“The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.” — William James

The right perspective can change your life.

That is the essence of William James’s quote.

The external world is not under our control. We do, however, control our perceptions.

You are Responsible for Your Life

Well-meaning parents tell you what to do. Teachers tell you what to do. They subconsciously tell you that someone else is responsible for your life. When faced with life’s curveballs, you naturally look to your left and right, finding someone to bail you out. When you can’t find someone, you get crushed.

James’s quote has a deeper backstory.

Mark Manson narrates James’s story in his book Everything is F****d. At 30, having had every opportunity in the world but failed to make an outward mark, James wanted to end his life. First, he decided to try an experiment. For an entire year, he would enter in his journal that he was responsible for his life. If that failed, he would proceed with his original plan of ending his life.

After one year, his life changed miraculously!

This background explains James’s quote.

His internal story changed his external world. He taught the first formal psychology. He is known for his influences on philosophy and psychology.

Mankind heralds him for his ground-breaking thoughts.

All because he took responsibility for his life.

The Universe Wants to Help You

Marci Schimoff, in her book Happy for No Reason, talks about how the universe wants to help us.

Now, no scientific test will help you determine if the universe wants to help us or is conspiring to get at us.

However, the idea that the universe wants to help you is a better way to think. This notion will give us the courage to plod on when things are not going our way.

“The universe is out to help me. This is a temporary setback, but the universe has my back in the long term”, you can assure ourselves.

And having practiced stoic acceptance, we can proceed with the next item on our task list. And do what we have to do.

Will You Really Be Happy if You Get What You Want?

Think of all the times you got what you wanted.

Were you really happy?

I know I wasn’t.

Chris desperately wanted to date the popular cheerleader. After being rejected several times, she finally agreed to go out with him. Five dates later, Chris is miserable.

You won’t find this surprising since you can see what Chris couldn’t. However, aren’t we all in Chris’s shoes in various situations in life? Does the following sound familiar:

  • You want something
  • You are miserable till you get it
  • You finally get it
  • You experience extreme delight
  • The joy wears off
  • You experience discontent once again
  • This cycle can repeat infinitely as long as we keep craving for things and people.

Reflecting hard on what we really want in life (and from life) is a good start.

As the cliche goes, we really must be careful about what we want — we may very well get it.

Be a Pollyanna

Pollyannas have a bad rep.

“Don’t be a pollyanna.” How many times have you heard someone utter these words?

Webster’s Dictionary defines a pollyanna as follows: “A person characterized by irrepressible optimism and a tendency to find good in everything

Isn’t this a great way of looking at things?

Agreed — you shouldn’t force this on others. You shouldn’t ask someone going through a rough time to be unnaturally positive. You should give them the space to experience their emotions. Forcing positivity here has a name — toxic positivity.

Each individual, however, has the choice to develop the art of looking at the positives in a situation. So that a graceful response becomes second nature.

We have all seen people who show exemplary grace under pressure, haven’t we? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could become them?

“What Choice Did I have?”

I read this story in a Tony Robbins book.

An alcoholic father had two sons. The first son took after his father. He, too, became an alcoholic and ended up in prison. The second son did not touch a drop of alcohol. He molded himself into a model citizen. He got married and fathered two amazing children. He positioned himself as a contributing member of society.

A journalist interviewed both brothers. The first brother said, “With an alcoholic father, what choice did I have except to languish in life?” The second brother said, “With an alcoholic father, what choice did I have except to learn from his mistakes?”

What choice did I have?

The next time you ask yourself this question, think of this story. You have the choice to craft your life story.

Obvious? Not So Fast.

Did you read this article and tell yourself, “All of this is obvious information. There is nothing new.”

I agree. None of this is new information.

Do we operate routinely with a growth mindset? Are we proactive in the face of adversity?

My answer is “No” to the above questions.

I, therefore, need a constant reminder till I can answer “Yes.”

My guess is that an occasional reminder will help you as well.

William James’s quote is as good a reminder as any. 

Changing our perspective helps change our lives.

I wrote this post in response to Nancy Blackman’s 30-day writing challenge. The prompt here was to write about a motivational quote.

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash