There is this phenomenon which has been around for a long time now. It’s had the entire media-hype-circus and I’m sure there’s courses on how to work it into your own life and be the best version of yourself: the law of attraction. This “law” is quite a simple mental exercise: it’s grounded in focus. The official definition looking a little like this: “the law of attraction is the ability to attract into our lives whatever we are focusing on.” In basic terms, if you focus on negative thoughts and are the poster child for “doom and gloom”, you will remain under that cloud. If you focus on positive thoughts and have goals that you aim to achieve you will find a way to achieve them with massive action. So just direct your mind to positive things and tadaaa, you’re golden. Or not?
The Law of Attraction Broken Down
Now the idea of “becoming your own thoughts” sounds a bit wishy-washy, and there is no real science backing this up. When looking into what the law of attraction actually does, what we find is that there are two key components: cognitive and creative visualization. The first is a way of turning or replacing negative thoughts (limiting or self-destructive) with more positive (empowered) thoughts as described earlier. The idea of reframing negative thoughts is a very old trick from psychology. So it does make sense. Just check out most forms of therapy grounded in CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and some applications of psychoanalysis. But what is the point of the creative visualization?!
Apparently, visualization (whether it’s actually creative or not I’ll leave in the middle) is supposed to make you feel as if the change has already occurred. So apparently, if you have a red lambo as an item that you want to attract, you just need to literally picture that in your head and experience the bliss(?) that comes from already owning it. In your mind. In neuroscientific terms: you get the dopamine hit before you get the lambo. Bit weird no?
A key component of this philosophy is the idea that in order to effectively change one's negative thinking patterns, one must also "feel" (through said “creative” visualization) that the desired changes have already occurred (dopamine before lambo!). This combination of positive thought and positive emotion is believed to allow one to attract positive experiences and opportunities by achieving resonance with the proposed energetic law.
Attraction: Step by Step
I’d like to think I’m not a (super) judgmental person, and if this stuff makes you get out of bed in the morning and not feel shit, well, you do you. However, I have some real issues with the lack of step-by-step process that I’m being presented with here.
Let’s keep this 100 (boomers won’t get this saying), lambo’s don’t just magically appear because you’re thinking of them non-stop. Actually, if the only thing you do in life is keep thinking of lambo’s, you might be even further removed from owning a lambo than you were before dreaming about owning one. Funny that.
If there is a clear thing you want, and it doesn’t need to be the continuously present lambo, thinking about it is not enough. Imagine what you want, now break down what you need to do to own it, have it or be it.
A lambo is super concrete: there is ways of obtaining it through making money, clever investing, working for a car dealer or manufacturer (at least you’re in the industry!), being the .1% or being in a (sort of) relationship with someone who can you give the object of your affection. It all depends on how far you want to go to attract the lambo.
For each of those scenarios there is a step-by-step plan on how you can get to the lambo. Let’s assume a lambo costs half a million (I really don’t know), what does it take to make half a million? Probably a combination of the first two scenarios: making money and investing it. So take a good hard look at your current wage and all your expenditures and general personal finance. How much can you save? How much are you willing to give up to save more? What can you invest? How long will it take assuming an interest rate of around 6% when using an index fund (I’m not assuming massive financial expertise from everyone who wants to own a lambo, the re-sell value is awful and it’s not exactly an “investment” piece).
Now what you’re doing is no longer “visualizing” the lambo. No there is a damn plan in place. There is not just the goal, but also the method; a strategy. And this, behavioural science tells us, is much more effective. Simply look at the SMART model, and all of the letters focus on requirements for actually achieving a goal. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based. The “V” for visualization is not bloody in there!
For a split second, try to forget the lambo. There are things which are much more difficult to attract. Why? Because they’re much more “vague.”
Some people just want to be rich. Others want to be successful. This is not something that works for SMART, but also not for the law of attraction. “Why not?” you may wonder. Well, because that doesn’t mean anything.
Rich is a relative term. Successful is even worse. I know what rich means to me: multi-millionaire. Successful is trickier. Maybe being on some kind of Forbes list? A thought leader? Never short for work? Always having to say “no” or “maybe later” to jobs or opportunities because everyone wants a piece? I don’t know.
You cannot attract things you cannot properly name or define, because there is no way of figuring out whether you actually managed or not. People who say that they “always knew they’d be successful and just visualized it” are full of sh*t. Every half-baked behavioural scientist and their grandma knows that’s the hindsight bias talking. And just because you say you’re successful, doesn’t mean I think you’re successful. So did you manage or not?
Again, if you like picturing things, make mood boards and vision boards and other boards that I’m not yet aware of, good for you. But if you actually want to achieve them, maybe make an actual, concrete, step-by-step plan, which some grounding in behavioural science, such as, but not limited to, SMART.
However, after having said all this, I do believe in having a positive attitude. People who are constantly negative do not seem to attract good things, this is true. Because who wants to hang out with someone who is constantly down, on themselves, on others, on their work etc. It’s demotivating.
People do prefer to be around people who are more positive. Not bubbly and bouncing around the place, but confident in themselves, their work and their colleagues and network. But that in its very essence is simply a networking effect.
Just think about it. If you have an odd job lying around, who would give it to? Dennis the doom-thinker or Sandy sunshine? Probably the latter…
So in the end, be a (somewhat) positive person, or at least don’t be a whiny pessimist. Set yourself some clear goals in life, and apply behavioural science techniques to achieve them.
Don’t dream it. Plan it!