Friday, March 9, 2018

How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day by Arnold Bennett

This small, unassuming little book hit me right between the eyes. Interestingly, it wasn't the main premise that affected me, but one of its secondary points. In How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day, Bennett argues that most of us are just existing and should start using our time more wisely for self-development.  It was written in 1910 and aimed at men who worked 8 hour days and then wasted the rest of their time "recovering" by doing nothing strenuous. He challenged them to separate 90 minutes three nights a week for cultivating their minds. These 7 and half hours would be life-changing according to Bennett. They will quicken the whole life of the week, add zest to it, and increase the interest which you feel in even the most banal occupations. He goes on to emphasize the importance of developing your powers of concentration, the necessity of starting small so as to avoid failure, and the value of frequent self-examination.

Some of his assertions are reasonable: Begin small. I'm all for the petty success. A glorious failure leads to nothing; a petty success may lead to a success that is not petty. Some are laughable: Without the power to concentrate - that is to say, without the power to dictate to the brain its task and to ensure obedience - true life is impossible. Mind control is the first element of full existence.

I read quite a few books about self-development last year and each one had its "secret" for how to live a full life, but self-development for its own sake is a shallow goal. I agree with life coach, Edie Wadsworth, that we keep our hearts, minds and bodies in shape for the greater purpose of serving God and serving others. I have nothing against improving your mind, but I see improving the heart as a much bigger priority.

My take-aways from the book had more to do with Bennett's view of time as a miraculous gift, and his assertion that if we read to improve our characters, we must do it slowly. (That was my epiphany, which I'll describe in detail in my next post.)

While I don't fully agree with his basic premise - that self-development is the key to a fulfilled life, I loved his sly humor and pithy quotes: The most important preliminary to the task of arranging one's life so that one may live fully and comfortably within one's daily budget of 24 hours is the calm realization of the extreme difficulty of the task, of the sacrifices and the endless effort which it demands... If you will not be content with a small effort, then do not begin. Lie down again and resume the uneasy doze which you call existence. This bracing of the will before doing anything worth doing is the chief thing that differentiates me from the cat by the fire.

This short book is well read by Mark Smith at Librivox.



Michele Morin said...

Oh, me, too! "I'm all for petty successes," because sometimes you've just gotta rejoice in whatever little thing gets done.
Even the title of this book stands as a challenge to me. Thanks for sharing it with friends!

Linda said...

I'm new here... but always keen to read a book review. Any chance you'll develop an Index for all your reviews? It would be such a great addition to your site. I was especially interested to read review for some of your all-time favorites!
Incidentally, I was unable to link through to your Pinterest collection.

hopeinbrazil said...

Thank you, Linda. I think I fixed the link to the Pinterest page.