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What if we told you that the key to achieving your goals and creating the life of your dreams was thinking about it really hard? That’s kind of the point of the Law of Attraction, a philosophy of the New Thought Movement (a mind-healing movement that originated in the United States in the 19th century and is based on religious and metaphysical concepts). Basically, it states that if you focus on the good and positive things in your life, you’ll attract more good and positive things into your life. On the flip side, if you're frequently focused on the negative, that’s what will be attracted into your life.

The belief is based on the idea that people and their thoughts are both made from pure energy, and that through the process of like energy attracting like energy, a person can improve their own health, wealth and personal relationships. Though the term first appeared in the mid-19th century, it’s been popularized in recent times by books like Rhonda Byrne's smash-hit 2006 self-help book, The Secret

Adherents say the Law of Attraction can help with everything from getting your dream job to manifesting a romantic partner, while detractors dismiss the concept as metaphysical pseudoscience.

Whether you’re on board with the idea or are just looking to be more positive (which many of the law’s principles focus on), here are five ways to use the Law of Attraction to achieve your goals.

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woman holding a little girl smiling
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1. Think (and Speak) in Positive Terms

Positivity is perhaps the most key tenet of the Law of Attraction. Because the thinking goes that you get back the type of energy you put out, proponents try to banish negativity as much as possible. Even if you’re an innately positive person, it’s easy (and very common) to voice desires in negative terms. For example, “I really don’t want to mess up my presentation at work.” The Law of Attraction emphasizes saying what you do want instead of what you don’t want. So instead, rephrase the previous statement as, “I really want to do an awesome job on my presentation at work.” 

A 2018 study at Stamford University examined the effect positivity has on brain function, and the results will make you want to banish the word “no” from your vocabulary for good. Researchers studied 240 children, ages 7 to 10. They found that being positive improved the students’ ability to answer math problems, increased their memories and enhanced their problem-solving abilities. OK, sounds great, but how can you be more positive—especially if you’re not a look-on-the-bright-side type by nature? Luckily, there are lots of little steps you can take to improve your outlook, from practicing random acts of kindness and staying active to listening to upbeat music. (Here are a few other helpful strategies to try out.) It’s also important to remember that your positivity, per the Law of Attraction, needs to be genuine in order to work. It’s not enough just to think and say what you want—you have to believe you’re going to get what you want—with lots of focus and hard work, of course.

woman journaling on her bed
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2. Keep a Gratitude Journal

You might be thinking that all of this Law of Attraction stuff sounds a little bit selfish. And on a certain level, it is—you’re focusing a lot of your energy of things you want, after all. But it also emphasizes being thankful for what you already have. Practicing gratitude has a lot to do with positivity, because quantifying all of the good stuff in your life makes you feel better about things overall. An easy way to put this one into practice is by keeping a little notebook next to your bed. When you wake up in the morning, jot down a few things you’re thankful for. They can be as simple as your morning coffee or as big-picture as your health and family. 

The science on gratitude is promising. Take, for example, this study by two psychologists, Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Study participants were asked to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics. One group wrote about things they were grateful for, the second wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them and the third wrote about events that had affected them (not focusing on them being positive or negative). After ten weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. As an added bonus, the group that expressed gratitude also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.

home office
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3. Create a Vision Board

In The Secret, Byrne writes, "The Law of Attraction is forming your entire life experience and it is doing that through your thoughts. When you are visualizing, you are emitting a powerful frequency out into the universe." The idea is that abstractly thinking about what you want isn’t as concrete as visualizing it specifically. People who follow the Law of Attraction are encouraged to create vision boards, whether that’s a physical cork board above your desk or a Pinterest board you can pull up on your phone whenever you want to feel inspired. As for what goes on your vision board, it can be anything from a photo of a gorgeous apartment to a photo of Michelle Obama. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re visualizing yourself as a lawyer and First Lady; you could just want to channel Obama’s intelligence and grace. Be sure to note, though, that creating a vision board on its own won’t make all of your dreams come true (unless you’re, like, really, really lucky). Merely focusing on what you want probably won’t magically make it happen. While visualizing is an important part of the Law of Attraction, it’s pretty useless without action. Hard work and visualization should go hand in hand on the path to getting what you want.

woman writing a to do list
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4. Make To-Do Lists

Writing down what you need to accomplish in order to achieve your goals is key. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that to-do lists are incredibly helpful in encouraging productivity and reducing the anxiety surrounding all the tasks we’ve yet to complete. Researchers observed that, when study participants were allowed to make concrete plans to finish tasks, their performance improved. It sounds simple, but just writing down the tasks you need to complete on the road to your goals can make you more effective. While it can be helpful to write down your longer-term goals, also be sure to break them down into more digestible segments. For example, instead of writing “to-do: buy my dream house,” think about all the little steps you need to take on the way to buying that five-bedroom, three-bath (saving money, researching the housing market, etc.) and write those on a more actionable, short-term list.

two women having lunch together
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5. Ask for Help

While a lot of the Law of Attraction focuses on your own thoughts and actions, it can also help to get those around you involved by being open about what you want. This could work on two levels. First, someone might be able to help you achieve your goals. Let’s say you’re a writer, and your goal is to have a piece published in your favorite publication. It can’t hurt to reach out to someone who has been published in the same publication and ask for a coffee or lunch meeting to pick her brain. Chances are, she'll be happy to share some advice. (She might even see it as her own way to contribute some positive energy to the world.) Second, telling others about your goals motivates you to actually do what it takes to achieve them. Think about it: If you tell yourself you’re going to run a half marathon this year, it’s easy to talk yourself out of it when the time comes to actually lace up your sneakers every day. But if you tell your work wife about your plans, you might find yourself less likely to back out.

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6. Be Patient

Being thankful for the best parts of your life is lovely and cutting out photos of your dream life is a cool creative outlet, but just because you do those things (plus the others mentioned above) doesn't mean you're going to accomplish your loftiest wishes right now, in five years or ever, to be frank. But whether or not you believe in the Law of Attraction, it does seem logical that staying focused on your goals in a consistently positive way could have a profound impact in the long run. Is the Law of Attraction magic? Probably not. But it certainly can't hurt. (And again, vision boarding is way fun.) 

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