The book “As a Man Thinketh” is ground breaking in its assessment of how mindset develops. Amazing since it was written over 100 years ago. the current podcast episode explores how this work is important to your success.


I recently ran into a book that was so profound it started an entire movement. The book “As a Man Thinketh” was originally published in 1903 and yet the ideas expressed are as true today as they were all those years ago. Some ideas are simply timeless and take on greater significance when you consider they were developed with little of the research that drives what we know today about mindset.

The basic premise of the book is that your thoughts are very tangible things that determine how you experience your life. Meaning the things you say to yourself matter. Ask any of my clients and they will tell you they’ve heard me describe a scene from the classic movie “Airplane” and quickly followed it with: If there is a line forming to beat you over the head, don’tyou get in it!

That line is instructive because we all face situations that disturb our sense of calm or we wish we had done something different to achieve another outcome. Fear and disappointment are part of being human. However, it is what comes after those two appear that you begin to fill in the color for the picture that will ultimately be your life. James Allen, the author of “As a Man Thinketh” understood this. Not only did he understand it but he spent years explaining to others why their thoughts mattered, long before anyone had heard the word mindset. It seems only appropriate to run through some of the high points of his thinking:

The unconscious creates as much action as the conscious
Many of us think that because our unconscious thoughts are hidden they are not expressed or don’t take on a form that can be monitored, which is far from the truth. If you have ever listened to a professional poker player one of the main things they will emphasis is looking for “tells” from an opposing player. Tells are little actions that are associated with particular feelings, for example a good hand might be expressed by touching an ear. So like it or not on a daily basis we act out little details that illustrate our thinking. Thought is therefore the seed for action. If you control the cause- you can control the effect.

We are the sum of our thoughts
a-good-mood-2bAllen believed that we attract what we want and also what we fear. This happens for the simple reason that whatever captures your attention, good or bad, goes into your unconscious to find its way into the real world because this is what you’re unconsciously looking for. In other words, if your thoughts are filled with negativity then negativity will find its way into your life because you have told your unconscious to look for it. The poet Emerson detailed it this way: A person is what he thinks about all day long.

Circumstances do not make a person, they reveal him
Just like with the “tell” that the poker player looks for as a guide for another player’s hand, circumstances present themselves for you to determine if you are willing to grow. Every situation we encounter in life, again either good or bad, offers the potential for growth. And please note, I’m not saying unpleasant situations should be welcomed with happy feelings. In fact, I would use the analogy of taking a punch. After you’ve been hit do you say ouch and stand there waiting to be hit again? Or, do you ask yourself what can I do to either avoid or stop the punches? It sounds obvious, but a lot of people are going through life allowing themselves to be beat up daily. Like it or not a lot of circumstances are up to us because we train people how we want to be treated.

Change your world by changing your mind
What I like about James Allen’s writing is he doesn’t deny that a lot of us have been dealt a bad hand and decides that (in his own words) “Most of us are anxious to change our circumstances but are unwilling to improve ourselves – and we therefore remain bond” It’s sort of like feeling cold and asking a fire to give you heat and then you will give it wood. I see this often while working with couples. One or both come to the sessions asking that the other partner change while not realizing that if they change their own approach to the relationship, the other partner is also forced to change. The trick is can you live with the response. It works the same way in the workplace with co-workers. Surprise that person that irritates you to no end and notice how your unpredictability changes how they respond to you.

Calmness of mind creates success
I’ve spoken before about the benefits of bringing a level of calmness into your life and was really encouraged to see Allen go into great detail about it. It is the person in the middle of chaos who is able to take a step back to collect themselves who will ultimately triumph. It doesn’t matter if it is a five minute break away from things to collect your thoughts or daily meditation the benefits are quite the same. Quieting the mind allows it to do the work of finding purpose and helping you make clear decisions.

I highly recommend the book and James Allen’s approach because as I said earlier some thoughts are timeless, and are great 100 years ago or even in our current digital age. And now, I’m off to take a moment of quiet time… and so should you!