Before preparing oneself by the exercise of reasoning and will-power for

the acquisition of poise, it is vitally necessary to make oneself

physically fit for the effort to be undertaken.

One should begin with this fundamental principle:

Timidity being a disease one must treat it just as one would any other


Like all other physical maladies it is sure to be the cause of
oss of

social prestige to those who suffer from it.

It must then be combated in the same way as any other infirmity of long

standing that threatens to ruin the life of the sufferer.

It is a grave mistake to consider it merely a mental ailment that can be

alleviated by nothing but psychological treatment.

One's nervous condition plays a very large part in the conquest of


We must, therefore, watch most carefully over the good health of the

body before taking any measures whatever to abolish a condition of

affairs that has been engendered by physical weakness and that will be

fostered by it unless such weakness can be eradicated or more or less

dissipated and ameliorated by a thousand little daily acts of care.

It must be understood that we are not now speaking of medical treatment.

We have reference merely to that common-sense hygiene which has become

more or less a part of modern existence, and the daily practise of

which, while firmly establishing the health, has at the same time an

undoubted reflex action upon the mind. It is a well-known fact that

energy is never found in a weakened body, and that people who are

suffering are clearly marked down to become the prey of those wasting

diseases, whose names, all more or less fantastic, may be classed as a

whole under the general heading of "nervous maladies."

To enumerate them is superfluous and unnecessary. Lack of poise gives

rise to all sorts of weaknesses, which are given the names of nervous

diseases and finally become classed in the category of phobias, of which

the starting-point is always a habit of fear due to excess of timidity.

This morbid disposition is the parent of a continual apprehensiveness

which is shown upon all sorts of occasions.

The man who has the space phobia is quite unable to cross an open space

unless he is supported or, at the very least, accompanied.

Claustrophobia is the malady of those who have a horror of close

quarters from which they can not easily make their escape.

Writers' cramp is nothing in the world but one of these exaggerated

nervous terrors.

Erythrophobia, that is to say the habit of inopportune and constant

blushing, is another of the commonest forms of excessive timidity.

Stammering is another of the tortures that people of poise do not

experience, except in those cases where it is caused by a physical


All these maladies attack only the timid.

There are many others, less serious in their nature, such as indecision,

exaggerated scrupulousness, extreme pliability, hypochondria. All of

these should be ruthlessly supprest the moment we become aware of them,

for they are one and all the forerunners of that mentally diseased

condition which gives rise to the phobias of which we have just been


To those who would seriously devote themselves to the cultivation of

poise it is, therefore, a vital necessity to be in a condition of

perfect health. It would be a misfortune, indeed, for them to find

themselves balked in their progress toward acquiring this quality by

anxieties regarding the condition of their bodies.

Any indisposition, not to mention actual diseases, has a tendency to

inhibit all initiative.

There is no room for doubt that a physical ailment by attracting to

itself the attention of the person who is attacked by it, prevents him

from giving the proper amount of energy to whatever he may be engaged


He thinks about nothing but his malady and quite forgets to take the

exercises that would enable him to alter his condition, to change his

actions, and even to make over his thoughts.

His thoughts above all. Physical well-being has an undeniable influence

upon one's mental health.

One very rarely sees a sick person who is happy. Even those who are

endowed with great force of character lose, under the burden of their

sufferings, part of their firmness of soul and of their legitimate


A very scientific force of hygiene is particularly recommended.

Excessive measures of any sort must be avoided for various reasons:

(1) They are antagonistic to the maintenance of a perfect physical


(2) They will inevitably grow to dominate the mind unduly.

When we speak of excesses, we intend to include those undertaken in the

way of work no less than those which are the outcome of the search for


Nevertheless we will hasten to add that these last are much the more to

be feared.

What can be expected, for instance, from a man who has passed a night in


Morning finds him a weakling, good for nothing, and incapable of making

the slightest effort that calls for energy.

He is lucky, indeed, if his excesses have no disastrous results that

will destroy his happiness or his good name.

The fear of complications that may be the outcome of his gross pleasures

soon begins to haunt him and to usurp in his mind the place of nobler

and more useful impulses.

As to his health, it is hardly necessary for us to insist upon the

disorder that such habits must necessarily produce.

The least misfortune that he can look for is a profound lassitude and a

desire for rest which is the enemy of all virile effort.

The same thing is true of the man who indulges too freely in the

pleasures of the table. The work of digestion leaves him in an exhausted

condition and with a craving for repose that very soon results in a

complete lack of moral tone.

Even supposing that his daily routine consists of two principal meals,

and of two others of less importance, it will be easily understood that

the man who loads down his stomach with such a large amount of

continuous work will not be very apt to adapt himself readily to matters

of a wholly different kind.

To avoid pain, to sit inert, like a gorged animal, without attempting to

think, is the sole desire of the gluttons who are wearied by every

repeated excess.

The same reasoning could be applied to the lazy, who suffer in health

from indulgence in their favorite vice.

It can not be disputed that lack of exercise is the cause of ailments

that have a marked effect upon the moral character.

Since physical laziness always goes hand in hand with mental apathy, it

follows that a dread of exerting oneself is always to be found coupled

with a hatred of being forced to think.

It is, therefore, essential for the man who would acquire poise to

fortify himself in advance against physical weaknesses which, by

undermining his will-power, will soon furnish him with the most

plausible reasons for losing interest in the steady application that is

needed for accomplishing his purpose.

In achieving the conquest of poise certain physical exercises, practised

every day, and vigorously followed out, will be found of considerable


Before discussing the practical methods which are at once their

starting-point and their result, we will consider in turn the series of

exercises that must be performed each day in order to keep oneself in

the condition of physical well-being which allows of the accomplishment

of moral reform.