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Three of the Greatest Takeaways From This Content

Our Thoughts Seed Our World Around us


"A man cannot directly choose his circumstances, but he can choose his thoughts, and so indirectly, yet surely, shape his circumstances."

Many people believe their inner thoughts are secret and powerless. James Allen holds the opposite view—he says our thoughts shape us in more powerful ways than we expect. Our ways of thinking are a subtle force that slowly bends the course of our lives in a certain direction.

In fact, he says that thoughts are the primary cause in our lives, rather than our circumstances. This means the more we encourage thoughts of strength, courage, and perseverance, the more our actions will be bold and the greater our chance for success.


Our circumstances are shaped by our character


"Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they, therefore, remain bound."

Much of society today encourages us to view ourselves as helpless victims. Maybe this view can give one psychological relief, but in the end, it is a fruitless activity—to see oneself as a victim can only lead to hatred and depression. (as a note, Allen wrote this in 1903.)

Although we may live within an environment that is oppressive, we always have the freedom of how to respond. And the only worthwhile response is to focus on the areas of our lives that we do have some power to change. This begins with our thoughts, then our daily actions and habits.

Our desires create the world around us


"You will always gravitate toward that which you, secretly, most love."

Desire leads to attention, attention leads to action, actions lead to our circumstances.

Many of the most successful people had to learn this type of flexible mindset. Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple, said “Everything around you that you call ‘life’ was made up by people who were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.” That demonstrates why Jobs was such a powerful cultural figure—he thought in a different way to most people, seeing the world as a fluid combination that he could rearrange in creative new ways.

James Allen (28 November 1864 – 24 January 1912) was a British philosophical writer known for his inspirational books and poetry and as a pioneer of the self-help movement. 

In 1903, Allen published his third and most famous book As a Man Thinketh. Loosely based on the Biblical passage of Proverbs 23:7, "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." This small work eventually became read around the world and brought Allen posthumous fame as one of the pioneering figures of modern inspirational thought. The book's minor audience allowed Allen to quit his secretarial work and pursue his writing and editing career. In 1903, the Allen family retired to the town of Ilfracombe where Allen would spend the rest of his life. Continuing to publish the Epoch, Allen produced more than one book per year until his death in 1912. There he wrote for nine years, producing 19 works.

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