How to use the 10 principles of constructive faith.
Although I am a spiritual person, I have always had difficulty with the concept of faith. I’ve never quite been able to define it for myself. Is it hope? Persistence? Belief that the floorboards will appear as I take a step into the unknown?
Several years ago, I experienced a deep sense of sympathy when I learned from a clergyman that a world-famous colleague of his—a widely known minister and best-selling author—was on his deathbed when the figure’s daughter walked into an adjoining room and told friends and family: “Daddy has no faith.” Everyone was surprised and even shocked by her comment. I didn’t judge this minister when I read the story. I realized I could also be in a similar position someday.
I came to understand, however, that faith is learnable. Faith is not a trait you are necessarily born with or that reaches you in an epiphanic moment (although both are certainly possible). Rather, faith can be strengthened through principle, experience, and action.
The work of pioneering motivational writer Napoleon Hill gave me a clearer, more practical definition of faith. I came to understand that faith is the application of principles. Through various steps, faith can move you steadily toward your goals, improve your relationships, and rescue you when you feel depressed, stuck, or lost.
With inspiration from Hill, here are the 10 qualities of constructive faith:
- Possessing a definite aim in life supported by personal initiative and action.
- Going the extra mile in human relations and business dealings.
- Cultivating a positive mind averse to rumor, gossip, hatred, and jealousy.
- Recognizing that every adversity carries with it the seed of equivalent benefit.
- Affirming your definite aim at least once daily in meditation.
- Recognizing the presence of infinite intelligence, which gives creative power to the individual.
- Participating in a support group or master mind alliance with people who are spiritually and mentally suited to your needs, and you to theirs.
- Taking an inventory of past defeats and adversities to identify patterns and blockages.
- Expressing self-respect through fealty to your personal ethics and sense of fair play.
- Recognizing the oneness of all humanity.
In my book The Miracle of a Definite Chief Aim (G&D Media, 2017), I wrote that I saw faith as persistence. If you have difficulty with the term faith, try substituting persistence and see what effect it has. That worked for me at an earlier point in my search. I have a broader view today, thanks to these principles.
The following exploration demonstrates how to use these 10 principles to build a nobler, more faith-based life.
1. A Definite Aim
What does a definite aim in life have to do with faith?
Since emotions control so much, the mere fact of selecting an aim for which you feel passion will consistently direct your energies—in a manner analogous to faith—toward what you wish to accomplish. We can repeat affirmations or maxims to ourselves that we do not believe or believe only intermittently, but we can never fool our emotions.
This is why self-honesty is critical when selecting a workable, lifelong aim. If you truly know what you want, the force of your emotions will be at your back. This drives you forward in ways you may not suspect—and instills you with a sense of faith that you are capable of arriving where you feel you must.
2. Going the Extra Mile
The corrosive habits of fecklessness and apathy touch almost every home, office, arts space, and institution.
However, if you routinely go the extra distance for someone, not only will that person recognize your distinction (otherwise you’re in the wrong environment), but you will also believe more fully in yourself and what you’re capable of accomplishing.
Doing more than what’s expected benefits those around you and brings you psychological benefits. Earned self-belief is a key facet of faith.
3. Positive Mental Attitude (PMA)
I have a tattoo of a lightning bolt capped by the letters PMA inside my left bicep. My inspiration for this—both visually and spirituality—came from the pioneering punk band Bad Brains, who use this image as their logo.
The band credits its success to Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich (Ralston Society, 1937) and PMA. PMA does not mean cultivating fuzzy thoughts or trying to block out tough realities. It means believing in your own resources, inventiveness, and resilience as a sacred personal code.
4. Learning from Adversity
The principle of learning from failure isn’t a cloying bromide. It is a hard-won ethic. The difference between giving up and pushing on—which is to say, possessing faith—rests largely in your ability to review setbacks or disappointments and to earnestly search for what such episodes can teach you.
I have almost never failed to find a lesson in disappointment, even if the emotional sting lingers. It sometimes takes me a week or more to get past the emotional letdown of a temporary failure. However, when the setback occurs I immediately review what I can do better in future episodes.
Did I overlook warning signs? Could I have been more patient in devising and presenting my plans? Did I do enough to accommodate the needs of those involved? Did I cut any corners?
5. Daily Meditation
We sometimes work so hard at empirical or outer tasks that we neglect our sense of larger vision. It is vital to pause at least once a day—and ideally more—to remind yourself of your ultimate destination.
I have written my definite aim into a document and coupled it with a personal coat of arms. I stop what I am doing several times a day and revisit that written aim and image.
I also think of my aim when I am drifting off to sleep at night and waking in the morning. I meditate on it, visualizing its achievement. Never neglect vision and meditation—they are expressions and fortifications of faith.
6. Infinite Intelligence
I believe all people are inlets of infinite intelligence—a universal, nonlocalized intellect in which we all take part.
The ancient Greeks called it nous. Ralph Waldo Emerson called it the Over-Soul. New Thought writers sometimes call it infinite mind. Whatever language you use, the principle is that infinite intelligence is a storehouse of intuition, insight, and epiphanies.
Our wellspring of intellect runs deeper and contains greater resources than we realize. Rest assured that you possess fuller mental reserves than is apparent. These reserves often reach you after you dedicate yourself to a chosen task to the point of mental and physical exhaustion—and then allow yourself downtime, recreation, meditation, or a nap or night’s sleep.
7. Master Mind Alliance
When you enter a 12-step or support group—sometimes called a master mind alliance—you benefit from the practical advice, collegiality, and moral support of all the members of your group.
However, something further is at work. Experience has taught me that an additional force settles over the group’s proceedings. Each member, like a marathon runner urged on by teammates, gains an added sense of energy, mental acuity, resolve, and enthusiasm. I believe this phenomenon is localized infinite intelligence.
This principle relates to the earlier observation about learning from setbacks or adversity. You must not flagellate yourself yet be starkly frank about identifying your weaknesses and strengths, and how they have played out in specific episodes.
For example, one of my weaknesses is impatience. I sometimes expect people to respond more quickly than they are able, especially when my enthusiasm (which tends to be a strength) runs high. I suspect that my trait of impatience has sometimes earned me a “no” that probably would’ve been “yes” if only I could have allowed another party time to reflect on a proposal.
This kind of exercise is always available to you. It will build your faith that you’re not operating under star-crossed circumstances or bad luck, but that everything you do can be improved and strengthened.
In business and collaboration, I urge plain dealing, transparency, and mutual benefit. Such practices not only give you a reputation for accountability—and thus help you attract collaborators, backers, and supporters—but they also improve your sense of self-respect.
Many people complain that they suffer from poor self-image or insecurities. Always remember that self-respect is conditioned by both your early environment as well as your day-to-day conduct.
Just one act of abstaining from gossip or trash talk, one act of taking the blame and making something right when it goes awry, or one act of going the extra distance for someone else helps you stand more fully erect internally, and probably externally too.
This sense of self-respect not only makes you more personally magnetic but also creates a symbiosis of faith—both that which you have in yourself and that which others have in you.
10. Human Oneness
I attempt to live by a code of “cosmic reciprocity”—which is fairly synonymous with karma or the Golden Rule.
In short, I believe that all of life is ultimately whole and that my actions return to me, either quickly or eventually. This principle, above all others, strengthens my faith in the symmetry of existence and provides an ever-ready code of conduct toward other members of creation. Whatever I do to another, I do to myself. I have faith in the wholeness of existence.
In the end, what is faith? It is knowing that what you see is not all there is. Hidden resources and symmetries exist in equal measure to the challenges you face—provided you have worked to make them manifest.