You’ve probably heard of the “Law of Attraction,” a concept touted by many spiritual teachers that claims you get what you think about (good or bad). I’ve heard about this theory for decades, and often wondered why it supposedly works. I recently put it to the test in my own life, and have come to some personal conclusions.
Your Brain Runs the Show
You see, if we shift our perception of reality by reframing our thoughts toward a positive outlook, thanks to neuroplasticity—the brain’s ability to change its neural connections—we can influence our brains to perceive the world differently. So if, for example, we mostly focus on the things we’re grateful for, our brains will naturally direct our attention toward the things we enjoy in life.
We’re creating our reality all the time, in reaction to the way the neurons in our brains are firing. That’s why the experience of reality is slightly different for each person; it’s based on our individual perceptions.
Our thought patterns influence everything from what we notice in our environment to the micromovements and choices we make in each moment. What we think becomes amplified in our reality whether we like it or not; what we focus on becomes what we experience.
Our thoughts turn into beliefs, our beliefs inform our actions, and our actions create the results in our lives. We get what we expect. So if we want to manifest specific experiences in our lives, we have to develop thought patterns that will support those experiences. This is the Law of Attraction as it takes place in the brain.
From a pragmatic point of view, whether the Law of Attraction works because of some spiritual energy or simply as a mechanism of the brain—or a combination of the two—the outcome is the same.
Here’s Where Pandora Fits In
An analogy I’ve discovered that works well to put this theory into practice comes from one of my favorite inventions of the modern world: free, streaming music. Pandora is a website and an app that streams music based on the preferences you set.
If you like a particular artist, you set a station for that artist, and Pandora will not only play you songs by that artist but also songs by similar artists it thinks you might like. It’s all based on complex algorithms of what Pandora calls the “music genome project,” software that’s trained to receive feedback about your musical preferences and adjust to your desires continuously.
The coolest feature of Pandora is the “thumbs.” Each time Pandora plays a song, you can give it a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down,” and Pandora will log your preferences. If you give a thumbs up, Pandora will play that song for you, along with similar songs, in the future; but if you give it a thumbs down, Pandora will never play that song again.
Back when I started using Pandora, I did this with my favorite station—Alison Krauss—and chose either a thumbs up or thumbs down with every single song for a couple of weeks. This took dedication, but the payoff was worth it. My listening experience improved dramatically! I heard all of my favorite songs and none that I didn’t like.
Not long ago, I decided to apply Pandora’s technology to all facets of my life. Thumbs up for seeing dolphins on my morning drive past the beach to take the kids to school! Thumbs down for getting stuck in traffic. Thumbs up for an unexpected check arriving in the mail! Thumbs down for having an argument with my husband.
I started seeing every experience as an opportunity to provide feedback, to log my preferences, and to ask for more of what I liked. I wasn’t exactly sure why, but I felt that somehow my feedback would be registered, my preferences would be noted, and life would respond accordingly.
Who Really Creates Your Life?
Who or what was responding to my feedback remains one of life’s great mysteries. However, I do know that I experience reality through the filter of my mind, which is housed in my brain. I realize that each person’s mind operates slightly differently, and thus we’re all experiencing our own version of reality.
I understand enough about neuroplasticity to know that my thoughts and behaviors, which shape the way I perceive and act in the world, are moldable and can be influenced to change my experience of reality.
From this perspective, I can see how stating my preferences would simply be giving feedback to my own mind as a way to shift my focus from what displeases me to what pleases me. By looking for opportunities to give a thumbs up throughout the day, I’m training my brain to notice positive experiences.
Eventually seeing the positive will become a habit, and I’ll notice more pleasing things in my life, even though they may have been there all along.
That’s one explanation. Other explanations for the Law of Attraction lean more heavily on spirituality than science. However, whether a response comes from a higher spiritual power or from the power of the brain, the result is the same. And just like my Alison Krauss Pandora station, life responds favorably to positive feedback.
I can see the new slogan now—”Pandora: Give a Thumbs Up to Life!”
*This post is excerpted from The Joy Plan: How I Took 30 Days to Stop Worrying, Quit Complaining, and Find Ridiculous Happiness. Available everywhere books are sold. Order on Amazon here.