How to Use the Law of Attraction to Achieve Your Goals

CoachHub · 19 January 2023 · 10 min read

Vision boards, positive energy, positive affirmations, The Secret, New Age and The Law of Attraction are all concepts loosely based on Eastern philosophies and, in some cases, Physics. They were especially popular in the early 2000s and there aren’t conclusive, peer-reviewed studies on the efficacy of the practices they recommend.

Yet, there are studies about how developing a positive outlook can benefit physical well-being and mental health and help you improve your relationships at home and at work. Could learning more about the power of attraction and positive thinking help you achieve your goals or manifest your dreams? What exactly is it? And are there any negatives to the philosophy?

What is the law of attraction?

At its foundation, the law of attraction, sometimes called the power of attraction, is really the idea that if you focus on what you want and believe it will happen, then it will. Picture the Wizard of Oz scene where the Good Witch tells Dorothy to slick her heels while saying and thinking “there’s no place like home.” Magic and magical thinking, that’s how many scientists view the theories behind the power of attraction.

Yet, the laws of attraction are similar to the religious ideas of belief and faith. In many ways, its origins are ancient religions and philosophies. There are similar concepts in Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish and Christian writings.

law of attraction

New Thought movement of the 19th century

The laws of attraction, as we’ve come to know them today, began in the 19th century with the Christian New Thought movement in the United States. That movement was diverse, but most people credit Phineas P. Quimby (1802-1866), a mental and spiritual healer and hypnotist as the founder of the movement. Quimby taught that physical illness is all in the mind. His most famous student was Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science. By the late 1890s, New Thought philosophies had evolved beyond healing to include the mind’s power to create material success.

Although most proponents of New Thought ideas were Christians, the origin of many of the movement’s teachings originate with 5th to 4th century BCE Greek philosopher Plato and Platonic idealism. He believed that the “realm of ideas”, in other words, of the mind, is more real than the material world. Other 19th-century movements that are similar to Free Thought or influenced by it include:

  • Hegelianism, based on 18th-19th century German Philosopher, G.W.F. Hegel
  • Swedenborgianism, based on the teachings of 18th century theologian, Emanual Swedenborg
  • Theosophy, founded in New York in 1875 by Helena P. Blavatsky, Colonel Henry Steel Olcott, and William Q. Judge to study platonic philosophy, and other religious philosophies including Hinduism, Buddhism, Kabbalah and Sufism and bridge Eastern and Western philosophies
  • Transcendentalism, based on the ideas of philosopher-poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson

From New Thought to New Age – the 20th century

There is a lot of conflicting information on who used the term, “Law of Attraction” first but most people accept that the concepts most similar to what people refer to as “laws of attraction” and “power of attraction” started in 1906 with William Walker Atkinson and his book Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World. He’s credited with distilling the ideas of manifestation, vibration, energy and thought.

Over the ensuing decades, many other writers, philosophers and seekers wrote and spoke about the power or law of attractions, including Wallace D. Wattles 1910, who wrote The Science of Getting Rich. The idea of the laws of attraction went in and out of fashion several times, but never died. Then came the New Age movement that began in the 1970s and 1980s and continues today.

New Age is similar in many ways to ideas in the New Thought Christian movement but also fully embraces multiple religious and non-religious ideas. And while most proponents of New Thought were and are Christians, the same can’t be said for all proponents of New Age ideas. New Age ideas are so prevalent that today 62% of Americans, secular and sectarian, hold at least one New Age belief.

The Secret

In 2006, Rhonda Byrne wrote and published The Secret, based on her studies of the ideas in Wattles’ The Science of Getting Rich. When most people think about the power of attraction, it’s Byrne’s book that introduced them to the term. Her book, and the subsequent film based on it, introduced ideas into the mainstream like creating a vision board. That practice involves setting a goal or goals, cutting out images of the elements of the type of life you’d like to have, then pasting them on poster board to help you visualise and manifest your dreams and goals.

The ideas from Byrne’s book have infiltrated popular culture. Besides her own books numerous authors, life coaches and contemporary spiritual philosophers have written books based on one or more ideas from The Secret. There are even books on vision boards alone.

Positive psychology

Positive psychology might sound similar to the ideas taught by New Thought and New Age enthusiasts. However, unlike those philosophies and the literal interpretation of the law of attraction, positive psychology is based on scientific studies into the physical and mental health benefits of concentrating on the present moment and positive emotions such as self-compassion, mindfulness, kindness and gratitude. Still, if the ideas and teachings within books like The Secret help you focus on developing a positive outlook, then they are worth learning more about.

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How many laws of attraction are there?

Because there are so many sources and influences on the ideas behind the law of attraction, it’s virtually impossible to talk about the origin of the number of sub-laws within the concept itself. Some say the law of attraction is just one of 12 so-called “Universal Laws.” However, the origin of those 12 laws is also murky.

Regardless, most authors and life coaches speak and write about seven sub-laws, including business and life coach, Sharon Howat. The following seven laws of attraction overview is based partly on her definitions:

1. Law of manifestation

This law is one that most people assume is the law of attraction. The law of manifestation suggests that what we think about is what will happen in our lives. Think about negative outcomes and negative things will happen. Think about positive things and positive events will occur. Whatever you direct your thoughts towards, positive or negative is what you will manifest, according to this precept.

2. Law of magnetism

This law contradicts that old adage of “opposites attract,” (a concept actually based on Newtonian and Particle Physics – e.g., Newton’s for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction) Instead, the law of magnetism says that like the Universe, we’re composed of something called “vibrational energy.”

Therefore, like “vibrational energy” attracts like “vibrational energy.” And, our “vibrational energy” is made of all our thoughts and experiences, according to this belief. Therefore, we attract people and situations into our lives that have the same energy vibration qualities as we do.

To change that, this law says you must ensure you’re only “sending out” the same quality of energy you want to attract to your life. Therefore, focus on and send out only positive vibrations and positive energy to pull in only good things and good people to your life.

3. Law of pure desire

This law posits that only with certainty can a person harness the power of attraction. In other words, if the laws of attraction aren’t working, then it’s because you have hidden doubt and don’t truly believe you will succeed or in the law itself. By taking a step back and refocusing on what you’re manifesting, you can then harness the law or the power of positive thinking back into your life.

4. Law of paradoxical intent

Also known as, the law of delicate balance, this law says that by balancing emotions, thoughts and energy (as in “vibrational energy”), a person can ensure they’re releasing only high-frequency, high-quality “vibrations” into the universe. If we remove the New Age and non-science-backed language and instead look at things from the lens of positive psychology, the advice would be to focus on positive thoughts and feelings including appreciation in order to improve our lives and relationships.

5. Law of harmony

The fifth law concerns the idea of “the interconnectedness of everything,” (thinly based on physics – in this case, a misunderstanding of quantum theory and the idea of quantum entanglement). The law of harmony claims that everyone and everything connects back to the universe and the universe connects back to them as well. It goes on to put forward that by aligning, getting in harmony with the positive vibrations of the universe, a person can harness the vibrations of the universe to achieve their goals.

6. Law of conscientious action

Basically, the idea behind this law is “what goes around, comes around.” This law is based on the belief that by helping others and expressing gratitude and love to others, we can attract good things into our lives. Many religions contain a similar idea.

7. Law of expanding influence

This law concerns the influence a person’s words, thoughts and deeds have on not just them, but everyone else. That so-called “vibrational energy” affects friends, family and coworkers. Beyond that, this law claims that how we think and feel and what we do, can help or hinder people in our circle and beyond, including people and events we aren’t aware of. The idea is to be more aware of your effect on others.

laws of attraction

Are there disadvantages to the law of attraction?

There’s nothing wrong with looking at how our actions affect others and how others perceive us. There’s also nothing wrong with using any tool to help us set a goal, focus on the positive and then work towards taking action to achieve that goal. Conversely, there’s also nothing harmful about using positive thinking to improve our health, our relationships and our careers. And, if using a concept like the law of attraction to help focus those efforts helps you do that, then that’s good too.

However, it’s important to remember that the law of attraction and many books about it aren’t based on sound science. Dr. Neil Farber M.D., Ph.D., CLC, CPT has written extensively in “Psychology Today” about the problems with the law of attraction. In this article, he details 14 reasons why the belief system isn’t true.

Consider this, there’s no way to be aware of our subconscious thoughts. By definition, they are beneath what’s conscious. If you follow every law of attraction to the letter but nothing happens, what does that mean? Are you negative? Or a bad person? Even if there was scientific proof that these laws work, again, it’s impossible to eliminate every little unconscious fear you might have standing in your way.

Moreover, some people might consider some of the ideas to be an appropriation of their own very real religious or cultural background and beliefs. Other people may have been abused by individuals or a cult’s version of the laws of attraction. Some people use these philosophies to induce guilt and negative feelings in their victims for their own personal or monetary gain. Others might decide a person isn’t following the laws of attraction correctly or the person interferes with their own practice. As a result, they might misuse the law of attraction to justify labelling someone or a group as “toxic” or “negative” and ostracise them from the group.

How to use positive thinking and similar concepts to accomplish your career goals

Regardless of how you feel about the law of attraction, positive thinking can help you achieve your life and career goals. If New Age thought and similar methods help you focus on a more positive outlook, and you’re mindful of not using them to judge or harm others, then the law of attraction might help you. To harness it, follow these three steps from The Secret and others:

  1. Ask (focus) for (on) what you want – this can be from the universe, a higher power or your goals.
  2. Believe you deserve to achieve your goals and that you will achieve them.
  3. Receive (from the Universe), in other words, recognize when you achieve good things.

If the idea of using the law of attraction goes counter to your beliefs or you prefer to follow methods backed by science and data, look into positive psychology and positive thinking instead. Start by fostering more gratitude in your life and towards your employees and colleagues. Leadership coaching can also help improve your attitude in ways that improve your management skills, help you achieve your goals and improve yours and your employees’ wellbeing.

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