Just over a decade ago, The Secret by Rhonda Byrne took the world by storm. The self-help book outlines strategies for leveraging what’s known as The Law of Attraction. This concept claims that a person can create desired outcomes in their life through the power of their thoughts and intentions. Selling over 30 million copies worldwide, The Secret became a pop culture phenomenon. While some consider the theories in the book to be bogus, others swear they really work.
Millennials have a resurging interest in The Law of Attraction. Currently, there are 2.6 million posts on Instagram tagged with #manifestation, accompanied by a booming “mindset coaching” industry that has emerged to meet the demand. What’s behind this peaked interest in manifestation and what does science tell us about The Law of Attraction? Let’s attract some answers, shall we?
It’s not rocket science. It’s quantum physics.
The ideas shared in The Law of Attraction theory stem from a field known as quantum physics, which describes the behaviour of the atoms and subatomic particles that make up, well, just about everything.
Dating back to the early 1900s, the first basic principle related to The Law of Attraction states that all matter is interchangeable. The second principle is a concept known as The Observer Effect, which states that by simply observing the behaviour of a particle, you can potentially change that particle’s behaviour. So, how exactly do the science of these subatomic particles apply to our careers and relationships? According to the principles of quantum physics “like attracts like”, and if we focus our energy on the things we desire, we might be able to attract them to us.
This concept is supported by some psychological research, as well. The areas of the brain known as our “intention centers” are shown to be highly connected to the “action centers” of the brain. Thus, focusing on desired outcomes might cultivate the action required to achieve them.
Additionally, focusing on an emotion or a sensation tends to intensify it, while ignoring it we might mitigate it. fMRI experiments reveal that when we see someone who appears anxious or fearful we’re likely to mirror those emotions. Clearly, the mind is a powerful tool, and our energy and emotions impact the people around us, and vice versa.
The mania behind manifestation.
The use of terms like “manifesting”, “attracting”, and “magnetizing”, which were perhaps once considered outlandish have become decidedly mainstream. When asked why she believes so many people are turning to manifestation strategies for their life and career, Rachael Hunt, a Business and Mindset Coach in Toronto cites the rise in popularity of other new-age movements like mindfulness and self-love as contributing factors. “People are hungry for something bigger than themselves to believe in”, she says. “Manifestation is different from traditional faith, in that you are able to create your own experience with it. For younger generations, I think that really resonates.”
Olivia, a Toronto-based content creator and Naturopathic Medicine student, says she turned to manifestation strategies because she felt stuck. “I was working very hard and putting in all the hours but I wasn't moving forward. It felt like I was stuck on a hamster wheel and something needed to change,” she says. “I thought it was a little woo-woo,” she admits. “I had joked about manifesting things but never took it seriously. I just didn't get how it could possibly work.”
Her skepticism has certainly disappeared. Today, she credits manifestation strategies with transforming both her life and her business. Olivia uses visualization every morning before she starts her day and focuses on the things she wants to bring into her life. “I feel exactly what it is like to be in that scenario. That is the key, you need to feel the emotion that is associated with what you want in order for it to come to fruition.”
How has this practice changed things for Olivia? “Success comes easily to me now, and I am putting in less work than before. Things simply aren't as hard anymore. Now, don't get me wrong, you still have to put in the work, but the mindset shift that goes into manifestation allows those things to come to you. Whereas, before, there was a block,” she says.
Intentions won’t work unless you do.
Millennials have had the tarnished, and often ill-informed reputation of being entitled and lacking a strong work ethic. By crediting manifestation strategies for our success, could we be internalizing this reputation? Are we failing to give ourselves credit for the hard work we’ve put in to achieve our goals?
This is especially problematic given that women seem to be the key adopters of the strategy. Also, promoting manifestation practices in the context of business development and sales strategies raises a number of questions. Does this isolate individuals who don’t consider themselves to be spiritual? What about those who subscribe to a traditional, organized religion, and have suffered the long-held idea of this subject being considered taboo in professional contexts?
According to Jordanna Levin, author of Make It Happen - Manifest the Life of Your Dreams, many of these issues stem from the oversimplification of the concept behind manifestation. “Somehow the expansive, grand, and intricate concept of manifestation got boiled down to this: thoughts become things,” says Levin. “All of a sudden, a bunch of people were under the impression that simply thinking about the million dollar mansion they were going to live in… while not thinking about their unpaid bills, would be enough to manifest a big fat cheque,” she continues.
Hunt echoes this sentiment, and believes that manifestation strategies “show us how incredibly powerful we are as creators. We truly can co-create our own reality when we understand how to use our mind to manifest our desires in an intentional way. The beautiful thing about manifestation is that it's a process of having fun, so it doesn't ever have to feel like work.” She highlights that part of what manifestation strategies encourage is a shift in our perspective. What once felt like toiling work might feel like an easier process when we can trust that what is meant for us will come our way if we stay positive, focused, and intentional.
Building a vision, staying focused, thinking positively, and being intentional with your energy might change the way you experience hard work, but it doesn’t mean you get to skip it altogether. “If living the good life was as easy as thinking the good thoughts and feeling the good feels, don’t you think we’d all be driving around in sports cars and working remotely from idyllic beachside bungalows by now?” says Levin.
In other words, manifestation isn’t magic. Instead, it is a tribute to what can happen when intention meets action; when what you’re seeking starts with a positive attitude and intentional focus. But, don’t expect your dream life to appear at your doorstep after a fifteen minute meditation. No, you’re actually going to have to head out into the world and go make it happen.