“Cherish your visions; cherish your ideals; cherish the music that stirs in your heart, the beauty that forms in your mind, the loveliness that drapes your purest thoughts, for out of them will grow all the delightful conditions, all heavenly environment; of these, if you but remain true to them, your world will at last be built. To desire is to obtain; to aspire is to achieve.” — James Allen, As a Man Thinketh
James Allen published As a Man Thinketh in 1903, 120 years ago as I publish this today, so forgive the flowery language in his prose. Blame it on the Victorian era. But it remains a book that packs a punch. We’re all humans trying to figure out this life, aren’t we? That remains timeless even as styles change. The Avett Brothers, by contrast, get right to the point:
“Decide what to be and go be it.” — The Avett Brothers, Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise
The pages on my copy of Allen’s book are yellowed and largely forgotten, as I’d first read his book maybe 25-30 years ago. It sat on the shelf, patiently awaiting my return, since then. Well, here I am: different in almost every way from the person I was then, transformed by time and habit and environment to this character you’re lingering with now. People change. What directs that change is the vision we have for ourself.
Looking back on this time since I first read the book, it’s easy to see the dead ends and detours, mistakes and inertia that took over at times. In this way our desires can be distractions from our aspirations. It’s easy to dwell on what didn’t go right, but we ought to celebrate what we’ve accomplished too. Transformation is a heavy lift, after all. What becomes apparent in looking back is the progress we make from who we once were to who we’ve become.
With this in mind, we ought to look at the obstacles and frustrations we have today through the lens of who we will become by following through on our aspirations. Decide what to be and go be it, for as we thinketh, so shall we become. Set the compass, do the work, and the rest will follow. All the delightful conditions await, but they’ve also been here all along.