I used to hate the words responsibility and discipline. They sounded like verbal prison. They made me pucker, they made me want to run and revolt. They might still give you a similar initial reaction, evoking feelings of heaviness, duty, judgement – unpleasant but necessary.

In fact, your reaction to those words says a lot about why your results are where they are. Maybe everything.

There’s no doubt they’re serious words, but now I see them as empowering words that I run to, because I know what embracing them does to a life. The degree to which anyone aligns themselves with these words – the greater their quality of life. That’s just how things work. Nothing personal, nothing magical, and nothing more complex.

Now, simple doesn’t mean easy. Words alone are just ideas. That’s why we say we “take” responsibility or “practice” discipline. The words paired with actions is what gives them power.

My new favorite book/essay is As A Man Thinketh by James Allen. It’s a great new book by a radical new age thinker…written in 1902. If I had to sum up my current philosophy, it would be very close to the overall message in Allen’s essay.

Here are some quotes from this particular book that resonated with me, and my interpretations in more casual language:

A man only begins to be a man when he ceases to whine and revile, and commences to search for the hidden justice which regulates his life. And as he adapts his mind to that regulating factor, he ceases to accuse others as the cause of his condition , and builds himself up in strong and noble thoughts; ceases to kick against circumstances, but begins to use them as aids to his more rapid progress, and as a means of discovering the hidden powers and possibilities within himself.

How I would put it: Nothing changes until you figure out that you’re the cause of your own problems, and the cause of your own happiness. Once you understand that good or bad results, happiness and unhappiness are totally based on your own mindset and actions, you start to work with your life instead of fighting against yourself.

Men do not attract that which they want, but that which they are. Their whims, fancies, and ambitions are thwarted at every step, but their inmost thoughts and desires are fed with their own food, be it foul or clean. The “divinity that shapes our ends” is in ourselves; it is our very self. Only himself manacles man : thought and action are the gaolers of Fate— they imprison, being base; they are also the angels of Freedom—they liberate, being noble. Not what he wishes and prays for does a man get, but what he justly earns.

How I would put it: Not only is there no force or God outside ourselves that regulates our fate, but there’s no biased world out there that wishes us ill or well, or has any particular plans for us. Our fate will be dictated by the laws of nature, probability, gravity, and so on. There’s nothing unknown or magical to it, and therefore we can choose to take actions that produce the results we prefer. If we don’t, we get poor results.

Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.

How I would put it: Everyone wants a ‘better’ life. Whether it’s to lose 10 lbs, be more organized, be ‘happier’ (whatever that means), drive a nicer car, or find more time to do what we love to do. We all make resolutions to ourselves, if not publicly. But, there’s a huge difference between wanting your life to be better and actually doing the things it takes to make it better.

Man is buffeted by circumstances so long as he believes himself to be the creature of outside conditions, but when he realizes that he is a creative power, and that he may command the hidden soil and seeds of his being out of which circumstances grow, he then becomes the rightful master of himself.

How I would put it: When you blame others, you’ll never change what needs to change to realize different results – yourself. And the powerful flipside is also true – that once you do change yourself, you are no longer bound by circumstances, and can dictate the story of your own life, page by page.

The world is your kaleidoscope, and the varying combinations of colors, which at every succeeding moment it presents to you are the exquisitely adjusted pictures of your ever-moving thoughts. You will be what you WILL to be.

How I would put it: Hard to say this better than he did. I might say your thoughts control your actions, and your actions dictate your life experience. So if you learn to think well, you’ll live well.

In a funny way, this book is a little bit useless, because we already know these things to be true. It’s a bit like a book on gravity – pretty much something we’re already all familiar with. The difference is whether we’re embracing it and using it to our advantage, or not.