What if I told you that I could tell you the secret of many self-help books in this one blog post?
Well here it goes… The most prevalent idea in many self-help books designed to help you change your life is the idea of the Law of Attraction. This law basically says that by directing our thinking to positive thoughts or outcomes we will increase the likelihood of those things coming true. A best-selling and popular example of a book that employs a like minded theory is Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. This idea has become so popular that it has spilled out of the self-help book world and has been featured in a movie called The Secret. Really? So, if you believe you will live a life filled with success, fulfillment and riches it will make it happen. Sadly, no. However, keep reading, it actually can work. Just not so concretely.
Whenever we drive home my wife and I play the Law of Attraction parking game. It is hard to find a parking place in our urban neighborhood. So we envision the parking space and assume that we are going to find it. Does that magically create the parking space? No! But, consider this: by assuming we will find it, our behaviors change. We are looking at every small space as one that we might fit into, not as one that won’t work. We are looking at every space close to a fire hydrant as possibly being far enough away rather than ruling it out as too close. When there is a big event at the nearby stadium we don’t let it affect our optimism about our ability to find a space. I believe that this orientation leads to behaviors that can help you actually achieve your goals and change your life. If you don’t believe me, ask Oprah.
Another example that I use with clients: Say that you are looking for your lost keys. You decide to look for them in your bag. If you say to yourself that they are probably not in the bag, that thought will change your orientation to looking. Now, we can’t think magically here. If the keys aren’t in the bag, no amount of positive thinking or “Law of Attraction” thinking with make them appear. However, thinking that they are there will make us more able to find them if they are there.
Now for how all this affects us in our lives. Many people talk to me about wanting to find love or success at work. In applying the Law of Attraction here, it's unhelpful to believe that just thinking these things will lead to it happening. However, believing that you will find love or that you will be successful at work will change every interaction you have with every date and opportunity, and that will increase your chances of finding what you are looking for. In fact, much of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is about thinking and behaving adaptively in situations so that your increase your chances of desired feelings and results. However, in CBT we work to make these positive beliefs more powerful by helping people to base them in data or things that they observe about themselves or others.
So, as the great sport psychology book Mind Gym suggests, there is no guarantee that positive thinking will help you, but without a doubt, negative thinking will hurt you. Here’s to hoping that by believing the best is coming, you will behave in a way that will attract all that you are looking for and more.