Exert One’s Heart / Mind to the Utmost
“Exerting one’s mind to the utmost” means one should fully understand and extend one’s innate goodness. It is a way of moral cultivation advocated by Mencius. To do so, one needs to develop one’s capability of thinking, discover the goodness inherent in the mind and then fully nurture this innate human character, eventually realizing the moral qualities of benevolence, righteousness, rites and social norms, and wisdom.
Mencius said, “He who does his utmost knows his nature. Knowing his nature, he knows his inborn moral nature. Preserving his mind and nurturing his nature is the way to deal with his inherent morality. (Mencius)
Exerting one’s mind to the utmost means knowing the laws of all things, with nothing left out. (Classified Conversations of Master Zhu Xi)