The Greatest Weapon Against Stress — William James

When you can’t stop the wave, lean to surf

Thomas Oppong
4 min readMay 23


Photo: Editorial rights purchased via Freepik

In our demanding world, stress has become an all-too-familiar companion in our daily lives.

It’s a universal challenge of our minds.

From work pressures to personal responsibilities, the weight of stress can often feel overwhelming.

Its relentless grip can weaken our mental and physical well-being, leaving us vulnerable and exhausted.

It’s a formidable adversary.

Yet, amidst this chaos, there lies a powerful weapon within us.

A simple but profound truth.

The greatest weapon against stress lies within the realm of our thoughts, argues William James, a philosopher, historian, and psychologist and the first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States.

The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another,” he said.

The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven..” John Milto, a poet and intellectual, also said.

In the depths of our consciousness, James observed we possess the remarkable ability to select one thought over another, thereby altering the very fabric of our mental state.

This power, rooted in the realm of free thought, grants us the capacity to transcend the burdens of stress and reclaim a sense of inner tranquillity.

It is our ability to choose one thought over another.

It’s not as simple as it sounds but works with enough practice.

This common and yet profound concept can transform our perception, redirect our focus, and ultimately alleviate the burden of stress.

At its core, James’ statement supports the idea that our thoughts and interpretations of events can significantly influence our emotional and physiological responses to stress.

It suggests that stress is not solely determined by external circumstances but also by how we perceive and interpret those circumstances in our minds.



Thomas Oppong

Author | Habits, Philosophy & Psychology. As seen on Forbes, Inc. and Business Insider. For my popular essays, go here: