As a Man Thinketh: Summary & Review

as a man thinketh book cover

As a Man Thinketh teaches readers to harness the power of thought which, the author says, is the most important influence in our lives.

Bullet Summary

  • To be the master of your life, be the master of your thoughts
  • Good thoughts lead to a happy and successful life
  • Poor thoughts lead to an unhappy and unsuccessful life

Full Summary

About The Author: James Allen has been a pioneer of the self-help movement. He was a British writer known for his inspirational books most well-known for this book, “As A Man Thinketh”.


James Allen likens the mind and our lives to a garden.
If you plant the seeds of good thoughts in your mind, you will reap a healthy psychological state and a good life.
If you allow it to run wild bad weeds will poison your thoughts and ruin your life.

Chapter 1: Thought and Character

James Allen says that we are literally what we think. Our character is simply the sum of all our thoughts.
But that also gives us extreme power, because by changing our thoughts we can change our character.

Indeed, “As a Man Thinketh” says that if we want to change our character and our situation in life all we have to do is changing our thoughts.

A man is literally what he thinks

Chapter 2: Effect of Thought on Circumstances

The outer conditions of our lives are the reflection of our inner thoughts and our inner state.

The inner thoughts and our outer condition are not exactly the same because external conditions do have a major influence, says Allen.

However, there is a relation between the two and we can have a major influence on our outer condition with the way we direct our outer condition.

We are each the masters of our own destiny

Locus of Control: You’re in Charge

Since we can change our circumstances and our lives, the author makes the point that blaming and complaining are useless.
More than useless actually, they poison our thoughts.
And he makes the point we all take and accept more responsibility in life.

My Note:
This is a concept in the self help literature called “internal locus of control”. It means you believe you are in control of your life instead of being shaped by external circumstances and events.
It’s indeed of great benefit for you to switch to an internal locus of control and accepting extreme ownership of your life.

Chapter 3: Effects of Thoughts on Health and Body

The mind influences our body as well.

Allen says that habits of thought will produce physical effects on our body, and if our thoughts are good, they will produce positive effects. If our thoughts are negative, they will produce bad effects.

While we might think that thinking about the risks keep us safer, always thinking about diseases makes it more likely we’ll get them, says As a Man Thinketh.

A sour face doesn’t happen by chance: sour thoughts made it

Good Thoughts Lead to Healthy Habits

As a Man Thinketh also links our thoughts to actual habits we form, which makes a lot of sense.

If we think about our health and care about it, we are more likely to form positive habits of healthy eating and exercise, which will lead to a better life.
Also read The Power of Habit.

Chapter 4: Thought and Purpose

As a Man Thinketh has two key messages in this chapter:

  1. You need a purpose in life
  2. Doubts and fears stand in the way of achievement

People without a purpose have too much time on their hands to focus on fears, worries and petty problems.
And in turn worries, fears and doubts are the greatest enemies of achievement.
They distract you, thwart your willingness to take action and bring upon exactly what you are afraid of, like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
If you want to forge forward, you need to clear fears and pessimism from your path.

There is no accomplishment until thought is linked with purpose

Chapter 5: The Thought-Factor in Achievement

The chapter states that all achievements in life -or lack thereof- are a direct consequence of his thoughts.
However, he also adds an important element: hard work.

The high achiever in As a Man Thinketh must sacrifice a lot to accomplish a lot.

Chapter 6: Visions and Ideals

Dreams and visions underpin reality, says James Allen.
Dream big, and you will achieve big.
This chapter reminded a bit of The Magic of Thinking Big.

The greatest achievement was once a dream

Chapter 7: Serenity

Calmness of mind is the last stage of wisdom, says Allen.

My Note: to achieve serenity, meditation is of great help. Here are a few good resources:

As a Man Thinketh in One Quote:

Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

as a man thinketh book cover

As a Man Thinket Audiobook

Here is one audiobook version of the book on Youtube:

Real Life Applications

Take care of your thoughts
Tony Robbins is an author who stresses a lot the impact that thinking has on our lives. And he’s right at that.
Take care of how you think and your life will improve.

You can build a strong mind
As much as a physically weak person can put on muscles, a mentally weak person can build mental muscles and become mentally stronger.
You can do it by continually exercising your mind.


I highly recommend you read this article on naive self-help since it addresses many of the pitfalls common to books like As a Man Thinketh:

Naive Self-Help: 10 Most Dangerous BS to Avoid

There’s more than thought
Albeit As a Man Thinketh does tell you to work on what you want, one should not make the mistake of thinking that thoughts and state of minds are everything.
For example, the capacity of acting even when in doubt and when in fear can lead you to win even when your mind is telling you that you will lose.
And that’s habit, discipline and power of will.


Short and to the point
I write this of very few books, but AS a Man Thinketh is one of the very few books that adds no fluff.

Great insight
Most of our success does start with our minds. And our thoughts do control our moods.


Before picking up As a Man Thinketh I was afraid it was going to be some law of attraction stuff like The Secret.

But it’s not.
It’s actually a great self-help book and possibly even better than the similar and more popular The Power of Positive Thinking.

James Allen has been a true pioneer.
Or curse, depending on how you look at it :).
He has been the frontrunner of a deluge of self-help motivational speaker who repeated the same thing in slightly different fashion.
Including some snake oil salesmen who sold the same idea but framed it as science (see Joe Dispenza, You Are The Placebo, and his other work).

Read more book reviews or get the book on Amazon

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