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Quotations for Motivation #53 --- Poise

Updated on May 15, 2011

Quotations on Poise

Cultivate repose of manner, calmness, quietness, emotional control, if you want to grow in personal influence over your fellowmen. Poise by no means constitutes the whole secret of personality. But it is an important element in it.

If a choice has to be made between two leaders, one well poised, the other excitable, there can be no question be chosen. Always poise, with its unconscious revelation of well-controlled energy, will carry the day. ...

Poise cannot be developed if we cling to the vice of self-consciousness. For self-consciousness breeds awkwardness, indecision, timidity. Then the door is shut in the face of poise but opened wide for the entrance of excitability.

As a beginning, therefore, self-forgetfulness must be gained. And the best aid to this is a focusing of the attention on worthy interests and high ideals, striving with all one's might to bring them to realization.

When the attention is thus diverted from the self--as in enthusiastic devotion to one's work--self-consciousness will be experienced less and less. And with increasing self-forgetfulness increasing self-confidence is sure to come.

Emotional control will thus grow apace–ability to face difficulties coolly and courageously, to refuse to be overborne by fears that plunge the self-conscious and the timid into despair.

If we train ourselves to look calm, determined and confident, we shall more and more feel, and be, calm, determined and confident. Experience has repeatedly demonstrated the truth of this.

—H. Addington Bruce, The Chicago Daily News, Chicago, Ill., Oct. 17, 1919.

You envy the well-poised man. You admire his quiet self-confidence, his unhurried vigor, above all, his unfailing serenity and calmness.

Rightly you infer that these are qualities which have contributed to his success. Wrongly you assume that they are qualities inborn in him.

The chances are that he developed them by watchful self-training. The certainty is that you, too, can develop them if only you will make the necessary effort.

This morning, when the toast was burned ... you fumed for a quarter of an hour. ...

Just now, waiting to keep an appointment, you wriggled uneasily in your chair, walked to the window half a dozen times, played nervously with your watch chain.

These are trifling things, you say, of no particular importance. They are of this importance--they constitute an incessant waste of nervous energy and betoken a habit the reverse of calmness and poise.

Make a start by controlling yourself in these same little things.

You will have to do this soon or late if you really wish to become poised. And the sooner the better, for control in little things is more than half the secret of poise. As someone has well said: "Poise is power under control. Poise stores up energy and keeps it in reserve for special use. Poise keeps you calm and deliberate under varied circumstances."

That word "deliberate" reminds me to urge you to practice repressing the impatient words that now so readily spring from your lips. Teach yourself to speak slowly always. The speech of the poised is never the speech of breathless haste.

Also acquire the habit of relaxing at frequent intervals. At present, as you must admit, your dominant attitude is one of chronic tension.

This keeps your nervous system under a perpetual strain. It means, in fact, a nervous fatigue, of which the irritability so characteristic of you is a clear cut symptom.

Curb your appetite too, if you would become poised, and exercise with something like regularity. Overeating and underexercising have a harmful action of their own on the nervous system, by producing poise-killing irritability.

As much as possible avoid exaggeration of speech, thought and feeling. it is good to be an enthusiast, but overenthusiasm is fatal to poise.

And, of course, try to make "I will not worry" a guiding principle of your life. When things go wrong, don't roar or sulk, but take advantage of the opportunity to cultivate the courageous optimism without which poise will forever be impossible to you.

No one has ever seen a well-poised pessimist. Pessimism and poise are contradiction in terms.

—H. Addington Bruce, The Chicago Daily News, Chicago, Ill., May 24, 1920.

Poise, you appreciate, is one of the finest qualities a man or woman can have. You recognize that its absence accounts for much of the unhappiness, nervousness and incompetency so evident in the life of our world today.

You hope, therefore, that your little boy will grow up to be well poised. Do you merely hope this? Or are you rearing him in such a way that he is almost certain to grow up well poised.

Poise is largely a product of early training.

Men and women, it is true, can acquire poise even if they have been reared unwisely. But the wiser their upbringing the greater the likelihood that they will be free from the handicaps which the absence of poise involves.

And one of the essentials in training for poise is to habituate a child to be orderly. Are you thus habituating your child?

Do you, more specifically, insist that when he is through playing with his toys he shall put them away neatly? Are you teaching him that everything has a place and should be in that place?

Or are you making the terrible mistake of cleaning up his litter for him, so that he shall have no conception of system or duty or responsibility?

Poise, furthermore, implies deliberateness of speech and action. Your child, impulsive and ardent, runs to you to tell you of his doings and pleasures. He splutters his words and explosively, in the fervor of his desire to let you know what has been happening.

Do you think his spluttering cute? Or do you, as you should, insist on his speaking slowly?

If you do not you may unconsciously let him develop into a stammerer. At best he will be the prey of nervous excitability. And the nervously excitable can hardly be called well poised.

Have you, indeed, made any effort to accustom your boy to what may be termed "reposeful recreation"? Have you encouraged him to rely on himself for amusement, in quiet hours of reading, or looking at pictures, or developing his instinct for creation? ...

The first seven years are the decisive years, eminent philosophers insist. So far as concerns training for poise none can question the soundness of their claim.

—H. Addington Bruce, The Chicago Daily News, Chicago, Ill., Nov. 22, 1920.

Poise is not easily defined, but instinctively appreciated by everybody. All of us recognize at a glance the well-poised man, the man who goes through life with calm self-assurance, never awkward, never at a loss in an emergency.

We know that poise counts for much in the shaping of a successful career. We know that, as is well said by the philosopher Starke, "Fortune smiles on those who are possessed of poise."

If we do not possess poise we regret our handicap. But too often we fail to make any serious effort to rid ourselves of this handicap.

We act as though poise were something born with a man, like the color of his hair and eyes. Actually it always is something that a man acquires. And anybody can acquire it.

To this end the first thing necessary is to recognize the factors which have hitherto kept us from being well poised. Then we shall know what defects we have to overcome.

Among these factors, foremost in importance is SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS. No man can acquire poise as long as he keeps putting to himself the question, "What are other people thinking of me?"

Every time he asks himself this question, whether he asks it consciously or subconsciously, will increase his tendency to be awkward instead of well poised.

When he tries to speak to others on important matters he will stumble, stammer, be at a loss for words. When he goes into company he will behave mechanically, stupidly, instead of in an easy, graceful way.

Self-consciousness, in other words, must be rooted out if poise is to be attained.

So much at DISTRUST OF SELF which is at the bottom of self-consciousness and other character defects.

Now, a man may have good reason to be distrustful of himself. He may know, for example, that he is weak in muscular coordination, which makes him physically awkward.

And he may know that he is mentally or morally weak, which forces him to feel at a disadvantage in the presence of other people.

Ask any specialist in the treatment of nervousness and mental troubles and he will tell you that the embarrassment, the timidity and bashfulness many people show is in many cases due to nothing but a subconscious fear that others can read in their faces secret stains on their morality.

Self-examination, then, is indispensable to the gaining of poise. Moral weaknesses must be searched out and resolutely conquered.

And as an aid both in gaining poise and in shining moral strength, physical exercise should be taken with regularity.

The more a man attains physical vigor and balance the less likely he will be to yield supinely to temptation, and the more he will grow in self-confidence.

Finally, among the chief enemies of poise must also be mentioned deficiency in reasoning power.

The well poised man is always a man who can think quickly and logically. Otherwise unexpected situations would sweep him off his feet, as they sweep those who lack poise.

Consequently everyone who wishes to be poised must learn the art of thinking. If the unpoised man examines himself candidly he is pretty sure to find that he does not really think. He merely accepts and acts on the thoughts of other people.

He must accustom himself to working out problems by his own mental power. He must not be satisfied with observing EFFECTS. He must look for the CAUSES that have given rise to the effects.

In this way he will train himself to greater efficiency in his daily tasks. He will gain greater knowledge of affairs and of human conduct. He will become more sure of himself, hence will become better poised.

—H. Addington Bruce, Houston Daily Post, Houston, Texas, Sept. 23, 1916.

Closely related to the attitude of peace, we have that of poise. Peace tends to conserve and accumulate energy, while the attainment of poise tends to hold that energy in such a way that not a particle is lost. In peace we are still, in poise we feel and hold the mighty power within us ready for action. The well-poised mind is not only charged with enormous energies, but can also retain those energies in any part of the system, and can direct them toward any effort desired. The effect of poise upon thinking is very great because the attitude of poise is the one essential attitude through which constructive work of mind or thought can be promoted, and so we find it is indispensable to every mode of thinking that aims to produce results.

Another mental state of extreme importance is that of harmony, and as there is only a step from peace and poise to harmony, we may readily acquire the latter when we have acquired the former. In the attitude of peace the mind finds its true self and its own supreme power. Through the attitude of poise this power is brought forth into action, and is held in its true spheres of action, but it is only through harmony that this power can act properly upon things or in connection with things. So we find that harmony is very important in our lives, as many well-meant actions often lead to failure and disappointment. The reason of this being that little attention was given to the attainment of harmony. And so we find many people have a fine mind, but if the different parts of the mind do not harmonize and work together we shall accomplish but little, and I am sure that we find many minds in that condition today.

And so we should try to adapt ourselves to everything and everybody with a view of securing united action for greater good. We shall thus continue in perfect harmony, causing every effort to work for the production of the results we have in view.

—William T. Goulee, Autumn Leaves, Lamoni, Iowa, March 1917.

What is it that gives steadiness, point, stability? ... What is it that gives mastery of the circumstances of which one’s life is made of? Our first answer is that it is strength of will. What makes a man unsteady and unstable, the slave of temptation and of circumstances is, we say, his feebleness of will. ... How is it that a man’s will possesses his life? What gives it the power to take command and when the crisis comes? ... Strength of character. It is the result of education. It is the outcome of discipline. A man’s will gathers to itself the quality of leadership, just as a man’s mind slowly accumulates force, and then this stored up energy waits for the moment of demand to give impulse and unity to life.

—G.F. Peabody, New York Times, New York, N.Y., June 20, 1887.

Poise means self-mastery and a steadfast purpose. It means maturity, stability and power, and must be achieved before we can be of great use in the world.

—Carl H. Barnett, Dallas Morning News, Dallas, Texas, Aug. 8, 1921.

If there is one need which seems to be above almost any other one in this fretful, rushing age in which we live, it is the need of that fine quality of soul which we call poise. In every age there have been persons who did not lose their heads and they were the persons who saved the day. ...

Poise is a quality which must have depth of soil in which to grow. You cannot produce men and women of poise by mechanical methods. It requires long hours of meditation, quiet moments apart, secret places of strength. ...

We do not need to play upon the frazzled nerves of this dashing generation. Let us rather call out the hidden springs of strength and thus sweeten and widen and purify our currents of life.

—Louie D. Newton, Christian Index, Atlanta, Ga., Dec. 4, 1924.

Poise has to do with the condition of one's personality taken as a whole. It means a state of complete inner and outer harmony, harmony between ourselves and the things we value most in life. ... The man of poise is a man with a purpose. It is the purpose which unifies, coordinates, integrates his personality, as we say, contributing to the harmony which makes him what he is.

—Harry Allen Overstreet, American Magazine, Springfield, Ohio, June 1929.

No matter how much education or even how much intelligence–or how much character–one may have, if he hasn't poise he is without one of the vital parts of successful personality. Something is wrong with the arch because an important stone is missing. So many people of the best intentions, the finest character, are fluttery, uncertain, unsure of themselves. They lack ease in the presence of others. They have everything but poise. Without poise the impression is imperfect.

—Grove H. Patterson, Milwaukee Sentinel, Milwaukee, Wis., May 13, 1931.

There is nothing much more satisfying to t he mind than the habit of honest thinking–thinking without self-deception. Few of us quite reach the stage where we can do it. We are usually pretending. We believe something or other, or making all sorts of ingenious excuses for ourselves. It is a fine thing to have the courage, the poise, and the serenity to approach the problems of human behavior with our eyes wide open, sanely, thoughtfully and honestly. The one thing worse than misbehavior is the subtle, crooked, self-deceiving defense of misbehavior.

—Grove H. Patterson, Painesville Telegraph, Painesville, Ohio, Feb. 28, 1929.

Most of us are so busy that we seldom have time to live. Our lives are so crowded we don't have time to meditate. Yet real living requires that we take time to think. Otherwise we become like the proverbial horseman who leaped onto his horse and dashed off in all directions at once.

One of the great attributes of a healthy person is poise. This word comes from a word meaning balance. Our use of the word suggests stability and equilibrium. The poised individual is one whose life is balanced.

Now I don't have to suggest that our desire to be active, on the go, doing something, soon gets our lives off balance. Helter-skelter minds and confused minds fill our hospitals with persons who are forced to be quiet so that poise may return once more to them. ...

I think our day offers more opportunities for activity and, trying to keep abreast of all the tantalizing opportunities, more people get caught in the helter-skelter of feverish busy-ness and ride in all directions at once.

Just think of all the claims made on our time. We are bombarded from every direction. "You must see this movie!" "Don't miss this event!" "You've got to read this book!" ...

To keep poised, an individual must learn some fundamental rules.

The first is to say no when the invitation or the attraction isn't worth our time. The second is to balance one activity against another and then to eliminate the one which isn't as creative, as profitable or as enjoyable as the other. The third is somehow to schedule our time so that we can fit in all the things that are essential to our well-being, or to the lives of those who depend on us. The fourth is to remember the capacity for endurance of our own bodies, for much physical exhaustion is the result of thoughtlessness.

The fifth rule is to get into our mortal lives a touch of eternity, so that we can see life--its meaning, its purpose and its value--through an eternal perspective. No life is balanced when the welfare of the soul, the wonder of the heart, the delight of the eyes and the thrill of the new day have been snuffed out.

—Charles L. Allen, The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, Ga., Aug. 7, 1957.

What is poise? A definition, perhaps most easily understood, would be self-control or self-possession ...

How shall we get this poise? The key to it lies in the axiom that knowledge is power.

There are four classes of performers. First, those who do not understand their subject and fully realize the fact. Second, those who do not understand their subject, but fail to realize the fact. Third, those who do understand their subject, but are afraid for fear they will get stuck. Fourth, those who know their subject, and know, without any doubt, that they know it.

The first class, in their lack of knowledge, display their wisdom by their silence. The second are the "bumptious" ones; and verily, they have their reward. The third kind are an annoyance. The fourth are the only class of people worth listening to. If we know a thing, and know what we know it, we cannot be shaken from our position.

It is just this knowledge, then, that gives us self-possession or poise. If we really understand a subject, we can explain every detail of it. And the reverse is equally true. If we cannot explain every detail of a subject, we don't really understand it.

The first great care must be to know and know that you know.

A second help is a strong, clear brain.

A further aid is belief in one's self. Pessimism never did anyone any good. Persistence, and a will that won't take denial are the two great factors of success. As already remarked, knowledge is power. This, and this alone, gives power and poise.

—Charles Johnstone, Etude, September 1921.

Composure implies a settled state of mind, calmness, tranquility, self-possession. The possession of this trait enables the individual to face facts squarely, to think clearly, to reason intelligently and to arrive at sound conclusions. Composure does not imply that an individual is less sensitive to the seriousness of a situation nor does it lessen the evil or make the condition less grievous, but it enables the individual to draw fully upon all his inner resources in meeting a situation and is the first step in the intelligent solution of his problem.

Too often when we face a grave situation, when our accustomed way of life is interrupted, when some unexpected calamity sweeps down upon us, or even when we are overworked or fact tasks for which we feel inadequate, a sort of hysteria takes possession of us; our normal poise is upset; and we “go to pieces.” We exhibit imperfect self-control and indulge in destructive emotional outbursts. Thus we lose mastery of both self and the situation. Though we recognize the power of composure, we argue, “Anyone would be upset facing what I face.” We generally believe it would be more human to remain calm and serene. But the emotions need education as well as the mind. We should strive constantly to engender in ourselves emotional stability. We should form habits which utilize our emotional energy in constructive ways. Not being able to change a situation, we should try changing our attitude toward it. While it is probably true that some people naturally possess a greater degree of emotional stability than others, an honest effort to be less sensitive to disturbing stimuli and to remain self-possessed under trying circumstances usually results in improved behavior.

—Belle S. Spafford, Relief Society Magazine, Salt Lake City, Utah, August 1940.

Lack of poise, with its resultant lack of charm, is an inferiority complex.

—Josephine Huddleston, Rochester Journal, Rochester, N.Y., May 24, 1930.

When life is brought to its poise, and the joys and sorrows balance each other, then happiness has been attained. ... Every calamity has its compensation. To complain and grumble is wrong–everywhere and always we can find ample material for gratitude.

—W.H. Myers, Reading Eagle, Reading, Pa., Nov. 19, 1888.

A man able to hold his poise seldom permits his blood to come to a boiling point.

—George G. Benedict, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Honolulu, Hawaii, Sept. 15, 1936.

Poise is not a physical attribute; it is purely mental. Confidence in self is the foundation for poise, and confidence is also mental.

—Ida Chernoff, The Shreveport Times, Shreveport, La., Jan. 11, 1927.

Mental poise is that calm state of mind determined upon the task in hand and so concentrated upon successful achievement that no extraneous event can sweep it from its fixedness of purpose.

—Louis E. Chester, New York Tribune, New York, N.Y., Oct. 7, 1921.

Inner quiet makes for outward poise and calmness.

—Phil Conley, The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Miss., July 31, 1949.

Piety without poise is subject to some suspicion.

—Roy L. Smith, Christian Advocate, Chicago, Ill., Jan. 4, 1945.

Poise is the quality that keeps you from acting natural in an emergency.

—Robert Quillen, quoted in Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah, Sept. 28, 1926.

Many a man who prides himself on his poise ought to regret that he is so pulseless.

—Henry F. Cope, Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Ill., Aug. 23, 1908.

The big things in life are never done by fussy people. Poise is one of the earmarks of mental strength.

Sunshine Magazine, Litchfield, Ill., January 1947.

Mental poise is exhilaration due to the policy of looking ahead with expectation and never looking behind with dejection.

The Toledo News Bee, Toledo, Ohio, July 11, 1912.


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