Bruce Lee: As You Think, So You Shall Become

by Sonja van den Bosch

Bruce Lee: As You Think, So You Shall Become

An icon in his own right, Bruce Lee was a man of action. Although not embraced by Hollywood, he was at the forefront of all things 70’s. He pushed himself and was a physical-fitness maniac, turning his small body into a large weapon.

Lee studied Asian and Western philosophy and psychology at the University of Washington and was as much a philosopher as a martial arts expertand movie star. His study of philosophy was a lifelong pursuit and as important to him as his martial arts.

He believed that mental and spiritual preparation were vital to the success of physical training in martial arts skills. In the Tao of Jeet Kune Do, he wrote,

Training is one of the most neglected phases of athletics. Too much time is given to the development of skill and too little to the development of the individual for participation. … JKD, ultimately is not a matter of petty techniques but of highly developed spirituality and physique.

The underappreciated philosopher

Shannon Lee, Bruce Lee’s daughter, has said her father was an enduring learner and carried a 2×3” pocketbook with him at all times. In it he wrote everything from his training regimes to the phone numbers of his pupils, to poems, affirmations and philosophical reflections. In his 1968 notebook, written just before his 28th birthday, he wrote,

Recognizing that the power of will is the supreme court over all other departments of my mind, I will exercise it daily, when I need the urge to action for any purpose; and I will form HABIT designed to bring the power of my will into action at least once daily.

Realizing that my emotions are both POSITIVE and negative I will form daily HABITS which will encourage the development of the POSITIVE EMOTIONS, and aid me in converting the negative emotions into some form of useful action.

Recognizing that both my positive & negative emotions may be dangerous if they are not controlled and guided to desirable ends, I will submit all my desires, aims and purposes to my faculties of reason, and I will be guided by it in giving expression to these.

Recognizing the need for sound PLANS and IDEAS for the attainment of my desires, I will develop my imagination by calling upon it daily for help in the formation of my plans.

Recognizing the value of an alert memory, I will encourage mine to become alert by taking care to impress it clearly with all thoughts I wish to recall, and by associating those thoughts with related subjects which I may call to mind frequently.

Recognizing the influence of my subconscious mind over my power of will, I shall take care to submit to it a clear and definite picture of my CLEAR PURPOSE in life and all minor purposes leading to my major purpose, and I shall keep this picture CONSTANTLY BEFORE my subconscious mind by REPEATING IT DAILY.

Recognizing that my emotions often err in their over-enthusiasm, and my faculty of reason often is without the warmth of feeling that is necessary to enable me to combine justice with mercy in my judgments, I will encourage my conscience to guide me as to what is right & what is wrong, but I will never set aside the verdicts it renders, no matter what may be the cost of carrying them out.”

Bruce Lee notebooks


The how-to

Along with writing the above principles, Bruce Lee also wrote how he was going to apply these philosophies. Once he has refined his most significant ideas, he only then wrote these on the unlined back of a plain 3×5” lined yellow note card, that he signed.

Bruce Lee notebook

“I know that I have the ability to ACHIEVE the object of my DEFINITE PURPOSE in life; therefore I DEMAND of myself persistent, continuous action toward its attainment, and I here and now promise to render such action.

I realize the DOMINATING THOUGHTS of my mind will eventually reproduce themselves in outward, physical action, and gradually transform themselves into physical reality; therefore I will CONCENTRATE my thoughts for 30 min. daily upon the task of thinking of the person I intend to become, thereby creating in my mind a clear MENTAL PICTURE.

I know through the principle of auto-suggestion, any desire that I PERSISTENTLY hold will eventually seek expression through some practical means of attaining the object back of it; therefore, I will devote 10 min. daily to DEMANDING of myself the development of SELF-CONFIDENCE.
I have clearly written down a description of my DEFINITE CHIEF AIM in life, and I will never stop trying until I shall have developed sufficient self-confidence for its attainment.”

Bruce Lee’s 10 Principles to Live by Everyday

Bruce Lee notebook

Although these principles were written over 45 years ago, they are still universally applicable to almost anyone.

You will never get any more out of life than you expect

Keep your mind on the things you want and off those you don’t

Things live by moving and gain strength as they go

Be a calm beholder of what is happening around you

There is a difference a) the world b) our reaction to it

Be aware of our conditioning! Drop and dissolve inner blockage

Inner to outer ~~~ we start by dissolving our attitude not by altering outer condition

See that there is no one to fight, only an illusion to see through

No one can hurt you unless you allow him to

Inwardly, psychologically, be a nobody

Perhaps the best way to summarise all the above, is to again quote Lee,

“All in all, the goal of my planning and doing is to find the true meaning in life: peace of mind”. If your goals are infused with purpose, it will never feel like you are striving, it will feel like it’s a pursuit of becoming. Becoming more of yourself instead of the pursuit of things, prestige and status.

To learn more about Bruce Lee’s philosophy, we invite you to watch this Ted Talk given by Shannon Lee “Be An Action Hero: The Philosophy of Bruce Lee”

If you could make one simple change to a mundane task and infuse it with purpose, what would it be?


This article originally appeared here


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