Mind over matter

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Mind over matter is a term that goes back approximately 150 years, though the meaning has changed over time. We will look at the meaning of mind over matter, how that meaning has changed and some examples of the phrase’s use in sentences.

Mind over matter means the ability to overcome physical challenges through the use determination and willpower. The phrase mind over matter was first used in the 1860s, when Sir Charles Lyell wrote The Geological Evidence of the Antiquity of Man. Lyell used the phrase to signify the evolutionary growth of human and animal minds across history. Lyell was primarily a geologist, and also a close friend of Charles Darwin’s. Mind over matter has come to mean the act of overcoming adversity or a challenge by exercising one’s willpower in believing one can prevail. Virgil, the Roman poet who lived during the first century BC, expressed the idea as mens agitat molem, which translates as mind moves matter. Mind over matter may be exercised by someone who must deal with severe pain, someone who must attempt a task that is seemingly impossible or someone who must face a great fear.


“It worked out to be just three appointments and it was really a case of mind over matter.” (The Mirror)

One of the biggest challenges, he says, is keeping strong mentally: “It is mind over matter before going in the water; I have a schedule of things that I am going to think about.” (The Bournemouth Echo)

Clear that dying of a heart attack was not a good idea, I immediately returned to my earlier mind-over-matter practice and simply gathered my centrifugal energy. (The Huffington Post)