Quotes by William James

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The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.

We don't laugh because we're happy -- we're happy because we laugh.
Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.
The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.
There is but one cause of human failure. And that is man's lack of faith in his true Self.
To spend life for something which outlasts it.
The minute a man ceases to grow, no matter what his years, that minute he begins to be old.
It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome.
Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they've got a second. Give your dreams all you've got and you'll be amazed at the energy that comes out of you.
Happiness comes of the capacity to feel deeply, to enjoy simply, to think freely, to risk life, to be needed. which give happiness. Thomas Jefferson We never enjoy perfect happiness; our most fortunate successes are mingled with sadness; some anxieties always perplex the reality of our satisfaction.
Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.
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.
When you have to make a choice and don't make it, that in itself is a choice.
If you want a quality, act as if you already had it. Try the as if technique.
Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.
It is only by risking our persons from one hour to another that we live at all.
We must make automatic and habitual, as early as possible, as many useful actions as we can...in the acquisition of a new habit, we must take car to launch ourselves with as strong and decided initiative as possible. Never suffer an exception to occur till the new habit is securely rooted in your life.
We forget that every good that is worth possessing must be paid for in strokes of daily effort. We postpone and postpone, until those smiling possibilities are dead.
As a rule we disbelieve all the facts and theories for which we have no use.
The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated.
The attitude of unhappiness is not only painful, it is mean and ugly. What can be more base and unworthy than the pining, puling, mumping mood, no matter by what outward ills it may have been engendered? What is more injurious to others? What less helpful as a way out of the difficulty? It but fastens and perpetuates the trouble which occasioned it, and increases the total evil of the situation. At all costs, then, we ought to reduce the sway of that mood; we ought to scout it in ourselves and others, and never show it tolerance.
The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.
If the grace of God miraculously operates, it probably operates through the subliminal door.
To be a real philosopher all that is necessary is to hate some one else's type of thinking.
Philosophy is at once the most sublime and the most trivial of human pursuits.
Whenever two people meet there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other person sees him, and each man as he really is.
If any organism fails to fulfill its potentialities, it becomes sick.
There is a voice inside which speaks and says: This is the real me!
The best argument I know for an immortal life is the existence of a man who deserves one.
Act in earnest and you will become earnest in all you do.
Human beings are born into this little span of life of which the best thing is its friendship and intimacies, and soon their places will know them no more, and yet they leave their friendships and intimacies with no cultivation, to grow as they will by the roadside, expecting them to keep by force of inertia.
Our faith is faith in someone else's faith, and in the greatest matters this is most the case.
The god whom science recognizes must be a God of universal laws exclusively, a God who does a wholesale, not a retail business. He cannot accommodate his processes to the convenience of individuals.
If you care enough for a result, you will most certainly attain it.
Events are influenced by our very great desires.
Belief creates the actual fact.
The sway of alcohol over mankind is unquestionably due to its power to stimulate the mystical faculties of human nature, usually crushed to earth by the cold facts and dry criticisms of the sober hour. Sobriety diminishes, discriminates, and says no; drunkenness expands, unites, and says yes.
If merely feeling good could decide, drunkenness would be the supremely valid human experience.
If you want a trait, act as if you already have the trait.
Wisdom is learning what to overlook.
The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.
If you believe that feeling bad or worrying long enough will change a past or future event, then you are residing on another planet with a different reality system.
The sovereign cure for worry is prayer.
Every man who possibly can should force himself to a holiday of a full month in a year, whether he feels like taking it or not.
Everybody should do at least two things each day that he hates to do, just for practice.
Compared to what we ought to be, we are only half awake. We are making use of only a small part of our physical and mental resources. Stating the thing broadly, the human individual thus lives far within his limits. He possesses power of various sorts which he habitually fails to use.
Most people live, whether physically, intellectually or morally, in a very restricted circle of their potential being. They make very small use of their possible consciousness, and of their soul's resources in general, much like a man who, out of his whole bodily organism, should get into a habit of using and moving only his little finger.
We have grown literally afraid to be poor. We despise anyone who elects to be poor in order to simplify and save his inner life. If he does not join the general scramble and pant with the money-making street, we deem him spiritless and lacking in ambition.
What every genuine philosopher (every genuine man, in fact) craves most is praise -- although the philosophers generally call it recognition!
Spiritual energy flows in and produces effects in the phenomenal world.
Knowledge about life is one thing; effective occupation of a place in life, with its dynamic currents passing through your being, is another.
There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every bit of work, are subjects of express volitional deliberation.
An idea, to be suggestive, must come to the individual with the force of revelation.
Habit is thus the enormous fly-wheel of society, its most precious conservative agent. It alone is what keeps us all within the bounds of ordinance, and saves the children of fortune from the envious uprisings of the poor.
Smitten as we are with the vision of social righteousness, a God indifferent to everything but adulation, and full of partiality for his individual favorites, lacks an essential element of largeness.
Individuality is founded in feeling; and the recesses of feeling, the darker, blinder strata of character, are the only places in the world in which we catch real fact in the making, and directly perceive how events happen, and how work is actually done.
It is wrong always, everywhere, and for everyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.
Our esteem for facts has not neutralized in us all religiousness. It is itself almost religious. Our scientific temper is devout.
A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, and life is after all a chain.
To give up pretensions is as blessed a relief as to get them ratified.

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