An Alternative to the Law of Attraction

Despite not believing in the Law of Attraction, it always finds its way to me.

Not literally, but in the form of friends sharing it. If you aren’t familiar, this is the idea that what you focus on, you will get, good or bad.

It sort of reminds me of the jellybean rule from camp. If you tell kids not to put jellybeans in their nose, they try it. So, you don’t even mention it, and instead, you tell them what you do want. That’s wise.

While some people take it with a grain of salt, people who write about the Law of Attraction seem to consider it a fundamental property of the cosmos, using the language of physics. Under some understandings of the law of attraction, I have to wonder if insurance salespeople would be considered mass murderers, because they are responsible for making people focus on disasters during their sales pitches.

I don’t believe that, but I can see how someone would end up there, because there are some situations in which it’s true that you get what you think about. For example, how we percieve others. Are we primed to percieve hostility where there is none, making us defensive, making other people defensive too in response? Or do we see potential friends? Do we tend to think our close friends and family are usually trying their best or are they out to get us? Our beliefs about what is happening can shape our responses to things and in turn, how people react to us.

However, it is possible to believe in the good in others and be taken advantage of. In fact, sometimes it is the complete lack of awareness of something as a possibility that makes someone MORE vulnerable to it.

So if I was serving in the military, a hospital, or a charity, I would not want to serve under a person who felt it was their duty to NOT reflect on things that can go wrong within reason, with balance.

“Commander, if we take that route our flank will be exposed, and we almost ran out of ammo last time.”

“We don’t need negativity, Duncan! Victorious vibrations only!”

On the other hand, if we actually do have the ammo I mean, if a person’s confidence is lower than it ought to be, then raising it to an appropriate level may be just the thing to change their life.

My issue

So, I just gave some examples and some of them support the law of attraction, so what’s my issue? The Law of Attraction is a good idea taken too far.

Another good idea taken too far would be like,

if a hypochondriac stopped believing he was sick, (let’s call that step 1) and then

Step 2. He helped other people get well by spreading the belief that sickness is not always real, and then

Step 3, he started to believe that all sickness is imaginary for everyone all of the time and started a worldview built around that belief.

I’m thinking, “you were onto something with steps 1 and 2, but then you went to step 3.”

This is where I’m at. There are benefits to visualizing, believing in yourself, and those are good things that people who believe in the Law of Attraction tend to do. I just want to avoid taking a good idea too far and humanity has a tendency to do that, in spirituality, ethics, and whether we need more Air Bud movies.

To put it bluntly, I don’t think the evidence for the Law of Attraction is good enough to believe in it, so I don’t.

A quick aside on two scientific arguments for the law

In nature, it is not a fundamental principle that like attracts like. It definitely happens, but it’s not always how things work, and like can repel too. Positive and negative charges come together and hold strongly, as well as things which are similar enough but different enough. Gravity pulls things together simply because two things both have mass. Harmonic resonance is a thing, but so is lightning, magnets, and molecules… Depending on the situation, different attracts different, and it’s all over the place!

Also, when it comes to quantum mechanics, what we are learning is that our everyday experience does not necessarily translate down to the smallest particles. That’s what makes it so interesting. Conversely, it is not necessarily the case that whatever happens to the smallest particles in the universe scales up to our everyday experience. I mean, it could, but not necessarily.

If I was wrong, how would I know?

Here’s a big concern of mine. Imagine, for the sake of argument that the Law of Attraction is not real, and I started thinking it was true. Like most belief systems, it looks true and is easy to defend from the inside, and it would be hard to notice I was wrong.

I would interpret events in my life as evidence for the Law of Attraction, but I wouldn’t really know if it was because I manifested or if it would have happened anyway as the culmination of personal growth and socioeconomic factors.

For that reason, I’m sticking with my alternative.

What I believe

Positive and negative thinking can have a profound impact on your life when it leads to a change in yourself that others can notice. However, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. People mispercieve each other. Good and bad things happen to everyone. You can have no doubts and still fail sometimes, and you can be successful while having doubts. How you think matters, but it’s not the full picture.

While going to the gym with a positive attitude is by far the best option, you’re better off going to the gym with a bad attitude than not going at all with a good one.


One time, someone who wanted to encourage me told me that anything I did that was directed towards something I wanted was energy being put out into the universe that would eventually come back to me. In other words, it all counts, it all helps. I can see the comfort in that. But I think it’s wiser to believe that some efforts could be more efficient than others and some may even be counterproductive, so energy can be wasted, and the process of evaluating that is absolutely a good idea from time to time. Charities should do that, businesses should do that, and I should do that as an individual too. And that’s going to require thinking about negatives as well as positives.

The law of attraction does remind me that there is such a thing as overdoing thinking about the negative, and that I do have the opportunity to imperfectly influence others. I don’t believe the influence happens because of energy going out, but rather because people (imperfectly) pick up on subtle cues that show what we believe about each other.

Whether you show up ready for a fight, or a friend, for success, or failure, you’re more likely to get that because it will show in how you carry yourself and affect your performance. Even in these cases, what I’m offering is definitely not a law, just one element, and other elements can make up for it.