As a Man Thinketh by the British author James Allen is a pioneer work in the self help niche, published in 1902. Although it was the book that best embodied the author’s thoughts, his most concise and eloquent work, the author failed to recognize its value, and his wife had to persuade him to publish it. Today a bit forgotten, this small work has influenced millions for good.
This booklet (22 pages) presents the theme that “the mind is the master weaver” that creates our inner character and outer circumstances. The title of the book is influenced by a verse in bible: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” It opens with:
Mind is the Master power that moulds and makes,
And Man is Mind, and evermore he takes
The tool of Thought, and, shaping what he wills,
Brings forth a thousand joys, a thousand ills:
—He thinks in secret, and it comes to pass:
Environment is but his looking-glass.
James Allen reveals the fallacy of the belief that most people share (especially at the beginning of the 20th century): that mind is separate from the matter, that our thoughts can be hidden and powerless. Allen believed that both conscious and unconscious mind are able to create action, and that the noble thoughts make a noble person, and vice versa – bad thoughts make a miserable person.
The logic is clear: to a miserable person, the whole world looks miserable, but when we dismiss our negativity, “all the world softens towards us, and is ready to help us”. He explains that the thoughts that we give attention to go to our unconscious, and become fuel for the events that will take place in the real world.
As long as we hold the thought that affects us in a negative way, we will remain in a bad state; if, for example, poverty “happened” to us, and we continue to blame the circumstances and to think about them, it only further run the wheels into the rut, and we won’t be able to get out of it.
The conclusion that Allen reaches is that “We do not attract what we want, but what we are”.
This small book has seven chapters, all of them short and concise. In the Foreword, Allen says that the book is intended to show people that “they themselves are makers of themselves”, and he elaborates on that thought in the chapters:
- Thought and Character – Allen writes that “A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all of his thoughts”. He explains that all that we do, all that we are, starts in our thoughts, and that we are the ones who determine our circumstances.
- Effect of Thought on Circumstances – the circumstances that we’re in are intimately connected with “some vital thought-element” within us, related to our inner state; our thoughts and actions are why we are where we are.
- Effects of Thought on health and Body – since the body “obeys the operations of the mind, whether they be deliberately chosen or automatically expressed”, our thoughts will produce their effect on our budy and our health – good or bad.
- Thought and Purpose – the thoughts and the sense of purpose that we do or don’t have in our life are closely related: if we have no idea of what’s our purpose, we will easily fall into the trap of self-pitying, worries and fears, which in turn makes us incapable of finding a purpose.
- The Thought-Factor in Achievement – “All that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the direct result of his own thoughts.” In this chapter, Allen also says that we have to be prepared to sacrifice much if we want to achieve something great – hard work and persistence are the key elements to success.
- Visions and Ideals – small dreams lead to small results; big dreams lead to great achievements. Allen advises his reader to “dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become”.
- Serenity – we should practice self-control, which will give us “calmness of mind” as a result.
I read this book yesterday. I really enjoyed it and have set some new personal development goals in line with the book’s concepts. This is a book I will reread throughout my life.
This excellent compilation of essays by James Allen truly holds the key to success, amongst other things! I feel so inspired after reading this book, so ready to put into practice what this powerful, little book is teaching. This “classic” has been around since the turn of the century and it seems to be even more relevant in today’s stressful and competitive society. I underlined so many wonderful and inspiring passages that I intend to refer to on a daily basis.
In 2003, a number of leading self-help authors were asked to list the works that were, to them, most inspirational. The book mentioned most often was James Allen’s As a Man Thinketh.
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