THE BLOG
07/22/2013 06:12 pm ET Updated Sep 21, 2013

How the Law of Attraction and Wishful Thinking Keep You Fearful

In the bestseller The Secret, Rhonda Byrne writes about what she calls The Law of Attraction. According to this law, you can attract good or bad outcomes to yourself. You can "manifest" anything you desire as long as you know specifically what you want and think about it diligently enough. According to The Secret, you just have to visualize what you want, ask for it, believe you already have it, and behave as if it is already there in your life.

If you want to be rich, for example, you would envision what it might be like to be rich. You would ask the universe to make you rich. You would frame a fake million-dollar bill, hang it on the wall, and stare at it every day. And you would attempt to lead a lifestyle as if you were rich. According to the Law of Attraction, money would soon pour into your bank account.

It's tempting to want to believe that getting what you want could be so easy and so stress-free. Don't believe this even for a second. Change takes desire, but it also takes a strategy, hard work, and perseverance.

When I was a kid I used to bury my head in my pillow, close my eyes, and imagine that I was Superman. When I squeezed my eyes shut, I was always a hero. In these fantasies, I flew to rescue the Lois Lanes in my life at the time. This would go on, and on, and on, and it worked -- as long as I kept my head buried in that pillow and my eyes squeezed shut. As soon as I opened my eyes and faced real life, I was as wimpy as I'd always been. Wishing to be a hero didn't make me one. This magical thinking though made me feel good and gave me a wild, if not even a delusional sense of self. But in the end, no matter how much time I spent with my face buried in that pillow, I never did fly or save the damsel in distress.

Similarly, for years I've dreamed of having big biceps. I've envisioned these biceps for years. To this day, they remain thin. Did I not wish for them hard enough? I don't think so. My guess is that, if I would set aside time, consult a trainer and get pumping, I would get a little definition to my biceps. You can't wish your biceps bigger. You make your biceps bigger. It's the same with everything else you want in life. The Secret encourages you to have a vision, and that's important. You need a vision. But you also need a strategy and an action plan -- two important ingredients to success that The Secret doesn't provide.

I'm not telling you that you have to stop all forms of wishful thinking, but I am telling you to consider additional options. If you are a fan of the Law of Attraction, I'd like you to think long and hard about these questions:

  • How is wishful thinking working for you?
  • Without any effort on your part, has wishful thinking ever magically made a dream of yours come true?

Wishful thinking is usually an outgrowth of a fear. People don't resort to wishful thinking because it works. They resort to wishful thinking because it allows them to avoid confronting their fear. Wishful thinking allows you to avoid discomfort, stress, change, anxiety and pressure. It's a lot easier and less stressful to stare at a fake check for a million dollars than it is to ask your boss for a raise or to work hard. But which method is more likely to result in more money flowing into your bank account? The more stressful one of course.

People resort to prayer, wishful thinking, and magical thinking when they are afraid of bad outcomes. For instance, they avoid the doctor out of fear, and pray for good health instead. They refuse to open their credit card bills out of fear, and they wish for wealth instead. They do not approach people they would like to date, but they attempt to mentally manifest their perfect mate by wishing for him, cleaning out a closet for him, and imagining him. They are fearful they won't be a success, so they resort to wishing for success instead of actually doing the work to become a success. Naturally, in the face of fear, it's easier to think about fantasy than to think about reality.

Think about this: Visualize all of the steps you think you might have to take in order to get to your goal. Close your eyes and see what you will do first, second, and third. See the specific steps needed to get to your goal rather than only the final destination. For instance, if you want to become a more confident public speaker, visualize yourself learning how to present your material, practicing ahead of time, waiting to go on stage, and then delivering the actual speech. Also, think about ways you can make what you want to come true. Think about the specific action steps you need to take to make your goal a reality? What are the fears that are causing you to wish for success and happiness rather than actually pursuing it? Remember, fearless people don't wish for change. They create it.

For more tips on how to conquer wishful thinking and become fearless check out my book BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life In 28 Days.

For more by Jonathan Alpert, click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.