William James Quotes (228 Quotes)


    The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.

    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.

    The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.

    The greatest enemy of any one of our truths may be the rest of our truths.

    Let anyone try, I will not say to arrest, but to notice or to attend to, the present moment of time. One of the most baffling experiences occurs. Where is it, this present It has melted in our grasp, fled ere we could touch it, gone in the instant of becoming.


    Knowledge about life is one thing; effective occupation of a place in life, with its dynamic currents passing through your being, is another.

    In the dim background of mind we know what we ought to be doing but somehow we cannot start.

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

    Religion ... is a mans total reaction upon life.

    Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they've got a second.


    Organization and method mean much, but contagious human characters mean more in a university.

    The greatest discovery of our generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind. As you think, so shall you be.

    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.

    A purely disembodied human emotion is a nonentity.

    It is well for the world that in most of us, by the age of thirty, the character has set like plaster, and will never soften again.

    Failure, then, failure so the world stamps us at every turn. We strew it with our blunders, our misdeeds, our lost opportunities, with all the memorials of our inadequacy to our vocation. And with what a damning emphasis does it then blot us out.

    Is life worth living? It all depends on the liver.

    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.

    The community stagnates without the impulse of the individual. The impulse dies away without the sympathy of the community.

    Faith means belief in something concerning which doubt is theoretically possible.

    I am done with great things and big plans, great institutions and big success. I am for those tiny, invisible loving human forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, which, if given time, will rend the hardest monuments of pride.

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

    Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.

    If the grace of God miraculously operates, it probably operates through the subliminal door.

    Only necessity understood, and bondage to the highest is identical with true freedom.

    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.

    We are doomed to cling to a life even while we find it unendurable.

    The prince of darkness may be a gentleman, as we are told he is, but whatever the God of earth and heaven is, He can surely be no gentleman. His menial services are needed in the dust of our human trials, even more than his dignity is needed in the empyre

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

    What excites and interests the looker-on at life, what the romances and the statues celebrate, and the grim civic monuments remind us of, is the everlasting battle of the powers of light with those of darkness with heroism reduced to its bare chance, yet ever and anon snatching victory from the jaws of death.

    Where quality is the thing sought after, the thing of supreme quality is cheap, whatever the price one has to pay for it.

    All natural goods perish. Riches take wings fame is a breath love is a cheat youth and health and pleasure vanish.

    To make our nervous system our ally instead of our enemy . . . we must make automatic and habitual, as early as possible, as many useful actions as we can, and guard against the growing into ways that are likely to be disadvantageous to us, as we should guard against the plague.

    One hearty laugh together will bring enemies into a closer communion of heart than hours spent on both sides in inward wrestling with the mental demon of uncharitable feeling.

    I know that you, ladies and gentlemen, have a philosophy, each and all of you, and that the most interesting and important thing about you is the way in which it determines the perspective in your several worlds.

    We, the lineal representatives of the successful enactors of one scene of slaughter after another, must, whatever more pacific virtues we may also possess, still carry about with us, ready at any moment to burst into flame, the smoldering and sinister traits of character by means of which they lived through so many massacres, harming others, but themselves unharmed.

    Whenever two men meet there are really six people present. There is each man as he sees himself, each man as the other sees him, and each man as he really is.

    Man can alter his life by altering his thinking.

    Faith is one of the forces by which men live, and the total absence of it means collapse.

    There is little of the grand style about these new prism, pendulum and chronograph philosophers. They mean business, not chivalry. . . . the experimental method has quite changed the face of science so far as the latter is a record of mere work done.

    No human being ever learns to live until he has awakened to the dormant powers within him

    Success or failure depends more upon attitude than upon capacity successful men act as though they have accomplished or are enjoying something. Soon it becomes a reality. Act, look, feel successful, conduct yourself accordingly, and you will be amazed at the positive results.

    Events are influenced by our very great desires.

    Tell him to live by yes and no yes to everything good, no to everything bad.


    The exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess Success is our national disease.

    Genius... means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way.

    Pessimism leads to weakness, optimism to power.



    More William James Quotations (Based on Topics)


    Life - Man - World - Belief & Faith - Emotions - Mind - Wisdom & Knowledge - Facts - Philosophy - Characters - God - Truth - Success - Genius - Work & Career - Nature - Good & Evil - Courage - Education - View All William James Quotations

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    Karl Marx - Jean-Jacques Rousseau - Confucius - Albert Camus - Thales - Mohammad Khatami - Maimonides - Charles de Montesquieu - Blaise Pascal - Baron de Montesquieu


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