147+ Best William James Quotes: Exclusive Selection

William James was an American philosopher and psychologist, and the first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States. Profoundly inspirational William James quotes will challenge the way you think, and help guide you through any life experience.

If you’re searching for meaningful philosopher quotes that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of amazing Bertrand Russell quotes, top Diogenes quotes and quotes from Montesquieu.

Famous William James Quotes

A difference which makes no difference is no difference at all. – William James

The first thing to learn in intercourse with others is non-interference with their own particular ways of being happy, provided those ways do not assume to interfere by violence with ours. – William James

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

The sovereign cure for worry is prayer. – William James

As the art of reading (after a certain stage in one’s education) isthe art of skipping, so the art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook. – William James

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

I do indeed disbelieve that we or any other mortal men can attain on a given day to absolutely incorrigible and unimprovable truth about such matters of fact as those with which religions deal. But I reject this dogmatic ideal not out of a perverse delight in intellectual instability. I am no lover of disorder and doubt as such. Rather do I fear to lose truth by this pretension to possess it already wholly. – William James

You can be an artist without visual images, a reader without eyes, a mass of erudition with a bad elementary memory. In almost any subject your passion for the subject will save you. If you only care enough for a result, you will almost certainly attain it. If you wish to be rich, you will be rich; if you wish to be learned, you will be learned; if you wish to be good, you will be good. Only you must, then, really wish these things, and wish them with exclusiveness, and not wish at the same time a hundred other incompatible things just as strongly. – William James

Your hopes, dreams and aspirations are legitimate. They are trying to take you airborne, above the clouds, above the storms, if you only let them. – William James

We have grown literally afraid to be poor. We despise anyone who elects to be poor in order to simplify and save his inner life. If he does not join the general scramble and pant with the money-making street, we deem him spiritless and lacking in ambition – William James

The mind, in short, works on the data it receives very much as the sculptor works on his block of stone. – William James

Effort is the one strictly undervalued and original contribution we make to this world. – William James

Religion, whatever it is, is a man’s total reaction upon life. – William James

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

Man alone of all the creatures of earth can change his own pattern. Man alone is the architect of his own destiny. – William James

It is your friends who make your world. – William James

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

I am done with great things and big things, great institutions and big success, and I am for those tiny, invisible molecular moral 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, yet which if you give them time, will rend the hardest monuments of man’s pride. – William James

Spiritual energy flows in and produces effects, psychological or material, within the phenomenal world. – William James

Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing. – William James

The further limits of our being plunge, it seems to me, into an altogether other dimension of existence from the sensible and merely understandable world. Name it the mystical region, or the supernatural region, whichever you choose. So far as our ideal impulses originate in this region (and most of them do originate in it, for we find them possessing us in a way for which we cannot articulately account), we belong to it in a more intimate sense than that in which we belong to the visible world, for we belong in the most intimate sense wherever our ideals belong. – William James

The attitude of unhappiness is not only painful, it is mean and ugly. – William James

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

When thoughts do not neutralize an undesirable emotion, action will. – William James

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

Philosophy is at once the most sublime and the most trivial of human pursuits. – William James

Science as such assuredly has no authority, for she can only say what is, not what is not. – William James

To change ones life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly. – William James

You can alter your life by altering the state of your mind. – William James

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

Our minds thus grow in spots; and like grease-spots, the spots spread. But we let them spread as little as possible: we keep unaltered as much of our old knowledge, as many of our old prejudices and beliefs, as we can. We patch and tinker more than we renew. The novelty soaks in; it stains the ancient mass; but it is also tinged by what absorbs it. – William James

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

I myself believe that the evidence for God lies primarily in inner personal experiences. – William James

I am, myself, a very poor visualizer and find that I can seldom call to mind even a single letter of the alphabet in purely retinal terms. I must trace the letter by running my mental eye over its contour in order that the image of it shall leave any distinctness at all. – William James

Religion . . . shall mean for us the feelings, acts and experiences of individual men in their solitude. – William James

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

Truth, as any dictionary will tell you, is a property of certain of our ideas. It means their agreement, as falsity means their disagreement, with reality. – William James

We are spinning our own fates, good or evil, never to be undone. – William James

If it works, it’s true. – William James

Actions seems to follow feeling, but really actions 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. Thus the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there. – William James

The greatest discovery of the 20th Century is that our attitude of mind determines our quality of life, not circumstances. – William James

A paradise of inward tranquility seems to be faith’s usual result. – William James

Wisdom is learning what to overlook. – William James

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

If merely ‘feeling good’ could decide, drunkenness would be the supremely valid human experience. – William James

Thoughts become perception, perception becomes reality. Alter your thoughts, alter your reality. – William James

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. – William James

The essence of genius is to know what to overlook. – William James

The instinct of ownership is fundamental in man’s nature. – William James

Our acts of voluntary attending, as brief and fitful as they are, are nevertheless momentous and critical, determining us, as they do, to higher or lower destinies. – William James

Our errors are surely not such awfully solemn things. In a world where we are so certain to incur them in spite of all our caution, a certain lightness of heart seems healthier than this excessive nervousness on their behalf. – William James

My thinking is first and last and always for the sake of my doing, and I can only do one thing at a time. – William James

Our lives are like islands in the sea, or like trees in the forest. The maple and the pine may whisper to each other with their leaves … But the trees also commingle their roots in the darkness underground, and the islands also hang together through the ocean’s bottom. – William James

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. – William James

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

This overcoming of all the usual barriers between the individual and the Absolute is the great mystic achievement. In mystic states we both become one with the Absolute and we become aware of our oneness. This is the everlasting and triumphant mystical tradition, hardly altered by differences of clime or creed. – William James

The strenuous life tastes better – William James

Happiness comes of the capacity to feel deeply, to enjoy simply, to think freely, to risk life, to be needed. which give happiness. Thomas Jefferson We never enjoy perfect happiness; our most fortunate successes are mingled with sadness; some anxieties always perplex the reality of our satisfaction. – William James

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

Belief is desecrated when given to unproved and unquestioned statements for the solace and private pleasure of the believer . . . It is wrong always, everywhere, and for every one, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. – William James

The first lecture in psychology that I ever heard was the first I ever gave. – William James

One hears of the mechanical equivalent of heat. What we now need to discover in the social realm is the moral equivalent of war: something heroic that will speak to men as universally as war does, and yet will be as compatible with their spiritual selves as war has proved itself to be incompatible. – William James

If you want a confidence, act as if you already have it. Try the as if technique. – William James

Time itself comes in drops. – William James

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

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

A thing is important if anyone think it important. – William James

It is so human a book that I don’t see how belief in its divine authority can survive the reading of it. – William James

Objective evidence and certitude are doubtless very fine ideals to play with, but where on this moonlit and dream-visited planet are they found? – William James

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

True is the name for whatever idea starts the verification process, useful is the name for its completed function in experience – William James

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

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

Act the part and you will become the part. – William James

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

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. – William James

We have lost the power even of imagining what the ancient idealization of poverty could have meant: the liberation from material attachments, the unbribed soul, the manlier indifference, the paying our way by what we are and not by what we have, the right to fling away our life at any moment irresponsibly – the more athletic trim, in short, the moral fighting shape. – William James

Once a decision is reached, stop worrying and start working. – William James

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

Every individual existence goes out in a lonely spasm of helpless agony. – William James

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

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

If we remembered everything, we should on most occasions be as ill off as if we remembered nothing. It would take us as long to recall a space of time as it took the original time to elapse, and we should never get ahead with our thinking. All recollected times undergo, accordingly, what M. Ribot calls foreshortening; and this foreshortening is due to the omission of an enormous number of facts which filled them. – William James

Man can alter his life by altering his thinking. – William James

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

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

Genius… means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way. – William James

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. – William James

We don’t laugh because we’re happy – we’re happy because we laugh. – William James

One of the greatest discoveries of our time is that a man can alter the state of their life by altering the state of their mind. – William James

Compared to what we ought to be, we are only half awake. We are making use of only a small part of our physical and mental resources. Stating the thing broadly, the human individual thus lives far within his limits. He possesses power of various sorts which he habitually fails to use. – William James

The whole drift of my education goes to persuade me that the world of our present consciousness is only one out of many worlds of consciousness that exist. – William James

Evil is a disease; and worry over disease is itself an additional form of disease, which only adds to the original complaint. – William James

Life shall be built in doing and suffering and creating. – William James

There is a voice inside which speaks and says, This is the real me! – William James

A sense of humor is just common sense dancing. – William James

Procrastination is attitude’s natural assassin. There’s nothing so fatiguing as an uncompleted task – William James

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

We forget that every good that is worth possessing must be paid for in strokes of daily effort. We postpone and postpone until those smiling possibilities are dead… By neglecting the necessary concrete labor, by sparing ourselves the little daily tax, we are positively digging the graves of our higher possibilities. – William James

The most natively interesting object to a man is his own personal self and its fortunes. We accordingly see that the moment a thing becomes connected with the fortunes of the self, it forthwith becomes an interesting thing. – William James

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

There are 3 rules to follow if you want to change; (1) Start immediately, (2) Do it flamboyantly, (3) No exceptions. – William James

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

Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked. We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources. – William James

The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it. This life is worth living, we can say, since it is what we make it. Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact. – William James

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

My first act of free will shall be to believe in free will. – William James

Men habitually use only a small part of the power which they actually possess. – William James

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

The great thing, then, in all education, is to make our nervous system our ally instead of our enemy. – William James

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

This life is worth living, we can say, since it is what we make it. – William James

We have nothing to do but to receive, resting absolutely upon the merit, power, and love of our Redeemer. – William James

Do every day or two something for no other reason than its difficulty. – William James

The entire routine of our memorized acquisitions, for example, is a consequence of nothing but the Law of Contiguity. The words of a poem, the formulas of trigonometry, the facts of history, the properties of material things, are all known to us as definite systems or groups of objects which cohere in an order fixed by innumerable iterations, and of which any one part reminds us of the others. – William James

Keep the faculty of effort alive in you by a little gratuitous exercise every day. – William James

I believe there is no source of deception in the investigation of nature which can compare with a fixed belief that certain kinds of phenomena are IMPOSSIBLE. – William James

Everyone knows that on any given day there are energies slumbering in him which the incitement’s of that day do not call forth. Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. The human individual usually lives far within his limits. – William James

Emotional occasions, especially violent ones, are extremely potent in precipitating mental rearrangements. The sudden and explosive ways in which love, jealousy, guilt, fear, remorse, or anger can seize upon one are known to everybody. . . . And emotions that come in this explosive way seldom leave things as they found them. – William James

We ought, all of us, to realize each other in this intense, pathetic, and important way. If you say that this is absurd, and that we cannot be in love with everyone at once, I merely point out to you that, as a matter of fact, certain persons do exist with an enormous capacity for friendship and for taking delight in other people’s lives; and that such persons know more of truth than if their hearts were not so big. – William James

We divert our attention from disease and death as much as we can; the slaughterhouses are huddled out of sight and never mentioned, so that the world we recognize officially in literature and in society is a poetic fiction far handsomer, cleaner and better than the world that really is. – William James

Since you make evil or good by your own thoughts, it is your ruling of your thoughts which proves to be your principal concern. – William James

An educated memory depends on an organized system of associations; and its goodness depends on two of their peculiarities: first, on the persistency of the associations; and, second, on their number. – William James

Fear of life in one form or another is the great thing to exorcise. – William James

A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices. – William James

If you want a quality, act as if you already had it. – William James

There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every bit of work, are subjects of express volitional deliberation. – William James

Truth is something that happens to an idea. – William James

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

I am only a philosopher, and there is only one thing that a philosopher can be relied on to do, and that is, to contradict other philosophers. – William James

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

The function of ignoring, of inattention, is as vital a factor in mental progress as the function of attention itself. – William James

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

The sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our spontaneous cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully, to look round cheerfully, and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there. If such conduct does not make you soon feel cheerful, nothing else on that occasion can. – William James

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

There is nothing so absurd that it cannot be believed as truth if repeated often enough. – William James

We must make automatic and habitual, as early as possible, as many useful actions as we can…in the acquisition of a new habit, we must take car to launch ourselves with as strong and decided initiative as possible. Never suffer an exception to occur till the new habit is securely rooted in your life. – William James

Truth for us is simply a collective name for verification processes – William James

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

Effort is a measure of a Man. – William James

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

A genius is the man in whom you are least likely to find the power of attending to anything insipid or distasteful in itself. He breaks his engagements, leaves his letters unanswered, neglects his family duties incorrigibly, because he is powerless to turn his attention down and back from those more interesting trains of imagery with which his genius constantly occupies his mind. – William James

There is no worse lie than a truth misunderstood bu those who hear it. – William James

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

Touch is the alpha and omega of affection. – William James

We are not only gregarious animals, liking to be in sight of our fellows, but we have an innate propensity to get ourselves noticed, and noticed favorably, by our kind. – William James

There are no differences but differences of degree between different degrees of difference and no difference. – William James

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