Did you ever engage in any exhausting physical work for a long period

of time? If so, you probably remember that as you proceeded, you became

more and more fatigued, finally reaching a point when it seemed that

you could not endure the strain another minute. You had just decided to

give up, when suddenly the fatigue seemed to diminish and new energy

seemed to come from some source. This curious thing, which happens

frequently in athletic activities, is known as second-wind, and is

described, by those who have experienced it, as a time of increased

power, when the work is done with greater ease and effectiveness and

with a freshness and vigor in great contrast to the staleness that

preceded it. It is as though one "tapped a level of new energy,"

revealing hidden stores of unexpected power. And it is commonly

reported that with persistence in pushing one's self farther and

farther, a third and fourth wind may be uncovered, each one leading to

greater heights of achievement.

This phenomenon occurs not alone on the physical plane; it is

discernible in mental exertion as well. True, we seldom experience it

because we are mentally lazy and have the habit of stopping our work at

the first signs of fatigue. Did we persist, however, disregarding

fatigue and ennui, we should find ourselves tapping vast reserves of

mental power and accomplishing mental feats of astonishing brilliancy.

The occasional occurrence of the phenomenon of second-wind gives ground

for the statement that we possess more energy than we ordinarily use.

There are several lines of evidence for this statement. One is to be

found in the energizing effects of emotional excitement. Under the

impetus of anger, a man shows far greater strength than he ordinarily

uses. Similarly, a mother manifests the strength of a tigress when her

young is endangered. A second line of evidence is furnished by the

effect of stimulants. Alcohol brings to the fore surprising reserves of

physical and psychic energy. Lastly, we have innumerable instances of

accession of strength under the stimulus of an idea. Under the

domination of an all-absorbing idea, one performs feats of

extraordinary strength, utilizing stores of energy otherwise out of

reach. We have only to read of the heroic achievements of little Joan

of Arc for an example of such manifestation of reserve power.

When we examine this accession of energy we find it to be describable

in several ways--physiologically, neurologically and psychologically.

The physiological effects consist in a heightening of the bodily

functions in general. The muscles become more ready to act, the

circulation is accelerated, the breathing more rapid. Curious things

take place in various glands throughout the body. One, the adrenal

gland, has been the object of special study and has been shown, upon

the arousal of these reserves of energy, to produce a secretion of the

utmost importance in providing for sudden emergencies. This little

gland is located above the kidney, and is aroused to intense activity

at times, pouring out into the blood a fluid that goes all over the

body. Some of its effects are to furnish the blood with chemicals that

act as fuel to the muscles, assisting them to contract more vigorously,

to make the lungs more active in introducing oxygen into the system, to

make the heart more active in distributing the blood throughout the

body. Such glandular activity is an important physiological condition

of these higher levels of energy. In neurological terms, the increase

in energy consists in the flow of more nervous energy into the brain,

particularly into those areas where it is needed for certain kinds of

controlled thought and action. An abundance of nervous energy is very

advantageous, for, as has been intimated in a former chapter, nervous

energy is diffused and spread over all the pathways that are easily

permeable to its distribution. This results in the use of considerable

areas of brain surface, and knits up many associations, so that one

idea calls up many other ideas. This leads us to recognize the

psychological conditions of increased energy, which are, first, the

presence of more ideas, second, the more facile flow of ideas; the

whole accompanied by a state of marked pleasurableness. Pleasure is a

notable effect of increased energy. When work progresses rapidly and

satisfactorily, it is accomplished with great zest and a feeling almost

akin to exaltation. These conditions describe to some degree the

conditions when we are doing efficient work.

Since we are endowed with the energy requisite for such efficient work,

the obvious question is, why do we not more frequently use it? The

answer is to be found in the fact that we have formed the habit of

giving up before we create conditions of high efficiency. You will note

that the conditions require long-continued exertion and resolute

persistence. This is difficult, and we indulgently succumb to the first

symptoms of fatigue, before we have more than scratched the surface of

our real potentialities.

Because of the prominent place occupied by fatigue in thus being

responsible for our diminished output, we shall briefly consider its

place in study. Everyone who has studied will agree that fatigue is an

almost invariable attendant of continuous mental exertion. We shall lay

down the proposition at the start, however, that the awareness of

fatigue is not the same as the objective fatigue in the organs of the

body. Fatigue should be regarded as a twofold thing--a state of mind,

designated its subjective aspect, and a condition of various parts of

the body, designated its objective aspect. The former is observable by

introspection, the latter by analysis of bodily secretions and by

measurement of the diminution of work, entirely without reference to

the way the mind regards the work. Fatigue subjectively, or fatigue as

we _feel_ it, is not at all the same as fatigue as manifested in the

body. If we were to make two curves, the one showing the advancement of

the _feeling_ of fatigue, and the other showing the advancement of

impotence on the part of the bodily processes, the two curves would not

at all coincide. Stated another way, fatigue is a complex thing, a

product of ideas, feelings and sensations, and sometimes the ideas

overbalance the sensations and we think we are more tired then we are

objectively. It is this fact that accounts for our too rapid giving up

when we are engaged in hard work.

A psychological analysis of the subjective side of fatigue will make

its true nature more apparent. Probably the first thing we find in the

mind when fatigued is a large mass of sensations. They are referred to

various parts of the body, mostly the part where muscular activity has

been most violent and prolonged. Not all of the sensations, however,

are intense enough to be localizable, some being so vague that we

merely say we are "tired all over." These vague sensations are often

overlooked; nevertheless, as will be shown later, they may be

exceedingly important.

But sensations are not the only contents of the mind at time of

fatigue. Feelings are present also, usually of a very unpleasant kind.

They are related partly to the sensations mentioned above, which are

essentially painful, and they are feelings of boredom and ennui. We

have yet to examine the ideas in mind and their behavior at time of

fatigue. They come sluggishly, associations being made slowly and

inaccurately, and we make many mistakes. But constriction of ideas is

not the sole effect of fatigue. At such a time there are usually other

ideas in the mind not relevant to the fatiguing task of the moment,

and exceedingly distracting. Often they are so insistent in forcing

themselves upon our attention that we throw up the work without further

effort. It is practically certain that much of our fatigue is due, not

to real weariness and inability to work, but to the presence of ideas

that appear so attractive in contrast with the work in hand that we say

we are tired of the latter. What we really mean is that we would rather

do something else. These obtruding ideas are often introduced into our

minds by other people who tell us that we have worked long enough and

ought to come and play, and though we may not have felt tired up to

this point, still the suggestion is so strong that we immediately begin

to feel tired. Various social situations can arouse the same

suggestion. For example, as the clock nears quitting time, we feel that

we ought to be tired, so we allow ourselves to think we are.

Let us now examine the bodily conditions to see what fatigue is

objectively. "Physiologically it has been demonstrated that fatigue is

accompanied by three sorts of changes. First, poisons accumulate in the

blood and affect the action of the nervous system, as has been shown by

direct analysis. Mosso ... selected two dogs as nearly alike as

possible. One he kept tied all day; the other, he exercised until by

night it was thoroughly tired. Then he transfused the blood of the

tired animal into the veins of the rested one and produced in him all

the signs of fatigue that were shown by the other. There can be no

doubt that the waste products of the body accumulate in the blood and

interfere with the action of the nerve cells and muscles. It is

probable that these accumulations come as a result of mental as well as

of physical work.

"A second change in fatigue has been found in the cell body of the

neurone. Hodge showed that the size of the nucleus of the cell in the

spinal cord of a bee diminished nearly 75 per cent, as a result of the

day's activity, and that the nucleus became much less solid. A third

change that has been demonstrated as a result of muscular work is the

accumulation of waste products in the muscle tissue. Fatigued muscles

contain considerable percentages of these products. That they are

important factors in the fatigue process has been shown by washing them

from a fatigued muscle. As a result the muscle gains new capacity for

work. The experiments are performed on the muscles of a frog that have

been cut from the body and fatigued by electrical stimulation. When

they will no longer respond, their sensitivity may be renewed by

washing them in dilute alcohol or in a weak salt solution that will

dissolve the products of fatigue. It is probable that these products

stimulate the sense-organs in the muscles and thus give some of the

sensations of fatigue. Of these physical effects of fatigue, the

accumulation of waste products in the blood and the effects upon the

nerve cells are probably common both to mental and physical fatigue.

The effect upon the muscles plays a part in mental fatigue only so far

as all mental work involves some muscular activity."

By this time you must be convinced that the subject of fatigue is

exceedingly complicated; that its effects are manifested differently in

mind and body. In relieving fatigue the first step to be taken is to

rest properly. Man cannot work incessantly; he must rest sometimes, and

it is just as important to know how to rest efficiently as to know how

to work efficiently. By this is not meant that one should rest as soon

as fatigue begins to be felt. Quite the reverse. Keep on working all

the harder if you wish the second-wind to appear. Perhaps two hours

will exhaust your first supply of energy and will leave you greatly

fatigued. Do not give up at this time, however. Push yourself farther

in order to uncover the second layer of energy. Before entering upon

this, however, it will be possible to secure some advantage by resting

for about fifteen minutes. Do not rest longer than this, or you may

lose the momentum already secured and your two hours will have gone for

naught. If one indulges in too long a rest, the energy seems to run

down and more effort is required to work it up again than was

originally expended. It is also important to observe the proper mental

conditions during rest. Do not spend the fifteen minutes in getting

interested in some other object; for that will leave distracting ideas

in the mind which will persist when you resume work. Make the rest a

time of physical and mental relief. Move cramped muscles, rest your

eyes and let your thoughts idly wander; then come back to work in ten

or fifteen minutes and you will be amazed at the refreshed feeling with

which you do your work and at the accession of new energy that will

come to you. Keep on at this new plane and your work will take on all

the attributes of the second-wind level of efficiency.

Besides planning intelligent rests, you may also adjust yourself to

fatigue by arranging your daily program so as to do your hardest work

when you are fresh, and your easiest when your efficiency is low. In

other words, you are a human dynamo, and should adjust yourself to the

different loads you carry. When carrying a heavy load, employ your best

energies, but when carrying only a light load, exert a proportionate

amount of energy. Every student has tasks of a routine nature which do

not require a high degree of energy, such as copying material. Plan to

perform such work when your stock of energy is lowest.

One of the best ways to insure the attainment of a higher plane of

mental efficiency is to assume an attitude of interestedness. This is

an emotional state and we have seen that emotion calls forth great


A final aid in promoting increase of energy is that gained through

stimulating ideas. Other things being equal, the student who is

animated by a stimulating idea works more diligently and effectively

than one without. The idea may be a lofty professional ideal; it may be

a desire to please one's family, a sense of duty, or a wish to excel.

Whatever it is, an idea may stimulate to extraordinary achievements.

Adopt some compelling aim if you have none. A vocational aim often

serves as a powerful incentive throughout one's student life. An idea

may operate for even more transient purposes; it may make one oblivious

to present discomfort to a remarkable degree. This is accomplished

through the aid of suggestion. When feelings of fatigue approach, you

may ward them off by resolutely suggesting to yourself that you are

feeling fresh.

Above all, the will is effective in lifting one to higher levels of

efficiency. It is notorious that a single effort of the will, "such as

saying 'no' to some habitual temptation or performing some courageous

act, will launch a man on a higher level of energy for days and weeks,

will give him a new range of power. 'In the act of uncorking the

whiskey bottle which I had brought home to get drunk upon,' said a man

to me, 'I suddenly found myself running out into the garden, where I

smashed it on the ground. I felt so happy and uplifted after this act,

that for two months I wasn't tempted to touch a drop.'" But the results

of exertions of the will are not usually so immediate, and you may

accept it as a fact that in raising yourself to a higher level of

energy you cannot do it by a single effort. Continuous effort is

required until the higher levels of energy have _formed the habit_ of

responding when work is to be done. In laying the burden upon Nature's

mechanism of habit, you see you are again face to face with the

proposition laid down at the beginning of the book--that education

consists in the process of forming habits of mind. The particular habit

most important to cultivate in connection with the production of

second-wind is the habit of resisting fatigue. Form the habit of

persisting in spite of apparent obstacles and limitations. Though they

seem almost unsurmountable, they are really only superficial. Buried

deep within you are stores of energy that you yourself are unaware of.

They will assist you in accomplishing feats far greater than you think

yourself capable of. Draw upon these resources and you will find

yourself gradually living and working upon a higher plane of

efficiency, improving the quality of your work, increasing the quantity

of your work and enhancing your enjoyment in work.


Readings: James (9) Seashore (14) chapter III. Swift (20) chapter V.

Exercise I. Describe conditions you have observed at time of

second-wind in connection with prolonged (a) physical exertion, (b)

intellectual exertion.

Mental Attitude MODESTY AND EFFRONTERY CONTRASTED facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail