54 William James Quotes on Life and Success from the Father of Psychology

Learn more about your thoughts and attitudes with these William James quotes.

William James is known as being the Father of American Psychology.

While he studied to be a doctor, his passion for psychology led him down that path instead of practicing medicine.

He helped introduce people to the idea that their thoughts and attitudes heavily influenced their future and circumstances.

If you’re struggling to move past difficult times or to find the success that you desire in life, it could be because of the way you’re allowing your thoughts to lead you.

If you can relate, you may enjoy reading through these William James quotes for inspiration.

Don’t forget to also check out these philosophical Arthur Schopenhauer quotes about life.

If you like this article, we suggest you explore our most popular quotes article, a list of short inspirational quotes for daily encouragement. 

Read more related content on our inspirational quotes category page.

William James quotes about success

1. “It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome.” – William James

2. “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.” – William James

3. “Formula to live your dreams: 1. Be bold. 2. Begin now. 3. No exceptions.” – William James

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4. “Let everything you do be done as if it makes a difference.” – William James

5. “Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” – William James

6. “The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.” – William James

7. “There is but one cause of human failure. And that is man’s lack of faith in his true self.” – William James

8. “A winner’s attitude: it may be difficult, but it’s possible. A loser’s attitude: It may be possible, but it’s too difficult.” – William James

9. “Give your dreams all you’ve got, and you’ll be amazed at the energy that comes out of you.” – William James

10. “To kill time is not murder, it’s suicide.” – William James

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Inspirational William James quotes

11. “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” – William James

12. “Pessimism leads to weakness, optimism to power.” – William James

13. “Begin to be now what you will be hereafter.” – William James

14. “Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune.” – William James

15. “The good we do today becomes the happiness of tomorrow.” – William James

16. “The greatest use of a life is to spend it on something that will outlast it.” – William James

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William James quotes on attitude and thoughts

17. “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” – William James

18. “Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact.” – William James

19. “Why should we think upon things that are lovely? Because thinking determines life. It is a common habit to blame life upon the environment. Environment modifies life but does not govern life. The soul is stronger than its surroundings.” – William James

20. “If you believe that feeling bad or worrying long enough will change a past or future event, then you are residing on another planet with a different reality system.” – William James

21. “The mind is made up by what it feeds upon.” – William James

22. “Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.” – William James

23. “Anything you may hold firmly in your imagination can be yours.” – William James

24. “Tension is a habit. Relaxing is a habit. Bad habits can be broken, good habits formed.” – William James

25. “There is a law in psychology that if you form a picture in your mind of what you would like to be, and you keep and hold that picture there long enough, you will soon become exactly as you have been thinking.” – William James

26. “Thoughts become perception, perception becomes reality. Alter your thoughts, alter your reality.” – William James
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27. “A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.” – William James

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28. “Positive images of the future are a powerful and magnetic force… They draw us on and energize us, give us courage and will to take on important initiatives. Negative images of the future also have a magnetism. They pull the spirit downward in the path of despair.” – William James

29. “Human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.” – William James

30. “If you can change your mind, you can change your life.” – William James

31. “Circumstance does not make me, it reveals me.” – William James

32. “The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude.” – William James

33. “You may not get everything you dream about, but you will never get anything you don’t dream about.” – William James

William James quotes on people and relationships

34. “Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.” – William James

35. “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” – William James

36. “Wherever you are, it is your friends who make your world.” – William James

37. “Whenever two people 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.” – William James

38. “Most unhappiness is caused because people listen to themselves… instead of talking to themselves.” – William James

Thought-provoking William James quotes

39. “Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second.” – William James

40. “I am no lover of disorder and doubt as such. Rather I fear to lose truth by the pretension to possess it already wholly.” – William James

41. “When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.” – William James

42. “We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.” – William James

43. “Procrastination is attitude’s natural assassin.” – William James

44. “The world we see that seems so insane is the result of a belief system that is not working. To perceive the world differently, we must be willing to change our belief system, let the past slip away, expand our sense of now, and dissolve the fear in our minds.” – William James

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45. “The aim of a college education is to teach you to know a good man when you see one.” – William James

46. “Our view of the world is truly shaped by what we decide to hear.” – William James

47. “My experience is what I agree to attend to.” – William James

48. “A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, and life is after all a chain.” – William James

More William James quotes and sayings

49. “We don’t laugh because we’re happy, we’re happy because we laugh.” – William James

50. “To study the abnormal is the best way of understanding the normal.” – William James

51. “It is only by risking our persons from one hour to another that we live at all.” – William James

52. “Psychology is the science of mental life.” – William James

53. “We all have reservoirs of life to draw upon, of which we do not dream.” – William James

54. “The intellectual life of man consists almost wholly in his substituting a conceptual order for the perceptual order in which his experience originally comes.” – William James

What did you learn from these William James quotes?

William James had a lot of ideas about thoughts, attitudes, mysticism, and other areas of life and psychology.

Whether or not you agree with all of his theories and beliefs, he makes a lot of good points about the impact that your thoughts can have on your decisions and life.

If you’re struggling to create the success in your life that you long for, take time to reflect on what you’ve been thinking about.

If you change your thoughts, you just may discover that your circumstances begin to change as well.

The same thing goes with the attitude you choose to have.

Your thoughts and attitudes can make a big difference.

What’s your biggest takeaway from these William James quotes and sayings?

Do you have any other favorite quotes to add?

Let us know in the comment section below.

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