We Are What We Think

We Are What We Think
By Michael Josephson of Character Counts (746.4)

In the early 1900s, a little-known philosopher named
James Allen wrote a powerful essay called "As a Man
Thinketh" in which he argued that we are what we
think, that a person’s character is the sum of his
thoughts. He declared that the power to control our
thoughts (whether we use that power or not) is the
ability to mold our character and shape our destiny.
This is a profound insight, making us personally
responsible not only for our conduct but for our
He wrote, "As a plant springs from the seed, our
actions, character, and even our circumstances spring
from our thoughts." As long as we believe we’re the
creatures of outside conditions, we will fail to
become the rightful masters of our lives. But if we do
the hard work of reflecting continually to identify and
modify negative beliefs and attitudes, we’ll be
astonished at the rapid transformation it will produce
in our lives.
Our thoughts and actions can be either jailors of
negativity, imprisoning us in degrading circumstances,
or angels of freedom, liberating us to achieve our
noble potential.
The relationship between attitudes and circumstances
is now well recognized, captured in aphorisms like
"Change your attitudes and you change your life," and
"It’s not your aptitude but your attitude that
determines your altitude." But it’s Allen’s connection
between thoughts and character that is especially
interesting. Yes, our destiny is determined by our
character, but our character is not determined by
We can’t always control when bad thoughts and negative
impulses enter our minds, but we can decide either to
nurture or to reject them.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character
(c) 2012 Josephson Institute of Ethics; reprinted with
permission. Michael Josephson, one of the nation’s
leading ethicists, is the founder of the Josephson
Institute of Ethics and the premier youth character
education program, CHARACTER COUNTS! For further
information visit www.charactercounts.org.

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