What’s wrong with the Law of Attraction?

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I do not believe in the Law of Attraction. As you may know, I write self-help books. I do not discuss the Law of Attraction in any of my books. There is a reason for that. More than ten years ago, when it first became all the rage, I thought that the Law of Attraction is the next best thing to my first cup of coffee every morning. I am now much older and somewhat wiser and have done an awful lot of difficult living since. I have discovered that the theory supporting the Law of Attraction is full of holes.

This “law” is based on the assumption that “like” attracts “like.” According to the promoters of the Law of Attraction, all thoughts are energy, and each thought vibrates at a different frequency. Thoughts of similar frequencies attract each other. So, if you think positive thoughts the whole day long, you will attract positive events into your life. If you think negative thoughts the whole day long, say you spend most of your time worrying about what is going to go wrong in the future or obsessing about what went wrong in the past, you are in serious trouble.

Who can think positive thoughts the whole day long, though? I certainly can’t; I can barely manage to think positively from one moment to the next, never mind all day long.

It has been many years since I rejected the idea that the Law of Attraction could be of any use to me. Recently, while writing my latest book, it came back to haunt me. It sounds so tempting: all you have to do whenever you are desperate for something to happen in your life, is to lock yourself into a positive mindset, focus your thoughts on whatever it is that you want, ignore any self-doubt and avoid all self-criticism, believe that you already have what you want and voilà! You will have manifested your heart’s dearest desire.

If only it were that easy. Sigh.

In the last ten years, I have had more eye operations that I care to count, nearly all emergencies, nearly all in a wretched attempt to save my sight. Practising the Law of Attraction has made no difference to the outcome of my operations, I have still lost all sight in my left eye (I now have a very fancy artificial eye in that eye socket) and I have restricted vision in my right eye.

I have recently read two excellent articles about why the Law of Attraction doesn’t work: one by Mark Mason and the other by Shaunta Grimes. These two articles inspired me to reflect on why I do not believe in it. I have never really given it much thought. I decided the whole Law of Attraction craze was no more than a storm in a coffee cup, and I moved on.

On closer inspection, I decided I do not believe in the Law of Attraction because:

  • It fosters self-centeredness. The Law of Attraction is all about you, what you want and how and when you are going to get it. When my situation becomes unbearable, I cope by thinking of others and what I could do to help them with their problems.
  • I have found that staying positive, at all times, in the face of overwhelming threat or exceptionally bad news, is impossible. Distressing events happen, c’est la vie. If I allow myself to accept the despair I feel, for a specified amount of time – an hour, two hours – it is easier to get over it and on with life afterwards.
  • Ignoring your inner and outer critics, whatever happens, is not a good coping strategy. Sometimes self-doubt can help you to avoid disasters. Sometimes the advice of friends can help you get back on track when you lose your way. The trick is to pay attention to these warnings and to choose carefully which to heed and which to ignore.
  • If you try to suppress a negative thought at all costs, you will end up being incapable of thinking of anything else. That’s just the way your brain is wired. Better to acknowledge that thought, without necessarily reacting on the emotion it might generate, and then to let it go. Admittedly, this needs a bit of practice, but I have found it is a habit worth cultivating.
  • It encourages perfectionism. It is better to accept that you are not perfect, that you have made and will continue to make mistakes. Life becomes easier when you accept that other people are not perfect either, that they also make mistakes and then you can forgive both yourself and others.

In the book I am writing at the moment, I go on at length about what I do believe in: accepting my imperfections, mindfully getting the most out of every single moment, collecting experiences rather than possessions, counting my blessings and sharing those blessings with others.

Of all the above, what helped most, even on the darkest of days, and during the longest of nights, was reminding myself of my blessings. I could always find something that I was grateful for, even if it was just being alive. What kept me going was:

  • Being fully present in each moment, even in difficult moments,
  • Being grateful that I can experience each moment and for what I can learn from whatever I am experiencing,
  • Sharing what I have learned with others.

It took me ten years to devise a workable strategy to cope with unexpected and unavoidable change. Because of the reasons I cite above, the law of Attraction is not part of this strategy.

I have created a checklist and cheat sheet about coping with change, based on my strategy, that I share with the subscribers to my mailing list. Claim yours and I will shortly let you know when I have published my book about embracing change.

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Misconceptions about Mindfulness

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In each book I write, I write about mindfulness. It becomes difficult not to repeat myself, so in my latest book, Coping with Change – A 10-Step Strategy to manage Stress Successfully during Transitions, I decided to write about mindfulness from a different perspective. Instead of explaining what mindfulness is, I explain what mindfulness is not:

  1. Mindfulness is not easy, but it is not complicated. Mindfulness is simply about being present in the moment, observing our thoughts and emotions without judgement and without allowing our thoughts and feelings to dictate our actions.
  2. Mindfulness is not effortless. Mindfulness requires work: an investment of time, effort and energy.
  3. Mindfulness is not a religion, though being mindful is fundamental to several faiths, incl Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish and Taoist teachings. Mindfulness is a mental practice unrelated to any specific religion.
  4. Mindfulness is not meditation. Meditation is just one mindfulness practice.
  5. Mindfulness is not about disconnecting from the world around you. It’s about being fully aware of what you are thinking where you are right at this precise moment.
  6. Mindfulness is not just another item to add to your to-do list. It is a mindset, a lifestyle, an integral part of your every day.
  7. Mindfulness is not just about stress reduction, although it can significantly reduce stress. Mindfulness enables you to cultivate awareness, tolerance, acceptance, kindness and compassion. Mindfulness increases resilience by rewiring your brain to respond to experiences positively and productively, instead of reacting in a way that can increase stress.
  8. Mindfulness is not a waste of time. Yes, it takes time to master, but as it involves being present in the here and now, it saves a lot of time, time we usually spend ruminating about the past or worrying about the future.
  9. Mindfulness meditation is not about escaping reality. Mindfulness is about being fully aware of our reality without our views being influenced by our emotions, assumptions or preconceived ideas.
  10. It does not take a long time to benefit from mindfulness. You can make significant progress in just one week of daily mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness can make you feel more relaxed, sleep better, worry less and cope better with challenges after only one session.
  11. Mindfulness is not time-consuming. If you can find 10-15 minutes/day to practice mindfulness, you can make significant progress and dramatically reduce your stress levels. Even as little as 5-10 minutes a day will yield noticeable results.
  12. Mindfulness is not for everybody. Mindfulness is not a “one-size fits all” approach. Although anyone can be more mindful, not everyone finds mindfulness useful. That’s fine; there are other ways to increase well-being.
  13. Mindfulness is not therapy. It can be an adjunct to a variety of treatments, but it is not a cure for all ills.
  14. Mindfulness is not about emptying your mind. Mindfulness is about noticing, accepting and letting go of your thoughts.
  15. Mindfulness does not always make you feel better. It is about noticing your thoughts, even the distressing ones, without judging yourself for having them. It is about acknowledging and accepting your negative thoughts, without allowing them to alter your mood or induce you to act in unhelpful ways. Mindfulness enables you to work through your feelings, positive as well as negative.
  16. Mindfulness is not something you do; it is something you are – an essential and intrinsic part of you.
  17. Mindfulness is not a shortcut to happiness. Mindfulness can help reduce and even eliminate depression, anxiety and stress but only if we are willing to work at re-training our minds so that we can cope with whatever comes our way.
  18. Mindfulness is not the only method you can use to cope with change, but it is one of the most effective ones. Mindfulness enables you to see more clearly what is happening in your life. It will not eliminate stress, but it can help you respond in a stress-diminishing way. It helps you to recognise and avoid habitual, often unconscious and unhelpful reactions to everyday events, thus improving your quality of life.

Extract from Coping with Change – A 10-Step Strategy to manage Stress Successfully during Transitions

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My latest book has not been published yet, I will let subscribers to my mailing list know as soon as I publish it. Have you subscribed to my blog’s mailing list yet? If you are already a subscriber, thank you so much! If not, please do. My blog aims to assist you in making the most of yourself and in providing you with the tools to do so. The blog has a distinctly French flavour, as I also share with you our life here in the south of France. You can subscribe by clicking here, and you will receive my 10 Steps to Instant Self-Confidence guide – straight from the horse’s mouth! as well as a copy of the Cope with Change Cheatsheet and Checklist.