Mindset Masters: James Allen
Welcome to a new blog series that explores some of my favourite authors, and the books they’ve written that inspire my work as a ‘retirement rebel’ – challenging the way we live our lives after the age of 50.
Kicking off this new series is James Allen, a British philosopher born in 1864. He published about 20 books, but As a Man Thinketh is his most popular – and it’s the one I’ll be exploring here. I cover seven ideas and, with reflection, apply his thinking to the concept of life after retirement.
1.Thought and character
Allen writes that “a man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.”
Are you aware of your thoughts? If your character is the sum of all your thoughts, are you happy with your character?
Why is this important for you to consider? Because your thoughts control your life and you may not be aware of this fact, but your thoughts are not your own. We’ve all been programmed from childhood by parents, school, and community, and many of these thoughts now sabotage us.
Now that you’ve retired, or are about to, you hold the key to your situation. So will you seize the day and remould yourself into the person you were meant to be?
2. The effect of thought on circumstances
Allen writes that “man is buffeted by circumstances so long as he believes himself to be the creature of outside conditions, but when he realises that he is the 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.”
Just because everyone you’ve ever known has retired, does it mean you have to? The dictionary defines retirement as a withdrawal from life, and withdrawal from life is the first stepping stone to dying.
So if you want to live and continue growing, go ahead and retire from your current work, but then embark on a new adventure: work for which you have passion and purpose.
3. The effect of thought on health and body
Allen writes that “the body is the servant of the mind. Disease and health, like circumstances, are rooted in thought.”
In retirement, when you have time to create worries that you would otherwise have no time for, you need to ask yourself a question: am I aware of my thoughts? Perhaps even be bold enough to ask: why do I accept this state of affairs?
Or maybe you are semi-retired and working reluctantly. Are you aware that your poor state of mind is having an impact on your health? Do you want to wait until an illness strikes, or take action now? You have the power to change this dynamic so that you become happy and healthy.
4. Thought and purpose
Allen writes that “aimlessness is a vice and such drifting must discontinue for him that would steer clear of catastrophe.”
A familiar state of mind to many retirees is aimlessness. Without purpose in life, it is so easy to fall prey to petty worries, fears, troubles, and self-pity, all of which are indications of weakness, and weakness cannot persist in a power-evolving universe.
Once deep into retirement, all the anticipated dreams and expectations evaporate and after a point it is difficult to return to clarity. So, before you’ve completed your ‘bucket list,’ or soon after your return, consider how you wish to spend the rest of your life doing what you love to do.
5. The thought factor in achievement
Allen states “all that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the direct result of his own thoughts.”
Whatever happens on the outside in our lives does not impact our lives unless we give it permission. As we think, so we are; as we continue to think, so we remain.
What are you thinking about your retirement? What will be your purpose? Your thinking will dictate that. What is it that you wish to accomplish in this next stage in your life? Remember: what you do in this life echoes in eternity.
6. Visions and ideals
Allen writes that “the dreamers are the saviours of the world…he who cherishes a beautiful vision, a lofty ideal in his heart, will one day realise it.”
In other words, don’t allow your sceptical friends and family to dissuade you from your path. You will always gravitate towards that which you most secretly love and you cannot travel within your mind and stand still on the outside.
The strength of your effort is the measure of your results. Glorify the vision in your thinking mind and enthrone the ideal in your emotional mind, and build the next stage in your life, and this you will become.
In his closing chapter, Allen writes “Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom.”
Calmness is something that we have lost in our brave new world of consumerism: humanity surges with unbridled passion, tumultuous with ungoverned grief, and is blown away with anxiety, doubt, and worry. How we live our lives after retirement must be the opposite – calm, collected, and cheerful.
The wise man, whose thoughts are controlled and purified by suffering, makes the winds and storms of the soul obey him. We may no longer be ships sailing the oceans, but we can act as lighthouses, enlightening the world around us, guiding and protecting.
So keep your mind firmly on the helm of your thought, identify your mission and embark on your new adventure. You need permission from no one, but if you insist, then you have my permission. Have courage, stay strong, and you will astonish yourself.
You can hear more of my thoughts about James Allen’s book in my podcast.