Last night Mark was explaining “goal visualisation” to some of the College’s students in China (with me doing interpretation of course, since he doesn’t speak Mandarin and the students mostly don’t understand English). Then a student asked, “When we tell clients to visualise their goals, isn’t this to do with law of attraction?”
The law of attraction (LOA) is the belief that the universe creates and provides for you that which your thoughts are focused on, so if you think positively, you will attract positive stuff. But it’s very much believed by most scientists that this is a pseudoscience. Yet when you do think about it, it seems to “exist”, so how do we explain it from a scientific perspective?
So here is Mark’s answer.
We are perceiving millions pieces of information in every second, through our eyes, skins, ears, etc all parts of our body. But our brain filters the irrelevant information away just so we are taking in what’s relevant. For example, our eyes can only see a few words each time, but we have the illusion that we can see the whole page, or we thought we can see the whole room, but in fact the eyes can only see a small portion of it, and the rest is made up by the brain, based on information it has. We didn’t actually see it.
When we set up a goal and visualise it, what makes it more likely to come true?
Let’s say now you’ve decided that you want to buy this Kawasaki Ninja motorbike one day when you are able to. And once this becomes your goal, somehow, all in a sudden, you start to notice this motorcycle on the road a lot more than usual. Obviously people don’t just start to ride on it just because it’s now your goal, but what? Your mind now sees it as relevant to you, and starts to allow it to enter your awareness. In other words, you start to notice it more now that it’s your goal, all the while they have been running on the roads.
So when you set a goal and is committed to it, you start to focus on it, your attention is on it, you are motivated to achieve it, you become more open to related information and opportunities, your attitudes also get more active (as opposed to passive), so it seems that “you think positively, you get positive outcome”, but during this process, there are many psychological and biological factors involved.
I remember buying a pair of running shorts from Decathlon or a Snoopy tee from Uniqlo, and in the next two weeks or so, I started to notice quite a few people wearing it. The mind now sees that this is “relevant” to me, while previously this would have been filtered out.
So say now your goal is to look for a job. You would now naturally notice more of the job searching platforms, vacancy advertisements, career advisory services, job centres etc, and thus you would naturally be exposed to more opportunities. So it’s not that thinking about getting a job gets you a job, but your attitudes of becoming more open and your behaviour matter. If you think very positively and do nothing at all all day, does all the positivity still happen out of nowhere?
Likewise let’s say you think that you are an unlucky person, and you’re likely to “see” how unlucky you are and feel miserable about it. Well if you only focus on all the bad things that happen to you and also expect the bad things to happen, it’s difficult to become lucky, right?
Perhaps I can also take this opportunity to recommend John Krumboltz’s “Luck is No Accident”, we can create our own luck, by staying open and curious, not planning much, and expect things to go unexpectedly.