Why You Should Break the Law of Attraction

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you are reading my blog, you are likely interested in personal development and have read many books and blogs on various ways to feel better, get motivated,  be productive, overcome problems, and find your passion.

One topic that seems to have “attracted” a lot of attention is the law of attraction. In short, the law of attraction suggests that like attracts like and that our thoughts control everything in our lives from our health to our finances.

If we send out the right thoughts to the universe, we will attract (manifest) all of the positive things to us we desire. And according to the law, negative events are the result of our negative or misguided thinking.

There are hundreds of books on the topic, and believe me, I’ve read many of them. Some of the most well-known and best-selling are The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill, You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay, and Ask and It Is Given by Jerry Hicks.

The basic premise of all of these books is the same: think about it, visualize it, affirm it, and see it manifested — and then it will manifest (meaning you will get it).

There are some important details you must learn about how to phrase your affirmations (in positive rather than negative language such as what you want rather than what you don’t want), and how to visualize things as already happening rather than occurring in the future.

The language of the law of attraction proponents is spiritual, magical, confident, and comforting. (Except for the part suggesting that anything bad happening to you is a result of your negative thinking which is pretty scary.) It promises if you can just tap in to the right frequency “out there” somewhere, you can have anything you want. With enough practice affirming and visualizing correctly, you will have the key to the abundance of the universe.

I spent a lot of time trying to attract things into my life and a lot of time in my head visualizing and affirming. Sometimes things worked out and sometimes they didn’t.

It was nice to think that I attracted the good things, but not so great to accept that my thinking caused the bad things.

How about you? Has the law of attraction consistently worked for you?

In recent years, I have come to realize that the law of attraction should be replaced with “the law of action.” I have also come to understand that both good and bad things in life have very little to do with manipulating the universe through thinking. They have far more to do with manipulating our hands and feet to get moving.

I’m not rejecting the power of positive thinking out of hand.

In fact, I know there is real science supporting the fact that repetitive thinking can rewire your brain and support the success of your actions. Read the book The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science  to see what I mean.

But, I don’t think you can rely on repetitive thinking alone to “manifest” outcomes. A study mentioned in The Brain That Changes Itself revealed that a group of men practiced visualizing bicep curls for a period of time (without actually doing any exercises), and that their biceps did increase in size over that time. But the book goes on to say that repetitive action is what creates the most dramatic results in positive change. (That’s why athletic coaches use visualization to support actual practice.)

Positive thinking and visualization can get the ball rolling toward action and can reinforce action.

So maybe it should be called The Law of Getting the Ball Rolling rather than The Law of Attraction. And frankly, it doesn’t matter what you call it. What matters is that you DO something.

Yes, we can sit around and read books and visualize and chant and create dream boards. Those can be good and helpful things. But at some point, enough is enough. You need to pick up the pen, type the first word, make the first call, knock on the first door, put on your running shoes.

Whatever it is you want, you need to break out of the law of attraction and embrace the law of action.

One of my favorite writers is success coach Steve Chandler who knows a thing or two about making things happen. He wrote about this in a book he recently sent me called The Life Coaching Connection: How Coaching Changes Lives in which he takes the law of action one step further:

Once I drop my love affair with the idea of attraction, what can I replace it with? I mean, I might want a spouse or a partner. Am I to now be deliberately unattractive? I might want customers or clients. I might want wealth coming into my life. So if I’m not going to be utilizing the law of attraction, if I’m not going to sit quietly and picture these things coming into my world, then what can I do instead?

What I recommend for people to do is make a difference. To actually make a difference all day, every day, by using creation. By substituting creation for where they once had attraction as their operating system. Rather than attracting a partner, I want to create a relationship. Now I can become active. I can join clubs; I join church groups and connect with civilization. (Chandler 44, 45)

Wow — make a difference!

Use creation!

Those are empowering ideas. That puts the control squarely in your corner.

Rather than waiting for the universe to manifest something for you, go out and create something — make a difference in the world. Maybe you aren’t manifesting a new Lamborghini or a better job down the road, but you are creating something positive in the here and now.

That’s enough for me.

In fact, that’s really all I want.

I want to create something great in the here and now. I want to use this moment to make this moment the best moment it can be right now.

Visualizing and dreaming can be part of making a moment great. I think it should be at times. We need to step back from action on occasion to give room for creation. We need to sort out our ideas and clear our heads to determine what from the Pu-pu platter of life we want to do next and how we are going to do it. We need to use our thoughts to get the ball rolling.

But once the ball is rolling, don’t let it roll out into the universe and then wait for it to roll back to you, pulling your dream behind it. I’m sorry to say, but that just doesn’t happen. So get up off your chair and chase the ball. Run with it. Jump over it. Throw it in the air. Enjoy the chase even as you are running toward a destination.

You don’t need to wait for the law of attraction to kick in for good things to happen. Good things are with you right now. That’s the most magical reality in the universe — just look at all of the good things you have right now.

I’d like to attract a tweet from you!

Comments

  1. I very much enjoyed this post. You are bright and full of wisdom. Thanks for letting your light shine out into the world.

    Joseph http://www.explorelifeblog.com.

  2. Great post thanks! I always felt that it was all about action and intent as a part of the whole. Gratitude!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Jeffrey,
      Yes, I believe intent is a great word for positive thinking. When you intend for something to happen, you put power and promise behind it. Add in action, and you are on your way!

  3. gretchenix says:

    I beg to disagree with you ma’am . In a way Law of attraction should not be replaced by law of action but should be combines with the law of action. Any thing in life should be corresponded with actions. I learn to visualize things but there is always an action I have to combine with it. I don’t wait for it to happen, I do something to make it happen, but still your insight s about positive thoughts in totality makes it more worthwhile to read and makes us more reflect on life too.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Gretchen,
      I agree that visualization and positive thinking should be combined with action. In fact, as I mention in the post, there is science to support the power of visualization. But visualization without creation and action is not enough. At least that’s been my experience!

  4. Hi Barrie,

    I never really bought into the law of attraction. It always sounded kind of fluffy to me. That’s not to say that I reject positive thinking and embrace negativity. I know that being negative doesn’t resolve problems and it certainly hinders any creativity on my part to problem solving. That said, the law of attraction is useful, but only up to a point, it is merely one tool in our arsenal of tools when it comes to managing life. So we should see the law of attraction in its proper perspective.

    Like you I believe it is also vital to take action to get what we want. Only when we adapt and adjust to the times and circumstances will we be able to come up with creative ways to make our goals a reality.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article! 🙂

    Irving the Vizier

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Irving,
      Yes, you put that very well — it is one tool in our arsenal for managing life. But it’s not the magical answer to getting what you want. It reinforces our actions and provides the positive energy needed to take those actions.

  5. Jim Devine says:

    Great post! Im a Chandler fan as well.The law of attraction is a great “positive” perspective,but dreaming and manifesting without action (consistent) action is more dangerous and self-sabotaging than anything (in my experience) Thanks!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      I’m so glad you like it Jim. Yes, I think some of the law of attraction material can lead people to believe that they are not “good enough” if they aren’t manifesting what they want. There are so many forces at play related to any outcome in our lives. A bad outcome doesn’t have anything to do with not following the laws of attraction properly.

  6. Tess The Bold Life says:

    Amen!

  7. Thank you! I often worry that we are becoming a generation of “positive thinkers” without substance. I agree with The Vizier – it takes an “arsenal of tools when it comes to managing life.”

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      The only thing that has led me to success of any kind is taking the first step. While I’m taking the step, visualizing success is a great motivator!

  8. Hi Barrie!

    I’ve had many conversations about the law of attraction and what I think it is or isn’t. I like your take on the law of action, which I definitely believe is a huge part of it.

    I believe the law of attraction works without fail, but with one caveat: if the thing you want so badly is going to fill some unfulfilled need from your past or keep you euphorically happy for the rest of your life, then it ain’t gonna happen. It’s not the thing that you want, it’s the meaning you are putting on it.

    If you want a fancy car to be respected, you can learn self-respect and you no longer need the car. If you are desperately searching for a significant other to love you, you can start by learning to love yourself.

    Once you are properly “healed,” you can see those desires for what they really are, without the emotional attachment, and in my life experience, the things I wanted just showed up on their own with little effort once I undid the emotional meaning I was placing on it.

    In short, you can attract whatever you want. It works. But if you’re wanting it to fill an emotional hole, there’s a good chance you will either not get it…or worse, you will get it and realize it doesn’t do what you thought it would and you will look for something else.

    All wealth, peace and contentment starts with you, not outside of you.

    And Barrie, I truly believe, that when the emotional attachment with the desire is unraveled, the action is clear.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Paul,
      I totally agree that it’s important to examine your motives for wanting things. But I can tell you from personal experience that I have “manifested” things I wanted really badly — and it was to fill an emotional hole. And yes, I did realize that it didn’t do what I thought it would do. But my awareness of that came with maturity and self-reflection. The things came to me because I thought I wanted them, I worked hard for them, I took the steps to get them, I maximized my opportunities for success, and I succeeded. But not because I attracted them. I think for me, I find it more valuable spending time creating something great in the present that attracting things for the future. But I could be wrong! 🙂

  9. I agree wholeheartedly. In fact I’ve always distrusted the Law of Attraction, especially in some of its manifestations which seem to focus too squarely on acquiring material possessions which we all know in our heart of hearts won’t fill us with joy for more than the first five minutes.
    Dream your dreams then take action – you’re absolutely right.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      The attraction principles were much more attractive to me when I was younger and wanted more things. Of course, I couldn’t afford a lot of the things I wanted, so I thought I should try attracting them. As I’ve gotten older (and gotten many of the things I thought I wanted), I realize that I already have 90% of what really brings happiness anyway. And I realize that the process is often more fun that the outcome!

  10. Hello Barrie,
    The first time I watched ‘The Secret’ movie, I was awed so that I searched ’till I found the book and read it cover to cover. Later, on reflection about the point that bad things happen because we have attracted them was, as you say, a scary thought and one I found hard to understand. After a while of visualizing and doing all the other parts of the law’s ‘prescription’ I started feeling overwhelmed by a desire to do more… to take ACTION. In short, I agree with you that action is a vital ingredient if the law of attraction is to be realized.
    Have an attractive and active time.
    Murigi

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      That’s the part of the law of attraction that is useful Murigi — that it can excite you enough to take action. I like the word “intention” — because it suggests real commitment and action. If you intend to have a new job, then you do what it takes to get one.

  11. Having a decent round of golf (most of the time) requires the ability to focus precisely on where the next shot should land…we VISUALIZE the ball flying through the air, and landing where we need it to land, or rolling in a perfect line and dropping into the hole on the green.

    The next step of course is to actually strike the ball…without taking ACTION, no amount of visualization will produce the desired results. Simple, isn’t it? VISUALIZATION + ACTION = RESULTS! And to think that people spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars in pursuit of harnessing the Laws of the Universe. Go play golf and learn the lessons you need to live successfully! 🙂

    All the best,

    Jon

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Amen to that Jon! Athletes figured out the law a long time ago. See it in the hole, then hit it in the hole. 🙂

  12. Barrie,

    Thanks for this article! I kept thinking the same thing lately and all of the recent materials and studies that I read just proved the fact that positive thinking is just not enough. I’ve been reading a book lately called Willpower by Baumeister and Tierney that talks about the false expectations that law of attraction gives. Yes, it will make you feel better, it might even boost your confidence but in the long run it never helps you reach your goals and accomplish anything important and meaningful in life.

    I completely support your call for the Law of Action. It is the best and the only effective one!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      That sounds like an interesting book Anastasiya. Sometimes it’s disappointing to think that something so highly-touted doesn’t completely hold water. But I like the idea that I am in control of my destiny — not some attraction force that I may or may not be doing correctly. I don’t like the idea that if it doesn’t work, it’s my fault — not a faulty principle.

  13. The Law of Action is EXACTLY what I have found to be so successful since I started by own website/blog. This almost daily posting has forced aside all my decades of “blocks” to be a real live WRITER again. And participating in several other blogs, such as yours, has really joined me to entire worlds of creativity again, as I once experienced, before I became afraid of my own personality and intellect. Much gratitude for this article!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Rose,
      Yes, you definitely demonstrate that to become a writer, you write. To become a dancer, you dance. To become anything or achieve anything, you take action. I am so glad you enjoyed the post. 🙂

  14. Hello Barrie

    Enjoyed reading reading about your post.What it cuts to the chase to is we should re examine our self awareness.

  15. Your fresh point of view and get-the-ball-rolling thoughts are appreciated.

  16. You took the words right out of my mouth, Barrie!

    There are some wonderful people I adore who advocate the idea. But it violates just about everything I believe about life. Thanks for articulating it so well here. Action, in my estimation, is the law of the universe.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Well, keep spreading the word yourself Ken! People need to believe that they have control over their own lives and can make things happen by taking the first step, then the next . . .

  17. Hi Barrie,
    Well, you went at it with this one. The Law of Attraction sounds “nice”, it’s a great marketing line. All thoughts should lead to some sort of action, hopefully positive…..otherwise they remain as thoughts only.
    “The Law of Attraction” is the big(ger) picture…..we still need to fill in the gaps so to speak. Consistent action is one of the steps to take and can build on our visualisation & imagination. Thank you for taking us to a different place of thought.
    be good to yourself
    David

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi David,
      Haa! I didn’t mean to go at it. I just know what has and hasn’t been successful for me. For me, thoughts are a starting place, action makes thoughts a reality, and visualization helps you stay motivated and get there faster. Would I like it if I visualized and things just appeared? Sure! But so far, that hasn’t happened. So I rely on what works. 🙂

  18. Hi Barrie – Action is key to improving one’s life. I’ve gone back and forth on the law of attraction but have become convinced of late that it’s a big factor in achieving what you set out to do. The person who convinced me of that is Melody Fletcher @ Deliberate Receiving. One of her recent podcasts is a good overview and resonated well with me: http://www.deliberateblog.com/2011/10/16/imagining-you-all-naked-did-not-help-one-freakin-bit/ Melody says it’s not so much the thoughts of attraction but the feelings and emotions behind it that matter just as much. She regularly advises feeling good to bring good things in your life. And raising our emotional state. I’ve found from reading Melody’s blog, the traditional law of attraction teachings have shortcomings – Melody, I find, tends to give the full picture. And gives great advice that seems to work.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Vishnu,
      That’s an interesting view on the law of attraction. I think there is definite merit to it, but I see it more practically. When you feel better emotionally and have a higher emotional intelligence, you are going to have more energy and discipline to put toward successful action. But that’s just my thought on it! 🙂

  19. Totally agree with the principles in this post.

    I discovered Afformations by Noah St John a couple of years ago and when action is included then the ability to transform and create in areas of life important to me are magnified well beyond what I ever achieved with Affirmations.

    Thanks for a great blog.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Rod,
      I don’t know of Noah St. John, but I will check him out! Thanks for sharing. A long time ago I heard the expression, “pray with your feet.” Basically it means ask for what you want but get yourself moving to go after it. When you start moving, inspiration and creativity will come alive. I think action attracts inspiration!

  20. Cathy | Treatment Talk says:

    Hi Barrie,

    I agree. I see the point of taking the time to understand what you are going after, but then you need to do the work, it is not magic, it will not just come to you.

    I think things happen when you have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish, but stay a bit detached from the outcome.

    My daughter is the perfect example. She has been wanting to move to Northern CA for a number of months now. Her roommate was going to move out in November, and the time was now for making a change. She patiently applied, applied and applied for jobs. Don’t you know, she was hired, moved yesterday and starts the new job Wednesday. She said it was interesting that once she had been offered the job, several calls came in from other companies that she had been talking to asking if she was still available, etc. The law of attraction is there, but you need to do your part.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Cathy, I love the idea of staying detached from the outcome. Shakti Gawain, who wrote Creative Visualization, ended her affirmations with, “this or something better is manifesting for me and all concerned.” Keeping yourself open to all possibilities is a creative and experimental way to approach life. Staying open affords the possibility of something even more amazing than what you are working toward.

  21. I totally agree with your insightful explanation. Visualization is a powerful tool but it is only the first step. Dreams are very important as they will push you forward and motivate you. And you should remind yourself daily of your dreams and life vision. It will help you focus on the few things you want to achieve or create or accomplish. But once you are clear about what you want, you need to develop a plan and start taking daily action to make it happen. This is how you “attract” the results you want into your life. You create them!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Yuval, you make a great point. Dreams and visualization help you focus — an remained focused. You visualize daily not to attract but to remind and refresh your dreams!

  22. sophia fernandes says:

    Thank you Barrie for sharing your deep reflections, since you experienced it strongly in your way of life, i feel overwhelmed to know that dreams can be fulfilled with the first step that i take ..it only asks from us a deep trust in ourselves and the positive vibration from the supreme power that exist to make it happen. Hope to find this strength and courage to take the first step, to risk life for meaningful life. Barrie dear, feel so strengthened by your affirming words. with kind regards Sophia

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Sophia,
      Yes, every step is a dream fulfilled, just as every drop of water in the ocean is a microcosm of the entire ocean. There is as much to enjoy about the process of achieving as there is in the fulfillment!

  23. So interesting and informative post. Passion and low of attraction are a complicated themes. I like your article http://www.cigs4girls.com/

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Donna,
      Maybe they aren’t so complicated after all. Maybe it’s very simple: visualize what you want, determine the steps needed to achieve it, take the steps and continue to visualize, adjust where needed, succeed! 🙂

  24. Hi Barrrie!
    Thank you so much for your post!
    I saw the movie first, and although it appealed tome, it sounded a bit too fantastic for me! I felt that it needed something more, as this just could not be it. But all of my friends believed it so fully and totally, I felt like I was this crazy skeptic…. A close friend of mine, lost her job, and was looking for another one for a long time…. Then she saw the movie and read, and re-read the book a million times, slept on the book, and then started to try to live out the principles of the book. She meditates daily, does not look for a job, and get involved in many of the groups with similar message. Needles to say, it has been 4/5 years, and she is meditating, wishing and visualizing, but all of the jobs that she received were a temporary assignments for a minimum wage…. and she has had a Director position before! I get so frustrated talking to her, as I see her do nothing and the time is passing… She believes, that one day, the job will appear almost in front of her, and that will arrive together with this dream man she is waiting for. Your message is so great! It is just exactly what my friend needs. As much as meditation was great for her, because it got her to quiet down, to slow down, but action is necessary for anything to happen! Thank you for your wisdom!
    Pamela

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Pamela,
      Wow — what a story. It makes me sad to think of all of the mental and emotional energy she could have been funneling into real action. Even if you do believe in the power of the law of attraction, taking action can’t hurt! Why not double up your efforts and cover all of your bases?? Sometimes people don’t want to see that the Emperor isn’t wearing clothes! 🙂

  25. Thanks Barrie, I really liked this post!

  26. Attraction + Action = Traction. Great reminder.

  27. The book, The Secret and the law of attraction has put us back on track—it aids us to focus on what we really desire to manifest in our lives. This is certainly a good first step—without it—you are totally in the dark, letting circumstances, drive you where they may. So having this information, has really helped.
    Now is the time for action—even having a vision board—you still need to take action by creating and researching what you want on the board. So I totally agree with you, that taking action is a major next step after defining what your intention, your passion, your dream job, your life is going to be. I heard it said that your are an artist so start creating your life!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      That’s right Cris — success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, right?! I wish The Secret had added a chapter about action. It has left many people believing that with the correct thinking you can make things appear.

      • i agree with that, barrie. it was a misconception, that positive thinking is all you need to succeed and be happy. there has to be action involved. i also believe it all starts in the mind, as our thoughts create our habits, and our habits our character, and our character defines who we are and what we can become.

        thanks!

  28. If visualizing the positive and ALL the THINGS we want was all there was to it, we wouldn’t spend time reading your blog and others like it. Even though you are positive and encouraging, we would have to spend more time lying flat on our backs or not accomplishing the tasks at hand while we visualize. You make a good point that this activity is ok, in fact dreaming about what life could be or would be or want to be is not all that bad as it can stir up hope in the things to come but you are especially right in that today we take steps, actual steps to the life we want NOW. These steps make tomorrow a better and stronger place and also bring all those hopes and dreams of the future into focus and closer by means of moving and living each day to the fullest. Life is happening now. Live fully now. Don’t wait for tomorrow to bring what you are not doing now. Tomorrow arrives and it becomes today. Today, Now, Life, Fullness, Presence, Hope, Love, Relationships, Work, Passion, Retreat, Rest, Enjoyment, Deep Breath, NOW!
    Thank you for this post. I relate to it, I believe it, I aspire to it!
    Donita

  29. “The law of action” – really like the way you look at it 😉

  30. great post, barrie!

    i agree with you a lot. it doesn’t make sense to continue on dreaming about something and not doing anything about it! that’s reality.

    i believe more on being proactive, rather than just sitting around and wait for things around you to get better. thanks to you and Mr. Leo Babauta, i have learned to live in the moment, not looking back to what could have been, what should have been or what has been, and not anxiously waiting some point in the future where things hopefully will be better.

    our destiny is always in our hands.

    thanks!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      I’m so glad you found the post useful Raymund. No, don’t wait around. You’ve probably already learned that waiting gets you nowhere fast! Savor what you are doing right now! 🙂

  31. I liked your refreshing take on the Law of Attraction. Hoping and praying doesn’t get you anywhere most of the time. Like you said, it’s action. The hardest part is taking the first step. Then it’s all downhill.:)

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      You are so right Carly. That first step is the hardest, but it’s never as hard doing it as it is thinking about it, right?

  32. I’m SO glad I dug into the archives! Love this post! I’ve struggled with the Law of Attraction – it sounds promising, but I had my doubts about it…Which I quickly dismissed, because thoughts become things, right? 😉 I like the Law of Action WAY better – it’s why the Law of Attraction even works! Because by thinking of your intention, you’re holding that at the forefront of your mind, the action is (hopefully) bound to follow.

    Ah, it feels good to shake off the mystical Law of Attraction…I mean I love the magic, but practicality goes pretty far. Action is where it’s at! Thanks Barrie!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      You are so welcome Kaylee. It made so much more sense to me too. I like to deal with practical realities. I know what works for me, and very rarely has just thinking and wishing made something happen in my life!