As A Man Thinketh is partly responsible for the creation of the entire personal development industry. Most contemporary PD authors and teachers credit this little book for providing foundation to their principles. It is a set of philosophical musings on the power of our thoughts.
Earl Nightingale, widely regarded as the father of modern day personal development, in his best-selling recording, called the ideas in this book, “The Strangest Secret”. The secret, he said, is “we become what we think about”.
“I have personally read As a Man Thinketh over 25 times. Timeless material.” – Mark Victor Hansen, co-author, the Chicken Soup books
hello the zero written gale some time ago I did a radio broadcast called the greatest things designed to help us remember what in life is important and what isn't it was an attempt to put the ideas of a number of philosophers into a very simple form the greatest puzzle life the greatest mistake giving up the greatest comfort work well done and so forth as a radio program it was a success thousands of people wrote in for printed copies of the script but afterward as I often do I wished had mentioned one more thing in this case the greatest journey I would have said I decided that the greatest journey is the journey of the mind since this is what determines the journey of life have you ever had the feeling that your mind is on the journey a voyage of discovery that sometimes it has to make long passages on dark Uncharted Seas and at other times it discovers bright islands of beauty or of truth islands it will know from this day forward that it can always steer for and find in a storm while the gales of life blow themselves out in the enormous seas of misfortune or pain or sorrow or doubt subside into calm well if you'll come I'd like to take you with me on such a voyage of the mind one that was charted for me many years ago by an obscure English editor and poet named James Elam in a little book called as a man thinketh now James Alvin although he published seventeen books one of which has appeared in at least ten editions and sold over a million copies was not is not a famous man forty seven albums appear in the current Webster's biographical dictionary but he's not among them Elizabeth Allen of the town of strong Maine who was married three times and about 1860 wrote a poem titled rock me to sleep made it with Webster's biographical so did Zachary Allen of Providence Rhode Island who invented the hot air house heating system back in 1821 but James Allen didn't why well your guess is as good as mine it may be because James Allen was a so-called Victorian Englishman lumped in with a group who because of the writings of certain historians are more or less generally regarded as complacent self-satisfied products of a comfortable age which produced fat bellies with heads to match I've never felt that way about the late Victorians there's too much evidence that there were anything but complacent I think they considered themselves running scared just as we often do they didn't have an h-bomb but they did have a population explosion and a rush to the cities their population increased more than a third in the last generation of the 19th century and their cities almost doubled so great was the tension nervousness and social upheaval engendered by the rapidly changing times that the government created a special commission on lumisi and there was a rash of quasi religious movements the kind had almost always flow into the vacuums of social dilemma know the language of the Victorians like Tennyson and Kipling may have been somewhat flowery by our standards but their life and times were no better roses another reason why James Allen is not in Webster's biographic maybe his warranted or unwarranted inclusion in another group variously tagged as exponents of 19th century individualism and so-called mind the Cure this group and the gamut from for Asia Alger to Ralph Waldo trine James album was a reporter the journalist was the more appropriate term in his day and I think he was infused with the sort of world consciousness and I suspect that like Kipling he took an interest in the religious writings of other races and cultures the Hindu Upanishads and probably the Confucian Buddhist and Mohammedan books too but I'm not sure and perhaps we'll ever know I've written to his publishers and to the village of gilfer come on the Devon coast where he lived in an effort to learn more about him but the some of my factual knowledge at this point is rather small he was born in 1864 and died in 1912 a true late Victorian he was a reporter and in later life the editor of a magazine called the epic mainly he was an essayist sort of how to book writer and a poet and sometimes as an essayist he strikes me as very fine indeed I should qualify that opinion by describing any pretensions to literary criticism my literary tastes are often decidedly unlit ireri I make the critics I most often happily oblivious to flaws in style and language if the author's ideas hit me where I live I consider James Allen's most popular book as a man thinketh a fine piece of writing a beautiful essay on an important theme more significant I believe it represents one of the most effective kinds of verbal communication it speaks often very poetically to some mystic quality in each of us a quality that seems to discern truth listen to these little poems which are the beginning and end pieces of as a man thinketh mind is the mr. power that molds and makes and man his 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 and finally tempest-tossed Souls wherever you may be under whatsoever conditions you may live you know this in the ocean of life the Isles of blessedness are smiling the sunny shore of your ideal awaits your coming keep your hand firmly on the helm of thought in the bark of your soul reclaims the commanding master he does but sleep Wickham self-control is strength thought is mastery calmness is power say unto your heart peace be still now you may say that's all very well I appreciate poetry and I believe in truth but is it relevant the truth I'm interested in are those that speak to my personal situation or these to the times in which I live what in the world has obscure 19th century philosopher got to do with me in the last half of the 20th century well consider this some of our important contemporary philosophers tell us that man today is entering a new era one they call the age of unity they say that now for the first time the barriers between thought and actuality are beginning to disappear for the past two or three thousand years great philosophers and teachers have been showing their fellow humans our life on this small planet Earth could be improved but during most of this period man's control of his environment has been very limited today this is no longer true if man thinks he might like to unmake the atom he does if he thinks of living in the depths of the oceans going to the moon or voyaging and outer space he does the problem then is no longer what man can do it becomes what men can think the words you will hear as you listen to these cassettes are essentially those of James alumns as a man thinketh thought in character the aphorism as a man thinketh in his heart so is he not only embraces the whole of a man's being but is so comprehensive as to reach out to every condition and circumstance of his life a man is literally what he thinks is character being the complete sum of all his thoughts as the plant Springs from and could not be without the seed so the acts of a man spring from the hidden seeds of thought and could not have appeared without them this applies to those acts called spontaneous and unpremeditated as well as to those which are deliberately executed act is the blossom of thought and joy and suffering are his fruits thus does a man garner in the sweet and bitter footage of his own husbandry thought in the mind hath made us what we are by thought was wrought and if a man's mind have evil thoughts pain comes on him as comes the wheel the Ox behind if man endures in purity of thought joy follows him as his own shadow sure man grows by law not by artifice and cause and effect as absolute and undeviating in a hidden realm of thought as in the world of visible and material things a noble character is not a thing of favor or chance but is the natural result of continued effort and thought the effect of long cherished association with high ideals and ignoble and bestial character but the same process is the result of a continued harbouring of grovelling thoughts man is made or unmade by himself in the armoury 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 by the right choice and true application of thought men ascends toward divine perfection by the abuse and long application of thought he descends below the level of the Beast between these two extremes are all the grades of character and men is their maker and master of all the beautiful truths pertaining to the soul which have been restored and brought to light none is more gladdening or fruitful of divine promise and confidence than this that mem is the master of thought the molder of character and the maker and shaper of condition environment and destiny as a being of power intelligence and love and the lord of his own thoughts man holds the key to every situation and contains within himself that transforming and regenerative agency by which he may make himself what He wills men is always the master even in his weakest and most abandoned state but in weakness and degradation he is the foolish master who miss governs his household when he begins to reflect upon his condition and to search diligently for the law upon which his being is established he then becomes the wise master directing his energies with intelligence and fashioning his thoughts to fruitful issues such as the conscious master and man can only thus become by discovering within himself the laws of thought which discovery is totally a matter of application self analysis and experience only by much searching and mining our gold and diamonds obtained and then confined every truth connected with his being if he will dig deep into the mind of his soul and that he is the maker of his character the molder of his life and the Builder of his destiny he may unearthly prove if he will watch control and alter his thoughts tracing their effects upon himself upon others and upon his life and circumstances linking cause and effect by patient practice and investigation and utilizing his every experience even to the most trivial everyday occurrence as a means of obtaining that knowledge of himself which is understanding wisdom power in this direction as in no other is the law absolute that he that seeketh findeth and to him that knocketh it shall be opened for only by patience practice and ceaseless importunity can a man enter the door of the temple of knowledge the body is the servant of the mind it obeys the orders of the mind whether they be deliberate or automatic at the bidding of evil miserable thoughts the body may sink rapidly into disease and decay at the command of glad and beautiful thoughts it may close itself with youthfulness and beauty disease in health like circumstances are often rooted in thought sick thoughts may express them through a sick body in aboriginal societies thoughts of fear have been known to kill a man as speedily as a bullet and they are continually killing thousands of people in our society justice surely though less rapidly people who live in fear of disease are apt to become ill anxiety quickly demoralizes the whole body and lays it open the illness and disease while evil thoughts even though they be no more than that will soon shatter the nervous system strong pure and happy thoughts build vigor and grace the body is a sensitive plastic instrument which responds readily to the thoughts by which it is governed and habits of thought will produce their own effects good or bad upon it out of a clean mind comes a clean life and a clean body out of a defiled mind proceeds a defiled life and a corrupt body thought is the fount of action life and manifestation make the fountain pure and the stream of life will flow with greater purity change of diet may that'll help a man that will not change his thoughts when a man makes his thoughts healthy he no longer desires unhealthy food keen thoughts make clean healthy habits the so called saint who does not wash his body may well not be a saint if you would perfect your body guard your mind if you would renew your body beautify your mind thoughts of malice in the disappointment despondency can rub your body of its health and grace a sour face does not come by chance it is made by sour thoughts wrinkles that Mar are drawn by folly pride and passion I know a woman of ninety-six who has the bright innocent face of a girl I know a man well under middle-age whose face is drawn into inharmonious contours the one is the result of a suite of sunny disposition the other is the outcome of bad temper and discontent as you cannot have a sweet and wholesome a bow unless you admit the air and sunshine freely in your rooms so a strong body and a bright happy serene countenance can only result from the free admittance into the mind of thoughts of joy and goodwill and serenity on the faces of the aged there are wrinkles made by sympathy others by strong and pure thought and others are carved by arrogance and resentment who cannot distinguish them with those who live thoughtfully ages calm peaceful and softly mellowed like the Setting Sun I have recently seen a philosopher on his deathbed he was not old except in years he died as sweetly and peacefully as he lived there is no physician my cheerful thought for dissipating the ills of malcontents there is no comforter to compare with goodwill for dispersing the shadows of grief and sorrow to live continually in thoughts of ill will cynicism suspicion and envy is to be confined in a self-made prison hole but to think well of all to be cheerful with all to patiently learn to find the good in all is to live in sight of the very portals of heaven and day by day thoughts of peace toward every creature will bring abounding peace to their possessor thought and circumstances a man's mind may be likened it to a garden which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild but whether cultivated or neglected it must and will bring forth if no useful seeds are put into it then an abundance of useless weed seeds will fall therein and will continue to produce their kind just as a gardener cultivates his plot keeping it free from weeds and growing the flowers and fruits which he requires so may a man tend the garden of his mind weeding out all the wrong and useless thoughts and cultivating toward perfection the flowers and fruits of right useful and pure thoughts by pursuing this process a man sooner or later discovers that he is the master Gardner of his soul the director of his life he also reveals within himself the laws of thought and understands with ever-increasing accuracy how his mind operates in the shaping of his character circumstances and destiny thought and character are one and as character can only manifest and discover itself through environment and circumstance the outer conditions of a person's life will always be found to be related to his inner state this does not mean that a man's circumstances at any given time or an indication of his entire character but that those circumstances are so intimately connected with some vital thought within himself that for the time being they are indispensable to his development every man is where he is by the law of his being the thoughts which he is built into his character have brought him there and in the arrangement of his life there is no lasting element of chance but all is the result of a law which cannot err this is just as true of those who are discontented with their surroundings as of those who are contented with them as an evolving being men is where he is that he may learn that he may grow and as he learns the lesson which any circumstance contains for him it passes away and gives place to other circumstances man is buffeted by circumstances so long as he believes himself to be a creature entirely subject to outside conditions but when he realizes that he is a creative power and that he may command the hidden soil and seeds of his being out of which circumstances grow he then becomes the rightful master of himself that circumstances grow out of thought every man knows who has for any length of time practice self control of his mind and thoughts for he will have noticed that the alteration of his circumstances has been an exact ratio with his altered mental condition so true is this that when a man earnestly applies himself to remedy the defects in his care and make swift and marked progress he passes rapidly through a succession of vicissitudes the soul attracts that which is secretly harbours that which it loves and also that which it fears it reaches the height of its cherished aspirations it falls to the level of its unchastened desires and circumstances are the means by which the soul receives its own every thought seed sown or allowed to fall into the mind and to take root there produces its own blossoming sooner or later into act and bearing its own fruitage of opportunity and circumstance good thoughts bear good fruit bad thoughts bad fruit the outer world of circumstance is shaped by the inner world of thought and both pleasant and unpleasant external conditions or factors which make for the ultimate good of the individual as the Reaper of his own harvest men learns both by suffering and bliss following the inmost desires aspirations thoughts by which he allows himself to be dominated pursuing the will of the wisps of vapor de magining tsar steadfastly walking the highway of strong and high endeavour a man at last arrives at their fruition and fulfillment in the outer conditions of his life the laws of growth and adjustment everywhere obtain a man does not come to the almshouse of a jail by the tyranny of fate or circumstance but by the pathway of grovelling thoughts and base desires nor does a high-minded man fall suddenly the crime by stress of any mere external force the criminal thought had long been secretly fostered in the heart when the hour of opportunity revealed its gathered power circumstance does not make the man it reveals him no such conditions can exist as descending into vice and its attendant sufferings apart from vicious inclinations or ascending into virtue and its happiness without the continued cultivation of virtuous aspirations and then therefore as the lord and master of thought is the maker of himself the shaper and author of environment the soul comes to its own through every step of its earthly pilgrimage it attracts those combinations of conditions which reveal itself which are the reflections of its own virtue and vice its strengths and weakness men do not attract that which they say they want but that which they are their whims fancies of ambitions are thwarted at every step but their inmost thoughts and desires are fed with the food of their own choosing the divinity that shapes our aims is in ourselves it is our very self men is manacled only by himself thought and action are the jailers of fate they imprison being base they're also the angels of freedom they liberate being noble not what he wishes and prays for does a man get but what he justly earns his wishes and prayers are only gratified and answered when they comport with his thoughts and actions in the light of this truth what then is the meaning of fighting against circumstances it means that a man is continually revolting against an effect without well all the time he is nourishing and preserving its cause in his heart that cause may take the form of a conscious vice or an unconscious weakness but what if it is it stubbornly retards the efforts of its possessor and thus calls aloud for remedy and are anxious to improve their circumstances but are unwilling to improve themselves they therefore remain bound the man who does not shrink from self-sacrifice can never fail to accomplish the object upon which his heart is set this is as true of material as of spiritual things even the man whose sole object is to acquire wealth must be prepared to make great personal sacrifice before he can accomplish his object and how much more so he would realize a happy joyful life here is a man who is wretchedly poor he is extremely anxious that his surroundings and home comforts should be improved yet all the time he Shooks his work and considers he is justified in trying to deceive his employer on the ground of the insufficiency of his wages such a man does not understand the simplest rudiments of those principles which are the basis of true prosperity and is not only totally unfitted to rise out of his wretchedness but is actually attracting to himself a still deeper wretchedness by dwelling in and acting out indolent deceptive and unmanly thoughts here is a rich man who is the victim of a painful and persistent ill health as the result of gluttony he's willingly give large sums of money to get rid of it but he will not abandon his gluttony he wants to gratify his taste for rich and harmful volumes and have his health as well such a man is totally unfit to have health because he has not yet learned the first principles of a healthy life here is an employer of labour who adopts crooked measures to avoid paying a regulation wage and in the hope of making larger profits reduces the wages of his workpeople such a man is altogether unfitted for prosperity and when he finds himself bankrupt both as regards reputation and riches he blames circumstances not knowing that he is the sole author of his condition I've introduced these three cases merely as illustrative of the truth that men is the causer though nearly always unconsciously of his circumstances and that while aiming at a good end he may continually frustrate its accomplishment by thoughts and desires which cannot possibly harmonize with that end such cases can be multiplied and varied almost indefinitely but this is not necessary as you can if you still resolve trace the action of the laws of thought in your own mind in life until you do this your external facts are not likely to persuade you circumstances however are so complicated thought is so deeply rooted and the conditions have happiness very so with individuals that a man's entire condition although it may be known to himself cannot be judged by another from the external aspect of his life alone a man may be honest in certain directions if suffer privations a man may be dishonest in certain directions yet acquire wealth the conclusion usually formed however that the one man fails because of his particular honesty and that the other prospers because of his particular dishonesty is the result of a superficial judgment which assumes that the dishonest man is almost totally corrupt and the honest man almost entirely virtuous in the light of a deeper knowledge and wider experience such judgment is found to be erroneous the dishonest man may have some admirable virtues which the other does not possess and the honest man obnoxious vices which are absent in the other the honest man reaps the good results of his honest thoughts and acts he also brings upon himself the sufferings which his vices produce and the dishonest man likewise Gunnar's his own sufferings and happiness