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Selection Among Our Interests

I said early in the discussion that interest is selective among our
activities, picking out those which appear to be of the most value to
us. In the same manner there must be a selection among our interests

become interested in so many lines of activity that we do none of them
well. This leads to a life so full of hurry and stress that we forget
life in our busy living. Says James with respect to the necessity of
making a choice among our interests:

With most objects of desire, physical nature restricts our choice to
but one of many represented goods, and even so it is here. I am often
confronted by the necessity of standing by one of my empirical selves
and relinquishing the rest. Not that I would not, if I could, be both
handsome and fat, and well dressed, and a great athlete, and make a
million a year; be a wit, a bon vivant, and a lady-killer, as well as a
philosopher; a philanthropist, statesman, warrior, and African explorer,
as well as a 'tone poet' and saint. But the thing is simply impossible.
The millionaire's work would run counter to the saint's; the bon vivant
and the philosopher and the lady-killer could not well keep house in the
same tenement of clay. Such different characters may conceivably at the
outset of life be alike possible to man. But to make any one of them
actual, the rest must more or less be suppressed. The seeker of his
truest, strongest, deepest self must review the list carefully, and pick
out the one on which to stake his salvation.

INTERESTS MAY BE TOO NARROW.--On the other hand, it is just as possible
for our interests to be too narrow as too broad. The one who has
cultivated no interests outside of his daily round of humdrum activities
does not get enough out of life. It is possible to become so engrossed
with making a living that we forget to live--to become so habituated to
some narrow treadmill of labor with the limited field of thought
suggested by its environment, that we miss the richest experiences of
life. Many there are who live a barren, trivial, and self-centered life
because they fail to see the significant and the beautiful which lie
just beyond where their interests reach! Many there are so taken up with
their own petty troubles that they have no heart or sympathy for fellow
humanity! Many there are so absorbed with their own little achievements
that they fail to catch step with the progress of the age!

too early in our interests. We miss too many rich fields which lie ready
for the harvesting, and whose gleaning would enrich our lives. The
student who is so buried in books that he has no time for athletic
recreations or social diversions is making a mistake equally with the
one who is so enthusiastic an athlete and social devotee that he
neglects his studies. Likewise, the youth who is so taken up with the
study of one particular line that he applies himself to this at the
expense of all other lines is inviting a distorted growth. Youth is the
time for pushing the sky line back on all sides; it is the time for
cultivating diverse and varied lines of interests if we would grow into
a rich experience in our later lives. The physical must be developed,
but not at the expense of the mental, and vice versa. The social must
not be neglected, but it must not be indulged to such an extent that
other interests suffer. Interest in amusements and recreations should be
cultivated, but these should never run counter to the moral and

Specialization is necessary, but specialization in our interests should
rest upon a broad field of fundamental interests, in order that the
selection of the special line may be an intelligent one, and that our
specialty shall not prove a rut in which we become so deeply buried that
we are lost to the best in life.

A PROPER BALANCE TO BE SOUGHT.--It behooves us, then, to find a proper
balance in cultivating our interests, making them neither too broad nor
too narrow. We should deliberately seek to discover those which are
strong enough to point the way to a life vocation, but this should not
be done until we have had an opportunity to become acquainted with
various lines of interests. Otherwise our decision in this important
matter may be based merely on a whim.

We should also decide what interests we should cultivate for our own
personal development and happiness, and for the service we are to render
in a sphere outside our immediate vocation. We should consider
avocations as well as vocations. Whatever interests are selected should
be carried to efficiency. Better a reasonable number of carefully
selected interests well developed and resulting in efficiency than a
multitude of interests which lead us into so many fields that we can at
best get but a smattering of each, and that by neglecting the things
which should mean the most to us. Our interests should lead us to live
what Wagner calls a simple life, but not a narrow one.

Next: Interest Fundamental In Education

Previous: Transitoriness Of Certain Interests

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