site logo

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.