Happiness does not spring from the procuring of physical or mental pleasure,
but from the development of reason and the adjustment of conduct to principles.
Arnold Bennett’s ‘How to live on 24 hours’ is as relevant a book today as when it was first published in 1908. It is a guide on how to live and live fully, making the argument that how we handle time, which is given to everyone in equal measure, is the key to a full, rich life.
The book is written with the aim to guide people to make better use of their time by offering the reader a few pieces of advice. Its focus is on how to take control of the day’s hours and therefore have peace of mind that the day has not been wasted. Written in a concise and witty form, the book opens with a warning: that it isn’t the easy way out of the difficulties of time management. Arnold asks that the reader be ready to experience some form of discomfort if they have any hope of taking control of how they spend their time.
If you imagine that you will be able to achieve your ideal by ingeniously planning out a time-table with a pen on a piece of paper, you had better give up hope at once.
If you are not prepared for discouragements and disillusions; if you will not be content with a small result for a big effort, then do not begin.
Lie down again and resume the uneasy doze which you call your existence.
Arnold identifies the major cause of all pains related to time management to be rooted in one’s attitude, and so, to be rooted in one’s mind. He suggests that one start their day not with a feeling that the day will be long and tiresome but with a feeling of confidence in their mind’s ability to work and work hard. He argues especially that the mind can work for long hours if only we’d let it and if only we’d change what we were doing and not stick to the same activities.
One of the chief things which my typical man has to learn is that the mental faculties are capable of a continuous hard activity; they do not tire like an arm or a leg.
All they want is change–not rest, except in sleep.
Arnold points out that concentration is a power that is necessary to nurture if we are to achieve any particular planned outcome. He suggests that we improve the ability to concentrate by thinking about a subject of our choosing(a subject that preferably is beneficial to oneself) and continuing that thinking for about half an hour during our daily commute to school or work. He mentions also that it is important to allow ourselves the possibility that our minds will wander in the beginning, a possibility which is, he says, very much likely.
Once the individual has enough concentration to commit to any given task and complete it, Arnold then suggests that the individual develop habits that will take up part of their 24hours, habits that contribute in one way or another to their wellbeing. Arnold suggests that the individual develop a habit of serious reading(if they would like such a thing), find time to seek to understand art and also, a habit he puts much emphasis on, develop their ability to reflect on themselves and their day.
We do not reflect. I mean that we do not reflect upon genuinely important things;
upon the problem of our happiness, upon the main direction in which we are going, upon what life is giving to us,
upon the share which reason has (or has not) in determining our actions,
and upon the relation between our principles and our conduct.
On the journey to self-mastery and mastery of one’s time, ‘the daily miracle’, Arnold urges the reader not to be so consumed in such an endeavor that they forget to be human, or even worse that they think themselves superior to others.
I cannot terminate these hints, often, I fear, too didactic and abrupt,
upon the full use of one’s time to the great end of living (as distinguished from vegetating) without
briefly referring to certain dangers which lie in wait for the sincere aspirant towards life.
The first is the terrible danger of becoming that most odious and least supportable of persons–a prig.
Now a prig is a pert fellow who gives himself airs of superior wisdom. A prig is a pompous fool who has gone out for a ceremonial walk, and without knowing it has lost an important part of his attire, namely, his sense of humour.
A prig is a tedious individual who, having made a discovery, is so impressed by his discovery that he is capable of being gravely displeased because the entire world is not also impressed by it.
Unconsciously to become a prig is an easy and a fatal thing.
This book, if read and read thoroughly has the potential,(and I don’t mean to exaggerate), to change one’s life, to be a start towards being happy. Do read it, if you can.