Manifesting real results in the real world requires more than just telling yourself you deserve whatever it is you currently want

“I am well. I am opulent. I have everything. I do right. I know.” – Charles Benjamin Newcomb, author of 1897 book “All’s Right With the World” as quoted by Dr. Tara Isabella Burton in NYT editorial

From Burton:

‘While the idea of manifesting may seem modern, the instinct to conflate spiritual forces, political and economic outcomes and our own personal desires is part of a longstanding American tradition that dates back much, much farther than the pandemic.’

‘By the late 19th century — in that era of staggering inequality known as the Gilded Age — the influence of New Thought had begun to seep into economic theory and became a popular frame through which to make sense not only of sickness but also of poverty. Nobody who truly wanted to be rich, a new wave of books claimed, would ever end up poor.

As one New Thought advocate, Charles Benjamin Newcomb, wrote in his tellingly titled 1897 book “All’s Right With the World,” “none is really shut out of the feast [of life] except the self-exiled.” Those who wanted in on “the banquet” had only to repeat to themselves the following mantra, which frankly sounds a lot like something you might find on TikTok today: “I am well. I am opulent. I have everything. I do right. I know.”’

“In this way, the capitalist pursuit of profit was swiftly recast as a religion whose only tenet was desire.

But this Gilded Age optimism about human potential had a dark side. After all, if anyone could achieve health, wealth and success simply by wanting it badly enough, logic held that the converse was also true: The poor, the sick and the vulnerable had brought their conditions upon themselves by failing to possess the requisite will to change.”

Dr. Tara Isabella Burton is author of “Self-Made: Creating Our Identities From da Vinci to the Kardashians.”

My own take on manifesting is pretty straightforward. What you think about obviously has an impact on what you do, and what you do obviously has an impact on the world, including how others view you.

Moreover, most of us have experienced the power of affirmations to cue or nudge us into the right mental, emotional and/or physical state to focus, perform under pressure, be a better person, and deal effectively with life’s many opportunities and challenges.

The trouble starts when the stories you manifest become unmoored from any sort of believable causal chain. Believing that you could be the next Elon Musk may indeed help you clarify what you want, prepare you to notice opportunities and stay resilient in your quest to become a successful entrepreneur. Still, statistically speaking, none of that will probably be enough to make you the next Elon Musk;) As my Dad used to say, “That and a quarter will get you a cup of coffee.”

I’ve written a number of posts on how to make manifesting (or similar practices) a practical part of an idea-driven approach to life and work:

On why the story you are trying to manifest has to sound credible to yourself and others:

Never let the facts get in the way of a good story – unless cognitive dissonance makes you pretty sure it isn’t true:)

An introduction to EDIT: a formula for creating your own change story on an ongoing basis:

EDIT: A formula you can use to convert change (変化) into transformation (変革) by writing stories of agency, purpose, growth, connection, contribution and meaning

On how the narrative you tell yourself influences your real-time behavior:

Make behavioral automation work for you instead of on you

An introduction to RAFT, a schematic you can use to help you recall your core narrative when you need it most:

Tools for elephant riders: RAFT and AFTER (working draft with unintegrated sections of previous drafts)

Below also are links to Burton’s article:

For a satirical take on how manifestation and affirmations are woven into advertising and other forms of communication to get us to associate our personal narratives with a product, here is a video on Powdermilk Biscuits, which “give shy persons the strength to get up and do what needs to be done”:

© Dana Cogan, 2024, all rights reserved.

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