Manifestation: Beyond Daydreaming

I decided to write this article on ‘manifestation’ because I am alarmed by what I see on social media and the potential harm it can cause. I felt the need to share a perspective that might open people’s eyes to the importance of focusing on the work after the thought rather than seeing the thought as the be-all and end-all of manifesting.

As social media amplifies trends to viral heights, manifestation has found a resurgence in popularity. The idea of attracting success, wealth, or love through positive thinking and visualisation has captivated millions. However, while these notions of manifesting may temporarily boost morale, they often lack the essential component of action, turning what could be a productive mindset into mere daydreaming.

The Allure and Risks of Manifestation

Manifestation’s core appeal lies in its simplicity and promise. Some best-selling books encapsulate this by advocating that simply asking the universe for what you desire and maintaining positive thoughts will inevitably lead to desired outcomes. This premise has evolved into practices like scripting, Tarot reading and numerology-focused methods, which are especially popular on platforms like TikTok and YouTube shorts. Yet, studies suggest that this approach, while comforting, can be dangerously misleading.

A Historical Perspective

Manifestation is rooted in the 19th-century New Thought movement, which posited that correct thinking could cure physical ailments and bring prosperity. This ideology has persisted through various forms, from Phineas Parkhurst Quimby’s writings to Mary Baker Eddy’s Christian Science. Modern iterations, however, often neglect the necessary action-oriented steps these historical figures sometimes advocated.


The Pitfall of Social Media Manifestation Trends

Social media has played a significant role in popularising a ‘fast and lazy’ approach to manifestation. Phrases like ‘amen’ or ‘claim it’ often attract followers, promising quick fixes and instant results. These posts act as clickbait, enticing users to engage with content that promises effortless success. Ironically, the creators of these posts are effectively manifesting likes and followers, demonstrating the power of actionable manifestation in their own pursuits.

However, this trend can be detrimental to those who follow it without taking actionable steps. Individuals may feel disheartened and disillusioned when these manifestations do not come to fruition. The lack of actionable steps behind these social media trends can perpetuate a cycle of false hope and unfulfilled promises, leading to more harm than good. Moreover, relying on these ‘fast and lazy’ methods as crutches can negatively impact mental health, as repeated failures to achieve desired outcomes can erode self-esteem and lead to feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness.

Additionally, these materials often manifest success only for those creating and selling them, capitalising on the vulnerability and credulity of others. By selling the dream of effortless success, these creators profit at the expense of individuals who believe that thought alone can bring about significant change, thus exploiting their desire for quick and easy solutions.

Psychological Pitfalls

Recent research by Gabriele Oettingen, a psychology professor at NYU, has highlighted the importance of combining positive thinking with a realistic assessment of obstacles and actionable planning. Her work on mental contrasting shows that while dreaming about the future feels good, the realistic consideration of obstacles and planning to overcome them leads to real progress. This approach contrasts sharply with the pure positive thinking often promoted in popular manifestation materials.

Psychologically, believing in one’s ability to achieve goals fosters motivation and resilience. Positive affirmations and visualisations can help individuals maintain focus and perseverance. However, an exclusive reliance on positive thinking can lead to disillusionment. When outcomes do not materialise, individuals may experience a sense of failure, not realising that their lack of actionable steps is the missing link.

The Missing Link: Action

The key criticism of ‘popular’ manifestation concepts is their detachment from actionable steps. While positive thinking and visualisation can set a foundation for success, they must be paired with concrete actions. Oettingen’s research demonstrates that while dreaming about the future feels good, the realistic consideration of obstacles and planning to overcome them leads to real progress.

A Balanced Approach

To harness the potential benefits of manifestation without falling into its popular ‘fast and lazy’ traps, one must integrate it with practical efforts. Visualisation should serve as motivation rather than an end in itself. For instance, someone visualising a successful career should actively seek opportunities, gain relevant skills, and network.

Manifestation and the Tarot: A Parallel

Interestingly, the practice of manifestation parallels the Tarot. Tarot readings often provide forecasts or insights into possible future outcomes. However, like any form of forecasting, these insights are not guarantees. They serve as guidance, highlighting potential paths and opportunities. To turn a Tarot forecast into reality, one must take actionable steps aligned with the reading. The Tarot might reveal that success is on the horizon. Still, it is up to the individual to walk the path, make the necessary decisions, and put in the required effort.

Manifestation vs. Astrology: Fated Approach vs. Self-Actualisation

Another comparison can be drawn between manifestation and astrology. Astrology often promotes a sense of fate, suggesting that one’s destiny is written in the stars. While this can provide comfort and a sense of understanding, it can also lead to a passive and restrictive approach to life. People may feel confined to their astrological fate, believing their success or failure is predetermined. In contrast, manifestation emphasises self-actualisation through personal development and effort. It posits that while the stars may offer guidance, the individual’s actions and choices ultimately shape their destiny. True empowerment comes from recognising and harnessing one’s ability to influence one’s future through hard work and dedication.

Manifestation and Numerology: Breaking Free from Numerical Constraints

Similarly, numerology can present a fated approach, where individuals interpret the numbers in their names and birthdates as definitive guides to their personalities and destinies. While understanding these numerical influences can provide insights, it can also be counterproductive. People might resign themselves to what the numbers suggest rather than using this knowledge to break free from perceived limitations and better themselves. In this context, manifestation should encourage individuals to use numerological insights as a starting point for growth, not as a deterministic script that confines their potential.

Manifestation and The Craft: Spells vs. Action

Manifestation practices also intersect with the realm of the craft, where spells are believed to influence reality. While casting spells can serve as a form of focused intention, it can become problematic if it replaces actionable efforts. I can never overemphasise the need for action. Spells, like positive thoughts, must be coupled with real-world actions to achieve desired outcomes. Relying solely on spells to manifest success without effort can lead to frustration and self-inadequacy, much like depending exclusively on positive thinking.


Manifestation in Practice: A Realistic Approach

A practical approach to manifestation involves setting clear, achievable goals and creating a roadmap to reach them. This roadmap should include specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) objectives. Regularly reviewing progress and adjusting strategies ensure the manifestation process remains dynamic and grounded in reality.

Final Thoughts

Manifestation can be a powerful tool for personal growth and achievement when understood and practised correctly. However, it must be integrated with actionable steps to transform positive thoughts into real-world outcomes. Individuals can move beyond daydreaming and achieve their aspirations by combining a positive mindset with diligent effort.

Manifestation is not just about dreaming big; it’s about working smart and hard to turn those dreams into reality. Just as the Tarot can forecast a promising future, it is ultimately up to the individual to make that forecast a reality through committed and deliberate action. Similarly, while astrology and numerology might offer a sense of destiny, true self-actualisation comes from recognising that our future is shaped by our actions, not just by the stars or numbers.

Social media trends that promote passive manifestation without effort can mislead and discourage people, underscoring the importance of a balanced approach that integrates vision with hard work. Relying on these trends as crutches can harm one’s mental health, making it essential to combine dreams with determination and effort.

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Sevincer, A. T., Schlier, B., & Oettingen, G. (2015). Ego depletion and the use of mental contrasting. Motivation and Emotion, 39, 10.1007/s11031-015-9508-8.