Is This the Secret to a Satisfying Life?

Jeff Valdivia
6 min readFeb 21, 2023

It could be simpler than you think.

Photo by Pablo Merchán Montes on Unsplash

There was once a young man whose life was not going smoothly. He was beset by numerous physical and psychological ailments. He was a failed painter. He had dropped out of Harvard Medical School. He was left behind by an anthropological expedition in the Amazon rain forest when he contracted smallpox — he nearly died.

This young man had tried and failed at so many things he began to believe that life was hopeless. When he finally returned home from the ill-fated expedition, he contemplated suicide.

Then, he made a deal with himself.

He decided he would spend the next year acting as though he had responsibility for everything in his life. If nothing changed during that time, if he hadn’t grown, if his life hadn’t improved, he would take his own life.

What happened to this young man?

Today, he’s considered by many to be one of the leading thinkers and philosophers of the late 19th century, as well as the father of American psychology. His name is William James.

James’ struggles are not so different from our own. So, what was it about the experiment that caused him to change his perspective toward life? And can we use this same perspective to help ourselves?



Jeff Valdivia

Following my curiosity and hoping it will lead me to wisdom. I write about psychology, meditation, self-development, and spirituality.