Living a Purposeful Life: The Key to Focused Thoughts

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "As A Man Thinketh" by James Allen. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Would you like to keep your thoughts from wandering into fears and doubts? How can living a purposeful life lead to more positive, focused thoughts?

When you live a purposeful life, you have a positive, productive place to center your thoughts. As you focus on your purpose or duty, your thoughts are less likely to drift into negative territory. You’re better able to control your thought patterns and shape your circumstances.

Read more to learn how living a purposeful life is a key to focused thoughts.

How Living a Purposeful Life Centers Your Thoughts

In order to control your thought patterns, first, determine a purpose for your life—even if it’s just for now. Whether your purpose is a material or spiritual goal, make it your driving force. If you can’t come up with a greater purpose, focus on performing your duty (be it as a parent, employee, or some other role) as well as you possibly can. When you live a purposeful life, you have a positive, productive place to center your thoughts, so that they don’t wander to fears, doubts, and self-pity. 

The 3 Steps to Fulfill Your Purpose

Once you determine a purpose, actually living a purposeful life will depend entirely on how well you uphold the strength and focus of your thoughts. In order to fulfill your purpose:

  • Resist indulgent, greedy, dishonest, self-pitying, and pessimistic thoughts. As you practice focusing on your purpose and directing all of your thoughts toward it, you will increase your self-control, concentration, and strength of character.  
  • Remember that this is a process of building mental strength, so you can’t expect to maintain flawless concentration right away. Similarly, if you were exercising to increase your physical muscle mass, you wouldn’t expect to start your training with full sets of exercises using the heaviest weights. Along the way, you will inevitably falter—when you do, simply refocus and carry on. 
  • Gradually train your mind to indulge only in thoughts that lead to positive habits and prosperous circumstances. When you can rise above negative thoughts and exercise self-control and resolution in maintaining a positive thought pattern, you will be capable of truly steering your life direction—and, when you reach that point, you must continue to control your thoughts in order to maintain power over your life. 

You’re Have the Control—and the Responsibility

Since both your successes and failures are of your own making, individual responsibility is paramount. You can’t blame others for your circumstances if your circumstances are created by your thoughts, and you can only stay down if you allow your thoughts to keep you down. Even in the case of exploiters and the exploited, each is responsible for her plight. (Shortform note: This view may not factor in the role of inescapable systemic forces of oppression.)

Now you can see how living a purposeful life is a key to focused thoughts, and you have a practical roadmap to get there.

Living a Purposeful Life: The Key to Focused Thoughts

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of James Allen's "As A Man Thinketh" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full As A Man Thinketh summary:

  • A 1902 self-help classic about the power of thought
  • How your thoughts create your circumstances and your health
  • How to achieve serenity—the ultimate treasure in life

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She has always appreciated nonfiction, especially about history, politics, and ideas. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. As a former intelligence analyst and a teacher of critical thinking skills, Elizabeth enjoys analyzing arguments on all sides of an issue. Her nonfiction preferences include theology, science, and philosophy. She studies the intersection of these three in pursuit of the highest truths. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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