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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 11 (February 1, 1938)

Desire for Improvement

Desire for Improvement.

It is not often that we feel so fit and happy that we don't want some kind of improvement somewhere; and even if we have attained, for a short period, a state of perfect well-being, it needs only the suggestion of a friend, an attractive advertisement or the appeal of a radio voice, to shatter the frail raft of contentment and to send us again into the struggling sea of wants unappeased.

We want to be healthy, strong, pleasing in appearance, entertaining and effective in all our efforts. We want our homes to reflect the cheer and comfort that we feel rightly, belong to them. We want to be entertained, well-dressed, well-informed, socially successful. We want to do well at some game, excel in some hobby, succeed in business, science, art.

Wherever we turn, there is some sign, or voice, or picture, or printed word to tell us how to be all, or have all, that these wants suggest.

The desire for improvement is laudable to the extent that it is governed by commonsense. We must learn to estimate what can be done, personally and materially, with the means at our disposal. We can thus gain a return proportionate to outlay, and avoid the miserable sense of failure consequent upon attempting the impossible.

When one has reached mature years, one should have sufficient knowledge of oneself and one's abilities, to formulate a workable plan for self-improvement, one which does not aim at perfection (with resultant self-despair), but takes count of the qualities we know we have.

Materially, too, one must have commonsense aims. I have known women who have spent more than they could really afford on surface aids to beauty, women who yet had no knowledge of, or paid no attention to, the ordinary laws of health upon which physical beauty is based.

I have known others whose desire for house improvement far outran their purses, and who have been made really ill by subsequent efforts to meet time payments or other obligations resulting from an inability to count all the costs which their desire for this kind of improvement involved.

It is a good rule to make “first things first” the motto to live by, for the individual and the household, as well as for the nation.

Although one cannot usually plan one's life very far ahead, there should be some short-term plan for such things as the allocation of spare time and the appropriation of spare money (if there be any). It is failure to prepare and work to some short-term plan of this kind that lands most people into trouble, or, at least, prevents their achieving a net improvement equal to what can be done by good planning.