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My Top 10 Quotes from William James that will get you question your philosophies of your life.


William James (January 11, 1842 – August 26, 1910) was an American philosopher and psychologist who was also trained as a physician. The first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States, James was one of the leading thinkers of the late nineteenth century and is believed by many to be one of the most influential philosophers the United States has ever produced, while others have labeled him the “Father of American psychology.” (source – Wikipedia)

Here is my selection of his quotes I considered my top 10 best.

william james

1. Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.

2. The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.

3. It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome.

4. There is but one cause of human failure. And that is man’s lack of faith in his true Self.

5. Why should we think upon things that are lovely? Because thinking determines life. It is a common habit to blame life upon the environment. Environment modifies life but does not govern life. The soul is stronger than its surroundings.

6. The world we see that seems so insane is the result of a belief system that is not working. To perceive the world differently, we must be willing to change our belief system, let the past slip away, expand our sense of now, and dissolve the fear in our minds.

7. Action may not bring happiness but there is no happiness without action.

8. The greatest use of a life is to spend it on something that will outlast it.

9. It is only by risking our persons from one hour to another that we live at all. And often enough our faith beforehand in an uncertified result is the only thing that makes the result come true.

10. No matter how full a reservoir of maxims one may possess, and no matter how good one’s sentiments may be, if one has not taken advantage of every concrete opportunity to act, one’s character may remain entirely unaffected for the better.

10.1. We are all ready to be savage in some cause. The difference between a good man and a bad one is the choice of the cause.

_ William James

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