The 30 Day Mental Challenge
American philosopher William James (1842-1910) yearned to find a practical philosophy—one that produced concrete improvements in happiness.
The Harvard physician grew encouraged, especially in his final years, by his personal experiments with New Thought, which he called “the religion of healthy-mindedness.” I challenge people today to continue James’ search for a testable, workable system of ethical and spiritual development. Try this 30-day experiment that puts positive-mind dynamics to the test.
The exercise is based on a passage from a 1931 book, Body, Mind, and Spirit by Elwood Worcester and Samuel McComb, in which a prominent scientist describes radically improving his life through a one-month thought experiment. I have condensed his testimony:
Up to my fiftieth year I was unhappy, ineffective, and obscure. I had read some New Thought literature and some statements of William James on directing one’s attention to what is good and useful and ignoring the rest. Such ideas seemed like bunk – but feeling that life was intolerable I determined to subject them to a month-long test.
During this time I resolved to impose definite restrictions on my thoughts. In thinking of the past, I would dwell only on its pleasing incidents. In thinking of the present, I would direct attention to its desirable elements. In thinking of the future, I would regard every worthy and possible ambition as within reach.
I threw myself into this experiment. I was soon surprised to feel happy and contented. But the outward changes astonished me more. I deeply craved the recognition of certain eminent men. The foremost of these wrote me, out of the blue, inviting me to become his assistant. All my books were published. My colleagues grew helpful and cooperative.
It seems that I stumbled upon a path of life, and set forces working for me which were previously working against me.
Here is how to devise your own experiment: 1) Choose your start date. 2) Write out the entire testimony above by hand. This helps you remember it and feel a sense of ownership over it. 3) After you have written it, create a personal contract by adding: “I dedicate myself on this day of ___________to focus on all that is nourishing, advancing, and promising for thirty days, (signed) ___________________________.”
Feel free to email me your results (or questions) at 30DayMentalChallenge@gmail.com. I will personally read and reply to each email.
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