“As a Man Thinketh” is a short book, almost an essay, written by James Allen (1864-1912), the second of his 19 books. Though it is short in length, it is rich in content. Expressed over and over in moving prose, its message is that we are what we constantly think. That our thoughts create our habits and direct our emotions, thus our expectations, lives, and character. The language is of the time, Edwardian English, that I think gives it greater power for its occasional odd turn of phrase, since it forces me to pause and read a familiar thought with a beginner’s mind.
I have read “As a Man Thinketh” numerous times and excerpt here some of my favorite passages, the ones that speak the most to me. I hope they impact your life as strongly as they have mine. The book in its entirety follows.
“Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves. They therefore remain bound.”
“The soul attracts that which it secretly harbors; that which it loves, and also that which it fears.”
“Circumstance does not make the man; it reveals him to himself.”
“Man is made or unmade by himself; in the armory of thought he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself. He also fashions the tools with which he builds for himself heavenly mansions of joy and strength and peace.”
“The body is the servant of the mind. It obeys the operations of the mind, whether they be deliberately chosen or automatically expressed.”
“Until thought is linked with purpose there is no intelligent accomplishment. With the majority the bark of thought is allowed to “drift” upon the ocean of life… They who have no central purpose in their life fall an easy prey to worries, fears, troubles, and self-pityings…”
“As the physically weak man can make himself strong by careful and patient training, so the man of weak thoughts can make them strong by exercising himself in right thinking.”
“The thoughtless, the ignorant, and the indolent, seeing only the apparent effects of things and not the things themselves, talk of luck, of fortune, and chance. See a man grow rich, they say, ‘How lucky he is!’ Observing another become intellectual, they exclaim, ‘How highly favored he is!’ And noting the saintly character and wide influence of another, they remark, ‘How chance aids him at every turn!’”
“They do not see the trials and failures and struggles which these men have voluntarily encountered in order to gain their experience. They have no knowledge of the sacrifices they have made, of the undaunted efforts they have put forth, of the faith they have exercised, that they might overcome the apparently insurmountable, and realize the Vision of their heart. They do not know the darkness and the heartaches; they only see the light and joy, and call it ‘luck’; do not see the long and arduous journey, but only behold the pleasant goal, and call it ‘good fortune’; do not understand the process, but only perceive the result, and call it ‘chance’.”
“You will be what you will to be;
Let failure find its false content
In that poor word, ‘environment’,
But spirit scorns it, and is free.
“It masters time, it conquers space;
It cows that boastful trickster, Chance,
And bids the tyrant Circumstance
Uncrown, and fill a servant’s place.
“The human Will, that force unseen,
The offspring of a deathless Soul,
Can hew a way to any goal,
Though walls of granite intervene.
“Be not impatient in delay,
But wait as one who understands;
When spirit rises and commands,
The gods are ready to obey.”