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Mental Exercises vs. Physical Exercises

Muscles not used will atrophy. A broken arm, carried in a sling for a period of time, will shrink in size and lose most of its strength. After it is freed from the sling, it will take several days of use to bring it back to its former condition.

A mind which is not kept active will become less alert and will lose much of its brilliance. It is, therefore, logical to assume that you must exercise your mind, as well as your physical body.

As to relative importance, I would say that of the two types, mental exercise should have first consideration. In fact, physical exercises, to give the maximum good, should be coordinated with mind.

You will gain far greater good from the type of exercise you enjoy, than you will from the exercise you force yourself to take. Bowling, rowing, tennis, or whatever you choose, will help you more than following a routine of motions with a bored mind.

Happiness is relaxing and muscles respond to exercise more quickly when you are relaxed than when you are tense. There are mental conditions which correspond with tenseness and relaxation. If your mind is tense, because of a number of disturbing thoughts attempting to enter, constructive thinking is retarded. You will have difficulty in carrying through on the type of constructive thinking which could free you from your problems.

This chapter will help you to stimulate and develop your mental faculties through disciplined concentration. The rewards will be great. You will actually find yourself reaching a higher level of ecstasy as you begin developing a state of mental self-mastery.

Frustration is not an incurable mental disorder. It is the product of an uncontrolled mind. If a man allows disturbing thoughts to take over and block all rational thinking, he becomes almost panicky as he sees himself thwarted by so many problems.

Such a man came to me for counsel and, according to his description of his predicament, he had the weight of the universe on his shoulders.

“I have so many problems,” he said. “I cannot see any way out.”

I picked up a sheet of paper and asked him to name his problems so that I could list them; then we would see what could be done.

He had no trouble at all in naming problem number 1. He then stared out the window a second, and came up with problem number 2. It took a few seconds longer to think of problem number 3. And, from that time on he had trouble in thinking of any more.

This chap was amazed to find he really had so few troubles. And, seeing them listed, he didn’t find it hard to work out solutions for them.

A state of frustration existed because without calm thinking he had magnified his problems until they completely occupied his mind.

Feeble-mindedness is a term often misused. When we think of one as being feeble-minded, we think of him as being a hopeless case. This is not always true. Usually it results from an inactive mind.

There is the story of a retired judge whose mind showed signs of becoming feeble. During his many years on the bench he had much reading and studying to do. He had become so fed up with the printed word that after being relieved of his duties, he just went on a reading strike. He did not pick up a book or newspaper, but just sat on his front porch and watched time go by.

In his boyhood days, this judge had had an intense interest in building model ships. He was encouraged to get the plans of a vessel and resume his erstwhile hobby. In a matter of days there was a noticeable improvement in his mind; and a few months later no one dared to think of him as being feeble-minded.

Forgetfulness is often caused by a disorganized mind. When the mind is in a state of turmoil, our powers of recall are lessened. When we wish to remember any fact, it is slow in coming. We accept the thought that we are becoming forgetful and, as you have learned from a previous chapter, we encourage just such a condition; we do grow more forgetful.

The memories of those with well-disciplined minds are much keener than those with confused minds.

Those whose minds seem to run in a single groove are frequently referred to as having “single-track minds.” Woodrow Wilson bragged about the fact that he had a single-track mind—and well he might. To keep your mind steadfastly on a single subject until you are through with it is an accomplishment.

Alcoholism is not always the dread disease we think it is. Alcohol is a mental anesthetic. After enough of it is consumed, one literally stops thinking and gives vent to his internal inhibited emotions. If he is haunted by thoughts of past failures or present problems he finds temporary relief through alcoholic indulgence.

There was an interesting case of a man who appeared to be alcoholic. He would abstain from liquor for a few days, then would go on a “bender.”

“Let the old lady yell—I don’t care,” he was heard to say as he staggered home. This man’s wife turned out to be a chronic nagger. Every thing he did was wrong and everything he didn’t do he should have done.

The “alcoholic” and his wife were divorced, and in time he met and fell in love with another girl. Instead of nagging, she tried to understand him and helped him to find happiness. His drinking ceased.

Had this man possessed mental self-mastery, he probably could have assisted his first wife in acquiring loftier interests than fault-finding.

It may be well to say at this point that much domestic bickering is caused by mental boredom.

A couple on the verge of separation was given a self-improvement book. It proved of so much interest to both husband and wife that they not only read it, but searched the bookstores for other good books in the same category. After their minds were guided into constructive channels their quarrelling stopped. Today they appear and act as newlyweds.


Any routine of exercises which causes you to think is of value. You will be amazed to find how quickly the mind will respond, and in a very short time you’ll notice marked improvement in your ability to think quickly, logically and creatively.

While driving your car, you can do a fascinating exercise with the license plates on the cars ahead.

Take the license number and, by addition, reduce it to a single digit. This is done by adding all the digits together. If the result contains more than one digit, add those together. Keep this up until you have just one digit. Here are a few examples:

978 = 9+7+8 = 24 = 2+4 = 6
164 = 1+6+4 = 11 = 1+1 = 2
899 = 8+9+9 = 26 = 2+6 = 8

If the license plates have letters as well as numbers, you can make a game of the letters. In California, for example, the plates have three letters, such as PUD. As you see the letters, make up a man’s name as fast as you can using those letters as initials.

The name Patrick Ulrick Day may come to you as a name for the above letters. At first it will require a bit of thinking to make up names for the letters you see, but in a short time names will come to you almost as fast as you can mentally record the letters.

Quizzes which you will find in newspapers, magazines and on television all help to stimulate the mind.

Crossword puzzles not only add new words to your vocabulary, but also stimulate your mind. As you continue to work them, you will note that words come to your mind much faster than they did when you first took up the pastime.

Speed-reading is good practice. There are several methods of speed-reading from which to choose. Reading faster also speeds your thinking which, of course, tends toward sharpening your mind.


In some of the earlier chapters you learned that you can actually instruct your Creative Mind to guide you in thought and action.

In connection with your mental exercises, be certain to use this faculty of the Creative Mind. Many people, when called upon to arrive at some solution which requires concentrated thinking, will immediately think: “Oh, I can’t do that.” This, of course, is a sure way to block the mental processes so that a logical solution will not be forthcoming.

As you proceed with your mental exercises, build on the thought that they are easy for you and that from them you will gain great good.

Develop an awareness that your mind is becoming more alert day by day. It will be interesting—and enjoyable—to discover that your mind is becoming more alert.


When a child, did you ever play with a magnifying glass, using it to focus the rays of the sun on a given object so that enough heat would be generated to cause a flame? You can do the same with mind. When you learn to focus your thoughts—without interference—on a specific objective, it is astounding how much mental power you will bring into being.

You can develop the powers of mental concentration through practice, and the more you practice, the more fruitful will be the results.

A simple exercise is to see how long you can keep your thoughts on a single object. For example, place a book on a table, sit near it, and see if you can keep your mind focused on it for five minutes. It sounds easy, but it takes practice. You can think about any phase of the book you wish: the title, the jacket design, the nature of the contents. You can think about the printing and binding of the book. If you are interested in merchandising, think about the method used in advertising and selling it. But keep your mind on some phase of the book.

After you have finished your period of concentration, take a sheet of paper and write a brief essay on the book. Do the same following every period of concentration. After a few weeks, compare these essays and note the improvement. You will not only be improving your powers of observation, but also adding to your ability to express yourself. It is not necessary to take a book each time. Change to any item convenient to you: the television set, a lamp, your hat, etc.

One man, dubbed a “scatterbrain” by his friends, became known as a man with a very keen mind after a few weeks of these exercises.


Below, you find several questions relating to possible objectives. They may be thought of as imaginary in the beginning, perhaps, because you may have thought you could never attain any of them.

Take a sheet of paper and write down the question which appeals to you most. Think of yourself as a counsellor and imagine a client has come to you with the question and you are called upon to give a solution.

Knowing the objective, ascertain the resistances which, at present, are standing between the client and the attainment of the objective. With this information you are ready to develop a plan of action which will enable your man (which, of course, is yourself) to hurdle the resistances and attain the objective.

It is not necessary to do this with all questions, because some of them will conflict with each other. For instance, you would not be interested in finding a way to increase your salary if your objective was to have a business of your own.

Here are a few typical questions; change them to other questions if you like:

How can I build a successful business for myself? How can I climb in my present job? I would like to take my wife on an extended ocean voyage. How can I bring it about? How can I afford to live in a better home? How can I become a power in my community?

Before taking up mental exercising, you may have thought any one of these questions were beyond practical answers. By the time you complete this chapter and have become accustomed to the exercise given, you will glory in your victory. With clear, logical, concentrated thinking, it will not be difficult at all to see through any of the problems presented by the questions.

Margaret Beach was a typical housewife. She was not happy with her daily routine of cooking, mending and housecleaning; yet she never did anything about it—except grumble. She did not have a good mind—she thought—and felt she was doomed to an existence of household drudgery. She attended a lecture, the theme of which was Mental Improvement. Mental exercises were introduced and, fortunately for Margaret, the suggestions “sank in.” After she started to develop her mental faculties, she was even more dissatisfied with being a mere housewife, but now she felt that she could do something more important and much more satisfying.

Margaret had always had an interest in new homes. She would stop every time she would see a model home open for inspection. “Why can’t I learn to design homes?” she asked herself. There being no negative reply, she started to plan accordingly. She began by taking a course in architectural drawing, and with it, instructions in home designs. After she had acquired enough knowledge to begin, she arranged with a builder to make drawings for home additions he might be authorized to build.

So successful was Margaret with these assignments, she started creating designs for new homes which were grabbed up by her local builders. Now Margaret Beach is happily making an income on which to employ a housekeeper, relieving her of the work she had so disliked. And one of the ultramodern homes she has designed will be built for her own use.

Minds can make men giants so far as personal power and accomplishment are concerned. This is just as true with your mind as it is with the minds of others.

Put these exercises to use and soon you’ll find a new YOU emerging from that which exists today. Objectives will not be something to wish for—but things to do.

You will no longer envy others for their possessions and achievements because you will know that if you want what they have, you can have it.

Visit Grow Rich While You Sleep for more articles from this book by Ben Sweetland.