Manifest. Visualize. Attract abundance. Ignore all of the terrible things going on in the world. Program yourself to only feel happy and inspired all of the time. Ascend to another dimension and become a new type of ultra-positive ethereal being. Join the Singularity with a raw vegan salad in your hand.
That’s what a lot of New Age self-help advice sounds like these days. In many “personal growth” spaces, there seems to be this pervasive idea that if you are not aligned with some indistinct “energy” or “force” or even, ugh, “vibrational waves” (Waves? What does that even mean? Are we surfing through the seas of pseudoscience?) then you have not reached your “true potential.”
These ideas are often spouted by affluent self-help “gurus” in wealthy industrialized countries who have the audacity to act like their ability to be “in tune with the universe” is the sole reason for their success. Meanwhile there are millions of children living in war zones desperately trying to survive. (“Sorry your school got bombed, kiddo, you should try this ‘Law of Attraction’ blogger’s $1,500 web course and maybe you can bring some more #PositiveVibes into your life!”)
It’s troubling, because psuedo-science aside, a lot of the popular language around manifestation techniques can be, at the very least, rooted in privilege, and at worst, blatantly victim-blamey.
That said, the fact remains that many wildly successful individuals, from Oprah Winfrey to Lady Gaga to Lindsey Vonn credit manifestation and/or visualization as key factors in helping them achieve their goals.
So is there something to the whole “manifestation” craze? Many experts think “yes.”
From the Organic Authority Files
Dr. Tchiki Davis, Founder of the Berkeley Wellbeing Institute, wrote in Psychology Today that “many psychologists throw out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to the idea of ‘manifestation.’ They'll often say it's junk science. But I say: Of course we can manifest positive things in our lives—if we couldn't then what would be the point of therapy, wellness interventions, or any of the tools we use to help people?”
There’s evidence to back up Dr. Davis’ point: research by psychologists like Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University suggests that believing you can do something significantly improves your chances of doing that thing successfully. In Dr. Dweck's book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” she writes about the importance of having a “growth” mindset, or a mindset where you see “your intelligence or personality [as] something you can develop, as opposed to something that is a fixed, deep-seated trait.”
Many common manifestation techniques, such as creating vision boards, engaging in positive self-talk, and writing down your goals as if they are happening in the present, could be allowing “manifestors” to do just what Dr. Dweck is talking about: learning to believe in their own potential. (It’s certainly worked for world-class athletes since time immemorial. A good thing, since apparently the consumption of a certain type of naturally growing foliage that is legal in many states is still considered a problem by the Olympic committee.)
If you are looking to improve your mindset or achieve an ambitious goal, “manifestation” may indeed help you get there: not because it’s putting you in touch with some mystical inner fabric of the space-time continuum, but because it's putting you in touch with your own inner strength.
In the meantime, let’s save the talk of “hacking into the universe” for the inevitable Ready Player One reboot, okay?