100 Years of Psychological Research Summed Up
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, there were two generally accepted schools of thought about what contributed to human behavior and therefore affected what we make of our lives while on this planet.
The first was that what we make of our lives is based on genetics (Sigmund Freud).
The other was that human beings are a product of their environment (Ivan Pavlov, and later B.F. Skinner).
However, American psychologist and philosopher William James (1842 – 1910) didn't agree with either.
James believed that man was a product of free will. That we all have the option and ability to choose and control our thoughts … and that freedom over our attitude is one of the most significant things that make us human.
In The Maverick Mindset, Dr. John Eliot shares a story about James that not only pushes me to agree with him, but also solidifies my belief about what it takes to become successful in life …
According to Eliot, one year William James was invited by the American Psychological Association to be the keynote speaker at their annual conference. This was a huge conference with upwards of 10,000 expected in attendance.
James was somewhat controversial, which helped fuel the buzz about his speech in the months leading up to the conference.
The topic of his keynote address was advertised as "Everything we've learned in the last 100 years of Psychological Research."
The hype grew. People travelled from all across America and the world to hear James speak.
The big day arrived.
The gentleman who introduced William James spoke for half an hour.
He talked about James’ many accomplishments, his publications, the societies he'd served on, and the labs he'd been a part of, and so on.
Finally, the big moment came and the words the audience was waiting to hear were finally uttered …
"Ladies and Gentlemen, William James."
James took the stage.
This is what he said …
"They've asked me to talk about the last hundred years of psychological research; it can be summed up in this statement …
People by and large become what they think of themselves."
He then said, "Thank you," and "Goodnight," and walked off the stage and left the conference.
A lot of people were upset.
They had travelled a great distance to hear a two-hour talk from William James and it was over in less than a minute. They were angry and felt cheated.
But not everyone reacted that way.
Many people said that it was the most profound thing they had ever heard.
What James was saying, of course, is that we all have the ability to control what we think. That you can study all the psychology available from all different sources and points of view, but what life comes down to is we become what we think of ourselves.
Eliot uses this story to drive home the point that every morning we have a choice to make. We can either fill our minds with negative thoughts or positive thoughts – whichever ones we consistently choose determine how successful we'll be in life.
Since the days that William James has walked the earth, this simple bit of wisdom has been repeated many times by many people.
I relate it to you today because it's a good reminder that if you want to change and improve your life, the place to start is on your shoulders.
You can become anything and do anything you want; all you have to do is believe it … and then take action.
What action will you take this week? Commit to it by posting a comment below. Or share with me which of the three men you agree with when it comes to what success you’ll achieve in life.
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