Analyzing William James Quotes About Altering Our Attitudes

“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.” – William James


William James was a preeminent Philosopher and Psychologist also trained in the art of Medicine. He was the first educator in the United States to offer a Psychology course. He is considered by many to be one of the great thinkers of the late nineteenth century and one of the most influential philosophers of the United States. His biography is a fascinating read for those interested in learning more.

His philosophy of pragmatism strongly influenced the work he did in functional psychology. He also believed absolutely in “Free Will.” In his book The Will to Believe, he stated that not only was his will free, but that as his first act of freedom, he very simply “chose” to believe his will was free.

In his quote, captured here for discussion in this moment, we have the ability to exercise our own free will and either take at face value what is written, or to discover our own interpretation of what the author expressed. The “greatest discovery of a generation” is a very bold statement. What would cause such a great thinker and prominent philosopher to make such a bold statement? What made him believe we can alter our lives by simply altering the attitudes of our minds? What had he learned through his research that led him to consider this statement a fact?

William James developed a two-stage approach to the decision making process that separated chance from choice. He believed that our choices created our perceived realities and that if we didn’t like our current circumstances, we could look to our choices and find how “the choices” we made contributed to our circumstances. He also believed our attitude would either allow us, or prohibit us, from making the necessary changes in thinking required to attain different results.

He stated the following, and was quoted as not only saying it, but believing it was the absolute truth! “It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome.” He believed it was our “thinking” about a thing that would have the most influence on our ability to succeed. I believe Henry Ford may have learned his philosophy from Willam James because he certainly believed it was our thoughts about thinking we can or can’t, which determined our outcomes…

Whether we believe or disagree with his philosophy, we are still left to answer the question for ourselves about the importance of attitude. What if, what if just for the sake of discussion we believed William James was right? How would our future be influenced by our belief that our attitude more than anything else will determine our results? What could we do, if we believed it was impossible to fail?


Author: Bobby Kountz

Bobby Kountz is a former Oncology Nurse, a seasoned Oncology Sales Professional, and Personal Development Enthusiast. He is also an Inspirational Writer, Professional Speaker, Personal Development and Career Transition Coach, Dedicated Community Volunteer, Social Equality Activist, Mental Health Activist, and Loving Father and Husband.


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