I read Brian Tracy’s The Luck Factor when I was 12, one of his “universal laws” is the “law of attraction” which essentially states that anything you make your dominant thought will be attracted into your life. Being so young at the time I wholeheartedly accepted it into my life.
Once I grew up a bit I got a job as a sales trainer, and whilst developing a sales course I re-read The Luck Factor. I was SHOCKED, Tracy explained that success through the law of attraction basically worked through some sort of higher power, universal energy, new-age magic thing.
A belief that I’d held deeply since my formative years was based on fantastical nonsense, and I am a man of science! The strange thing was that the more I tried to discredit the law of attraction in my mind the more I realised that my life had been positively influenced by holding my ultimate desires in the forefront of my mind.
What Makes the Law of Attraction Successful?
This is the definition from Brian Tracy’s website:
“You always attract into your life the people, ideas, and resources in harmony with your dominant thoughts.” Pretty cool stuff, right? By making your dominant thoughts things that you want you can simply attract it into your life. However if you dig a bit deeper you see what’s going on…
“Law of Attraction is one of the oldest Universal Laws known to man, and when used the right way, it’s incredibly powerful…I spent the next 20 years searching for the answer to that question. I studied philosophy, metaphysics, religion, spiritual development, psychology and success principals…” – Source: Braintracy.com
Gross. Whenever anyone talks about metaphysics, spirituality, or universal laws it’s always a good sign to put your guard up, they are either selling you snake oil or something that they don’t fully understand themselves.
And yet Brain Tracy has thousands of testimonials saying that his methods work, that many people can’t be deluded can they?
We Are All Deluded
Human beings create their own narrative for how the world works, through the brain’s cognitive biases. Cognitive bias’ are essentially thought shortcuts (thoughtcuts, to coin a phrase), that the brain uses to process information faster, or in a way that our simple minds can comprehend. Our brains will automatically disregard some sources of information, objective realities, and stick to already held beliefs to view situations.
Due to these thoughtcuts, it is incredibly difficult (and some would argue impossible) for us to see the world as it actually is, without our ego, experiences, and emotions getting in the way. We filter the world through a lens of belief and basically see what we want to see.
First of all, we have to assume that the “law of attraction” is true, that we do indeed attract things into our life simply by thinking about them, this brings into play:
We filter information through what already think to be true. For example, take the headline “1,000 refugees enter the UK”, you may see this as proof that the UK is doing it’s part to help the world, or you may feel validated in your opinion that the government has weakened its stance on immigration.
Similarly, we ignore or give less credence to information that goes against our beliefs. So if you believe that you do actually attract the things you want into your life, you’ll look for things that prove that to be true, and interpret information in a way that confirms that belief.
So if you think that someone or something has entered your life to help you gain something, then it’s likely you’ll find a way that they can help you do something.
These two are both based on human’s inability to process large numbers or data sets. The Texas Sharpshooter fallacy is based on the idea that a man randomly shoots his barn hundreds of times, and then paints a target where a large majority of shots hit. When we interact with random coincidences, we assume that they are in some way special or unique when in reality we aren’t processing all the information available to us.
For example, my Mum’s name is Rachel and her husband’s name is Phillip, a close friend of mine’s Mum’s name is Rachel and his Dad’s is Phillip! And we grew up in the same village! Bizarre, until to take into account that my friend and I are the same age. So are parents’ are roughly the same age, “Rachel” and “Phillip” were popular names when they were born. Similarly, my friend and I both have similar socio-economic backgrounds that allowed both our parents to move to the same location.
Similarly, apophenia is when human’s give meaning to random events. For example, say you’re talking a friend about Jurassic Park, then that very same evening you flick through the TV channels and Jurassic Park is on TV. “WOW, what are the odds of that happening?!” you think to yourself and assume that some sort of higher power has blessed you with this chance to watch a cherished film.
With apophenia hand-in-hand with confirmation bias, we can assume that the meaning we give to random situations is that there is some sort of meaning to unconnected events. In reality, we are the ones that give the two separate events meaning.
Incredibly, how humans perceive the world directly affects the outcomes they get. Often, we make our minds up about something long before we even experience it. “I know I’m going to hate it” you say when you’re girlfriend’s Mum asks you to go to an experimental dance concert, and you end up feeling bored and confused. It’s likely because
I’ve you’ve spent the last two hours mentally making fun of the show.
Extrapolate that into your day-to-day life. You wake up, “it’s going to be a shit day,” you say to yourself. How often are you right? Now remember when you wake up and think “YES! Today is MY day,” how’d those days go?
Behavioural confirmation is the idea that people behave in the way we expect them to. So, if you expect a certain person to act aggressively, you may unconsciously act aggressively toward them as a pre-defence, causing them to act aggressively.
You often create the outcome you expect consciously or unconsciously. If you go out one day expecting to find something that will bring you one step closer to your dream you probably will.
Selective attention assumes that human beings simply cannot process the amount of information that we experience every day, so you brain simply ignores most of what’s going on around you. when you’re walking down the road unless you really concentrate how much are you aware of? Other than possible sources of danger, the podcast you were listening to, and what you were going to have to dinner, you probably didn’t experience too much.
We tune out everything that isn’t relevant to our interests, this allows us to focus on the things that are relevant to us. For example, my girlfriend and I live in South Korea, and she wanted to get a bikini wax. Now this isn’t really offered in many places in SK, but one week after us having the conversation about bikini waxing, we started to find leaflets and flyers all over the place offering bikini waxes!
This is best explained by the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, which is when you discover a new word and then suddenly see it everywhere! Essentially you brain prioritises recent information and looks for more of it.
By constantly thinking about the think that you want from life, it stays as recent information so your brain labels that thing as a “priority” and will filter things relating to it to your subconscious.
It’s alright to be a little success crazy
So there you have it. This is how an untrained psychologist reckons you can hack your brain to finding things that will help you toward your dream. Here’s how to make your brain’s cognitive bias’ work in your favour:
- Think about your goal every day to get your brain to prioritise information that will help you reach your goal
- Assume that you’re going to succeed and that people want to help you
- Realise that most of the time it’s you that determines the meaning of a situation and how it’s connected to other situations
- Tell yourself that the world is full of opportunity and wants to help you reach your goal
If you found this post useful please share it with someone who you think it’ll help.
We’ve got some more great stuff on changing your perception to reach financial freedom:
- What “positive thinking” really means: Tired of all those people who won’t let anyone say anything that may hurt someone’s feelings? In this article, we show you how thinking positive isn’t all smiles and compliments
- 5 powerful ways friends help you achieve your dreams: Incredibly, we don’t often think about exactly how our friends propel us to greatness. In this article, I highlight all the things that make friends invaluable to succeeding
- 5 easy life changes to give yourself a powerful Slight Edge: One of the easiest things we can do to change our life is… basically nothing. Inspired by Jeff Olson’s The Slight Edge I show you 5 examples of small changes that have a huge effect on your life