom you like, a person of sound character. If you don’t like yourself, how can you expect others to like you? Step back and examine your behavior as logically as possible. Ask yourself, “Am I the kind of person I would like to be with?” Developing good character traits is like achieving any other objective. Determine where you wish to be and then develop a plan for getting there.