I recently came across a video detailing “the secret law of attraction” — secret because people don’t know about it, and a law because it is infallible. In essence, what the law of attraction tells is that we get what we think about most of the time.
Is the law of attraction really that effective? Does it really work? I argue that it can work, but not in the magical sense so many authors would have you believe.
An attractive law
The law of attraction is a very attractive idea, perhaps most importantly in that it gives us a sense of hope. Not only the hope that our dreams may be fulfilled, but also in the hope that these dreams may be fulfilled easily, simply by thinking about it. This may be a reason why this law is so popular — can it get any easier to achieve our goals if all we need to do is to think about them?
Flaws in the reasoning
Proof is flawed
Most authors and speakers who write and talk about the law of attraction use anecdotal evidence to support the theory. Often these are their personal success stories, or those of people they know. That alone should set off a warning bell or two; in statistics we would be highlighting how flawed this method is in trying to prove anything. However, given the nature of this law, like the existence of God, it is difficult if not impossible to prove or disprove it.
You will also find that all the evidence will only be on the success stories. Anyone who fails while using the law of attraction is either ignored, or the author/speaker attempts to explain away the reason for their failures, such as: it is no use just thinking about achieving your goals, you have to do something about it; you did not have faith in the system; or that you did not hold the thoughts long enough.
In hindsight everything makes sense. People who succeed (achieve their goals) need to have thought about their goals in the first place. If someone comes up to you and asks, “what made you a success?” would you not be flattered by the question? Even if you had considered yourself somewhat a failure, your attention would be directed toward thinking about your success(es) and coming up with reasons to justify it — and what more intuitive reason can you give but that you had given much thought about your goals and that you worked toward achieving them?
Analogies are dubious
It does not help matters that advocates of this law often associate it with quantum mechanics. In quantum mechanics particles like light have a wave-particle dual nature — light travels in both waves and particles (photons). According to many law of attraction authors, reality has a similar dual nature, whereby our thoughts are the waves and the achievement of our goals the particles. Such an analogy is dubious, not least because quantum mechanics is backed up by experiment, while the law of attraction is backed up only by anecdotes.
By associating the law of attraction with quantum mechanics, unwarranted scientific credibility is attributed to it, much in the same way as calling it a “law” — you simply don’t fight laws because you know you probably won’t win. This leads people from testing the law of attraction anymore since it is already “proven” as fact.
How it may work
The law of attraction is overhyped. Thinking about your goals alone will not let you achieve them, but it is a great start. Perhaps the most important aspects of this “law” is that you will direct your attention toward the achievement of your goals. Directed attention will help you pick up on subtle things that previously you might have missed, such as pamphlets, magazines, advertisements, or even people that may aid you in your achievement of your goals.
I love to read and write. Professionally, data science, technology, and sales ops are my thing. In my non-professional life, I aspire quite simply to be a good person, and encourage others to do the same. For those who care, I test as INFJ in the MBTI.