Everyone desires to be something “more” than their present state. Only the fool is content with where he now stands, and does not wish to step further.
We all walk upon a road in life. We choose what we do on this road. We can turn around and walk backwards, we can stand in place, or we can walk forward. This is the road of the Self. It is our choice whether we regress, stagnate, or progress along this road. The destination is perfection, and you can run from perfection or you can run straight toward it; or, you can remain at your current level of imperfection. Those who progress down the road will inch ever closer to perfection, but never reach it. It is the asymptote of our lives. It is the unachievable that we wish to achieve. For, to paraphrase Emerson, it is not the destination that counts, but the journey. It is progress, and not success, that we require. To be in a perpetual process of self-improvement is the ideal state of man. Never shall he falter and stagnate, never shall he regress backward. Man must always strive for perfection, and work eternally toward it, until his inevitable death. It is this man of constant growth that is the man of greatness.
The narcissist does not strive for anything greater than his present state. He believes he has already reached perfection, that he has met the end of the road, and thus there is no more road for him to walk forward along. He believes he has no room for improvement, for how can one improve upon perfection? He is a fool for this very reason. The road to perfection has no end. It stretches for infinity. Perfection cannot be reached, for it is the end of an endless road. On the road to perfection, one can only continue to move forward. The narcissist chooses to stand in place, to leave his life to stagnate, to stand in the middle of the road rather than walk further along it. It is not merely among the clinical cases that this wilful stagnation occurs. All those who are content with their current placement refuse to move forward. All of them are fools.
Then there is the regressive trend. Those who are degrading and deteriorating, becoming worse as their bodies and minds decay, or as their vices are allowed to flourish and manifest, as their virtues become timid and weak. For those with an incurable disease, or who are simply growing old with age, this is the only direction they can go on this path of life. If it is not a lifestyle disease locking them into this direction, it is not their fault that they have met this fate. However, many wilfully choose the backward direction, out of short-sightedness, carelessness, laziness, ignorance, or sheer stupidity. It is these people who are to be shunned, even more so than the stagnated narcissist. These are the people who give in to foolish temptation and blindly obey their primal impulses. They see only short-term, temporary gain, and not long-term growth. They live in the present, or worse, dwell on the past, and not in the future. They are blind to the future, so they do not see the consequences of their actions. They do not see the long-term benefits of healthy living. These are the kind of men who indulge in alcohol, tobacco, and other detrimental substances, who grow fat from overeating, or bone-thin from wilful near-starvation when food is available. They are those who refuse education, who are repulsed by knowledge and reading, who choose to remain wilfully ignorant and trapped in their dogmas rather than accept the truth before them. They are repelled by truth and knowledge, rather than attracted to them. These are the kind who allow their vices to reign free in the mind, and do no cultivate and foster their virtues. Those who resort to crime are among this type. Criminals are the result of the vices of man left uncontrolled, allowed to ravage the mind and corrupt the soul. It all traces back to a single vice that broke loose in these people: short-sightedness. For short-sightedness is the thinking of beasts, and not of men. Men look to the future, beasts stare at the ground of the present. Short-sightedness breeds sloth, and sloth breeds timidity and weakness, which allow all other vices to grow in strength, unrestrained, and to ultimately usurp the mind. One must have a strong will in order to suppress these vices and uplift his virtues. If his will is weakened by short-sightedness, sloth, and timidity, he will become too weak to hold down his vices and hold up his virtues. Thus, his virtues will fall, and his vices will rise.
One who takes it upon himself to undergo self-reformation and begin the process of continuous self-improvement, must keep a few things in mind. He must first train his Will, strengthen it so that it overcomes all else. It must become strong enough to resist all temptation, all impulse, and never let emotions cloud judgement. One must learn to act only on calculated reason, when possible. To possess a critical mind, always questioning, carefully discerning truth and falsehood. To look to the future, thinking always of the long-term and caring not for the short-term. Think of how what you do will affect yourself, your family, your neighbourhood, your city, state, country, and ultimately the world, in the long-term future. Work for the achievement of long-term benefit, and avoidance of long-term detriment. Care nothing for short-term benefit. Most of all, one’s Will must have the strength to overcome the vice of sloth. The worst temptation is the temptation to leisure, for if one if lazy, how could they ever resist temptation? The Will must fight against sloth, and it must achieve victory. One must overcome laziness, and become productive. The temptation to rest, to engage in mindless activities, must be resisted. Distractions must be eliminated. Focus is key. Learn to focus only on the task at hand, and shut out all other thoughts and distractions. This ability is to be nurtured through meditation. Try to think of one thing, and one thing only. Eliminate all other thoughts and emotions. Think of the task you’re supposed to be doing. That is all that matters, all else is irrelevant.
Through the power of the Will, you will gain self-control. You will have supreme authority over your mind. Assert your authority. The mind is something to be governed. Within it exists chaos and order alike. The two will always coexist; the goal is to achieve harmony. That harmony exists in the relationship between the ruled and the ruler. The virtues must conquer the mind and subject the vices to their rule. This is to be done through the Will. Empower your virtues, strengthen them, allow them to grow, foster them with care. Bring them to a point where they overpower the vices, where the virtues seize control and take their place as the rightful owners of the mind. The vices are to be suppressed, imprisoned, chained. The vices shall have no freedom, while the virtues have ultimate freedom. With the vices weakened and suppressed, the virtues are to grow even stronger. What will emerge from this revolution of the mind, is a just and virtuous man. He will be a man of order and individual freedom alike. He will become a free man, free in his thought and mind. For one is not free unless he is free in thought, and he is not free unless he has absolute self-control. If you, the conscious, cannot control yourself, then whom is controlling you? It is either your subconscious, or other men. Either way, you are not free if you are not in control. If you are a slave to your primitive instincts, you are still a slave nonetheless.
While the vices have been subjected to the rule of the virtues, they will still attempt to revolt and break free. The Will must, at all times, be vigilant, and subvert any attempts at brewing revolution. The vices must be constantly held down, and the virtues constantly held up. It takes strength to hold this weight and exert such force. A weak Will is incapable. But if you strengthen the Will through mental exercise, it will eventually become strong enough to take on such a burden. But it cannot ever falter. It must always bear this burden, and never let go. You may grow fatigued and strained, but if you let go, the virtues will fall and the vices will rise. This burden is how one moves forward, how one improves. Did you think perpetual self-improvement is without perpetual effort? What the Will must do is constantly push down the vices, weakening them evermore, and raise up the virtues ever higher, making them stronger evermore. Because those vices will always remain, and because virtues have no limit to their strength, perfection is an impossibility. It is the progress, the ever striving toward something better, that defines greatness, that defines the just and virtuous man.
So, what is that perfection that all men must strive toward? For the most part, this is subjective. Perfection is simply the person you want to be, that better version of yourself that you wish to become. The writer works to possess the most wondrous skill at prose, and reaching the maximum expanse of brilliant imagination for the crafting of fascinating stories. The scholar forever seeks more knowledge, perfection being omniscience. The polymath seeks absolute mastery in all fields of art and study. In short, greatness is subjective to vocation. Even the virtues and vices are subjective. Virtue simply depends upon which of the human attributes are most suitable to your passions and interests, and that correspond with your view of “good”, while vices are all the obstacles of human nature that impede upon those same factors, and that you see as “bad”. There is no universal standard. However, there are virtues which are beneficial to any individual, and vices that are detrimental to all. Looking broader, the same applies to society. This again is open to discussion, as what is beneficial and what is detrimental are not always entirely clear. My intention here is not, in fact, to tell you who you should and shouldn’t be. My intention is to assist you in becoming who you want to be. You cannot conform to what others expect of you, you need to determine what you consider to be your virtues, and your vices. Conceptualize the ideal of perfection you wish to strive toward. My hope is that the advice I have laid out here will enable you to set yourself moving forward on the path of self-improvement, and that you will one day achieve the greatness you desire.