The Psychology of Success

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, April 29, 1912:It rained nearly all day. I wish it would get warm and stay so.  Am beginning to think about final.

A recent rainy day in McEwensville

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I hope that Grandma was thinking positive thoughts about her upcoming finals.  I found some surprisingly modern advice about positive thinking in a hundred year old book:

The Psychology of Success

There is nothing which tends so much to the success of volitional effort as the confident expectation of its success, while nothing is so likely to induce failure as the apprehension of it.  . .

Lack of success may also be caused by indulgence or lack of courage, the individual preferring to sail along the chartered course of mediocrity rather than to strike out a new path for herself, involving risk, anxiety, and endless work . . . .

There are four mental requisites necessary to the achievement of success, namely: a clear view of the end; a judicious indifference to the sentiment around by the sweeping away of obstacles; an indomitable energy; and the power to resist the temptation to rest on the soporific plane of mediocrity.

Personal Hygiene and Physical Training for Women (Anna Galbraith, 1911)

If I could get in a time machine, I’d say, “Grandma—I hope you started to study.  Then think confident thoughts. I’m rooting for your success.”

7 Responses

  1. Hi. I love the phrase, ‘the soporific plane of mediocrity’! Now I am wondering if your grandmother will tell us how she did in her Finals. Jane

    • It is a wonderful phrase and so perfectly describes how one can end up with mediocrity. I’m constantly amazed how words that today are found primarily on SAT and GRE exams apparently were commonly used a hundred years ago. I actually had to look the word up, and (as you probably knew) it means sleepy – narcotic – slumberous.

  2. Sounds like Anna M. Galbraith ought to know about success – I did a search and found that she was a medical doctor and also wrote another book, “The Four Epochs of Woman’s Life.”

    • There wouldn’t have been many female physicians in the early 20th century. She must have figured out how to navigate though some difficult challenges to become a doctor.

      I’ll have to look for The Four Epochs book. I’ve really enjoyed reading Personal Hygiene and Physical Training. In addition to containing lots of information about living a balanced life, it included information on hydrotherapy, menstruation, diet, exercise, and lots of other topics of interest to women.

  3. “…Nothing new under the sun”!

  4. [...] April 29—Thinking about the exams [...]

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