The Law of Attraction: Truth or Myth?
This topic gets me a little riled up.
The law of attraction states that what you think about and believe becomes reality – it’s ATTRACTED into your life. The Law of Attraction is often presented as a spiritual concept, one that you can choose to believe in (or not). What a misguided perspective!
Does the Law of Attraction work? Absolutely yes! Do you have to make a leap of faith and believe that your thoughts have some magical force that reaches out and manipulates the universe? If that resonates with you, great. For the skeptics, no faith is needed – just a Psych 101 course.
We are bombarded with innumerable sensory stimuli every waking moment of every day, but only a tiny fraction of them come to our awareness. Have you ever been told of a restaurant that you never heard of before, but it turns out you pass it every day? Even those who consider themselves perceptive fall for slight-of-hand magic tricks. We miss a lot.
Our brains play the role of gate-keeper, deciding which stimuli make it through to our conscious awareness. It uses your past to decide what’s important. Every thought and experience causes neurons to fire in specific pathways. Repeated thoughts and experiences strengthen their corresponding neural pathways, like how a trail becomes more and more prominent as it is repeatedly used. Those with emotional weight become even more ingrained. Your brain determines the relevance of a new sensory stimulus based on the neural pathways it ignites. The more pathways are ignited, and the stronger those pathways are, the more likely it is that you will become consciously aware of the stimulus.
Hence, by repeatedly thinking about an outcome to which you have a strong emotional attachment, you make it more likely that anything related to that outcome will rise to your conscious awareness. Visualizing yourself getting a great new job makes you more likely to overhear your friend mentioning that her coworker just quit, and more likely to ask if her employer is looking to hire someone new. On the other hand, dwelling on how impossible it is to find your ideal job will make you more likely to instead pay attention to the news anchorwoman lamenting stagnant wages for the middle class. If you do hear your friend, you’re less likely to ask if her job has an opening. Instead you might say “Sorry to hear that. Now you’re going to have to do all of her work to! Isn’t it impossible to get a break in today’s workplace?”
Another example: Have you ever listened to someone who is newly in love? No matter what topic you bring up it somehow relates to their sweetheart. Clearly the world doesn’t actually revolve around their lover; it’s just the Law of Attraction at work.
The bottom line: What we think about and believe affects what we notice in the world and the actions we take. Therefore, what we think about absolutely influences what actually happens. The Law of Attraction works.
Using the Law of Attraction
So if the law works, why does this topic get me riled up?
By failing to explain how it really works, Law of Attraction proponents are doing their audience a disservice. Those who are not willing to blindly believe in it are not given a chance to benefit from it. The truth is that even the biggest skeptics can begin benefitting from the Law of Attraction today.
Get started by trying one or more of these tips that resonate with you:
1. Spend time with young children. See how differently they perceive the world. What do they notice that you miss? What connections do they make? How do they interpret situations? This will help you to realize the limits of your perception and how it affects your behavior. Imagine how many opportunities are in your face every day that you completely miss!
2. Look at familiar things with fresh eyes. Notice something new about a familiar place or object. Find a new way to use a mundane object. This will help you to begin freeing yourself from ingrained ways of perceiving and behaving, which is the first step to believing that you CAN change your circumstances by changing your thoughts.
3. Think of as many plausible interpretations of a person’s behavior as you can, rather than assuming that you know their thoughts or intentions. Was your coworker quiet and distant because you did something to annoy her, or because she just received negative feedback from her boss, or because she’s just tired? When appropriate, find out the truth. Incorrect interpretations lead to unhelpful actions in response. Now you will begin to see how changing your thoughts about a situation can drastically change the outcome.
4. Set aside time to visualize the outcome you want, and most importantly, how you can get there. Imagine yourself doing the steps required, but also fantasize about finding amazing opportunities – ads, social media posts, conversations with the perfect person. The more you do this the more you’ll start to see the world like the person in love I mentioned earlier; everything will remind you of your goal and give you new ideas to reach it!
5. Read books and listen to podcasts by people who have achieved a goal similar to yours, or who teach the mindsets and skills that you need to reach it. If possible, spend time with people who have already done it. This will help your visualizations become more concrete and real in your mind.
6. Determine a consistent cue to remind yourself of your goals. For example, make the wallpaper on your phone a picture of your idol, or decide that every time you walk up or down stairs you will remind yourself how much you appreciate your body and want to take care of it. Add more cues until it seems that any random thing gives you an idea about how to move forward toward your goals.
It’s important not to try any of these steps that give you that “Yeah right, there’s no way this will work” reaction. Start small with steps you can believe in, and when you begin to see the changes I describe then move on to the others as you feel ready.
Let’s say you want to use the law of attraction to reach fitness goals, but in the past everything you tried gave you limited results and they didn’t last. You often think that there’s something wrong with you, that even though it works for others it just will never work for you. Envisioning yourself fit might just make you angry because you’ve tried so hard and it never happens. That wouldn’t be an effective way to use the Law of Attraction.
Instead, you start with a thought you can believe: “The doctor said that there is nothing physically wrong with me, so there must be a way for me to get fit. I just need to find it.” At first negative thoughts are loud, saying things like “I’ll never figure this out” and “This is too hard, not worth it.” You notice that those are the thoughts you usually have when you decide to eat unhealthy foods and skip the gym. Your thoughts are making you sabotage your efforts!
When you have negative thoughts you keep repeating to yourself that there is a way for you to get fit and you just have to find it. After a while you are searching for it in many different ways – reading books, listening to podcasts, and talking to others. Now that you are actively seeking out this information you hear more and more stories of people who had trouble but finally found a way to get fit.
Finally, one day you hear about someone whose experience sounds exactly like yours, but they got fit by doing something you hadn’t tried yet. Now you’re confident and determined. You stick to your new fitness and nutrition regimen better than ever before because the negative thoughts seem less true now. Six months later, you look and feel like a new person.
No matter how you choose to explain the Law of Attraction, your thoughts and beliefs have a strong impact on how your life unfolds. Commit to taking at least one step today to harness the power of your mind and start living a life you love.