Google “manifesting my success” and some pretty new age advice appears, gleaming with the promise of your dream life existing one Pinterest “vision board” away.
There is currently quite the industry of self-help aficionados popping up online on the premise of helping you hone in on your dreams and “visualize” them into fruition. Mantras encourage you, “Don’t be afraid to dream it and it will come!” closely followed by request to sign up for a webinar or download an ebook.
Though I sound pessimistic, I don’t think this entire industry is bogus. On the contrary, I think that overall there are numerous qualified, driven people making thier living by inspiring and supporting others and I think it’s generally a positive thing. But it’s always been an evasive concept to me: the ability to succeed beyond a doubt if you believe you will, and I question the ability of so many people to be able to successfully “teach” it. Especially considering there are elements out of our control which plays into someone’s success for instance financial circumstances or plain old luck. When I stumble upon these “manifestation” self-help programs, I often wonder what it is about a person’s brain and habitual thought patterns that can either help or hinder their success. Is there scientific merit to the idea of being able to manifest reality?
Manifesting your success can also be described as “The Law of Attraction” – the belief that by focusing on positive thoughts, you will attract positive energy and experiences into your life, or conversely, by thinking negative thoughts you will attract negative energy. You might remember hearing quite a bit of hype about this concept back in 2010 when the Oprah endorsed book, “The Secret” was flying off shelves. Scientists have largely written the law of attraction off as “Pseudoscience”, but there are phenomenons that happen in our brain which stand to support some of what the Law of Attraction is all about.
While the Law of Attraction is used as a fundamental basis for a lot of the manifestation talk, there are many platitudes you’ve probably read that would likely appear within someone’s advice to help you manifest your dreams. Here are a couple of those success slogans, and what some of the neurological phenomena going on in our brains which might explain why they are effective.
“Surround yourself with like minded people who inspire you”
Neurologically, what might be at play are “mirror neurons”, which are neurons in the brain that fire when we perform an action and when we witness someone else perform the same action. At their basis mirror neurons are responsible for helping us learn language and why we feel “empathy” for others – why you might feel pain when you see someone get hit in the face with a ball or pull your hand back if you see someone touch a hot stove element. Aside from simply physically mirroring, these neurons have also been proven to show that they can distinguish intent behind action. Researchers note that these mirrored neurological responses are automatic, your subconscious way of taking important social cues. It’s important to have mentors or people who can serve as inspiration for the type of life you’re trying to build. By surrounding yourself with people who you associate with career goals, you might subconsciously start to try to mirror their actions a little closer.
“Write your goals on your bathroom mirror so you see them every day.”
Positive thinking, (just like negative thinking) is a learned behaviour. This is where the law of attraction really comes in, because if you are constantly thinking negative thoughts then you will be constantly putting negative energy out in the world, not attracting what you want. Have you ever learned something new, or come across an obscure fact or thing by accident only to see the same thing popping up over and over again shortly after you first witnessed it? This is the Baader Meinhof Phenomenon and could help your brain subconsciously look for small opportunities that will be constantly guiding you toward that overarching goal you look at every morning on your mirror.
No matter where you turn for your inspiration, or what goals you’re trying to reach, taking a moment to appreciate where you are today is just as important and will help you enjoy the ride along the way.