This week, Life Training Online is reviewing As a Man Thinketh, by James Allen, the sixth of fifty-two books in the 52 Personal Development Books in 52 Weeks series.

The Thought Factor in Achievement

According to Allen, when it comes to success in any endeavor in life, the key to its achievement or failure is found in one’s own thoughts. So many get caught up pointing the finger at everyone and everything else that, according to them, is the reason for their lack of success. This is a cop-out. Allen says that not until we realize that the responsibility for our success lies in our own thoughts and hands, will we ever have the ability to achieve it. This is reminiscent of the first habit Covey speaks about in his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Be Proactive.

“Achievement, of whatever kind, is the crown of effort, the diadem of thought. By the aid of self-control, resolution, purity, righteousness, and well directed thought a man ascends; by the aid of animality, indolence, impurity, corruption, and confusion of thought a man descends.”

Visions and Ideals

“The dreamers are the saviors of the world. As the visible world is sustained by the invisible, so man, through all their trials and sins and sordid vocations, are nourished by the beautiful visions of their solitary dreamers. Humanity cannot forget it’s dreamers.”

I really liked this part of the book. Probably because, as a dreamer myself, I seem to resonate with this the most.

All the achievements that we see in our world today were at first for a time, a dream. What started as a dream or thought, eventually progressed to a desire. From that desire sprang an aspiration which spurred action. And finally the continual application of those actions manifested what we see today as our reality.

Allen’s main point in this section of the book, is for you to dream big. Because you can only rise as high as your vision or your ideal, it’s important that your visions and ideals are lofty. This does not exclude the importance of effort in the achievement of your dreams, for “in all human affairs there are efforts, and there are results, and the strength of the effort is a measure of the result.”


In his final chapter, Allen speaks of serenity. I find it interesting that he concludes his book with this section. Because for a book that is so focused on being proactive with your thoughts, calmness of mind, at first glance, may seem contradictory. However, according to Allen, serenity is the advanced application of controlling one’s thoughts.

You can only become calm in mind in the measure that you understand yourself and your relationship with your external environment. When you learn to function within the gap of stimulus and reaction and learn to choose your own response, you will cease to fuss and worry and grieve, and instead remain poised, calm, and serene.

We all have this ability. It just takes some practice. The next time that you get in an argument with someone, look back and try to find the moment where you reacted. Visualize yourself instead responding to stimulus that caused you to at first react, and this time choose a different, more serene response. ( I will be speaking about this in a future article. )

Allen sums this up perfectly:

“Yes, humanity surges with uncontrolled passion, is tumultuous with ungoverned grief, is blown about by anxiety in doubt. Only the wise man, only he whose thoughts are controlled and purified, makes the winds and the storms of the soul obey him.”

As a Man Thinketh is the sixth of fifty-two books in Life Training – Online’s series 52 Personal Development Books in 52 Weeks.

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