It's no Secret, the Theory of Directed Effort…


Recently I was involved in a discussion about what has become known as "The Law of Attraction." It became rather heated. It seems to me that some proponents of this "law" have a tendency to become rather fervent in its defense when its premises are questioned. As so often happens during a verbal interaction, the discussion took directions I never wanted it to go in and logical arguments gave way to emotional examples and anecdotal evidence. Of course, anecdotal evidence presented contrary to "The Law of Attraction" was quickly spun about to fit into the paradigm created by those who worship at the altar of this would be "law."

Before I go on I wish to make something clear. I have quite a few beliefs which some others might consider strange. I am very interested in mysticism and I enjoy studying the occult and the practices of witchcraft. I've been known to practice the art of interpreting an astrological chart. I've taken part in pagan rituals and prayer. I enjoy meditation. Basically I am open to all kinds of ancient spiritual beliefs and curious as to their origins and their inner workings.

If it becomes obvious that I am no expert on this "Law of Attraction," and if my understanding is incorrect, keep in mind that I am basing these thoughts and opinions on statements made by adherents to this belief system during a heated debate. If I make a statement that seems like misinformation or is not what the belief system is about, then perhaps the adherents to this system are mis-educated or misguided in their beliefs.

So one might ask why someone like myself who so likes to dabble in unorthodox spirituality would be adverse to "The Law of Attraction." Let me say first of all that there are many facets of this "law" that I do agree with, but there are many claims certain adherents make that I find disturbing. Secondly, the semantics involved are highly questionable. Calling something a "law" implies that it is something operating all the time on everyone, such as the law of gravity, and that it is absolute truth. In the realm of spirituality and the metaphysical, I personally find it hard to accept any concept that claims to be the absolute truth simply because there is so much about this realm we do not know or understand.

Let's take for example the basic tenet behind "The Law of Attraction," that we all attract everything that ever happens to us in our lives, good or bad, simply by thinking about it. In essence, in my opinion, it states that things happen on account of wishful thinking or because of unguarded thought. It seems to me that this doesn't take into account all the other forces that are interacting with each and every one of us in this physical realm. It takes power away from all the other factors, natural or manmade, and gives it to you. In essence, you become God, or at the very least godlike. The question then becomes, do you have complete control of your thoughts, or are they willy-nilly and you're going around causing mayhem with the unregulated thoughts swirling about in your head. Perhaps that's oversimplified, but it's my understanding of how this "law" works.

Now these adherents might complain upon hearing this that it is simply not true, that there are certain laws of physics one must operate within the parameters of. They will admit in part that there are certain facets of reality that can't be overcome, and then in the same breath they will make a statement such as you are in complete control of your reality one hundred percent of the time. They will then create an anecdotal argument such as a man envisioning himself in flight can't simply take off and fly, yet he can create a flying machine. Never mind that men have envisioned themselves taking flight for millennia and that it has only been recently that technology has been able to bring us to a point in time where making such dreams reality was possible. Never mind all those men who may have died or been severally injured in attempts to take flight in poorly designed flying machines. Don't bring up such anecdotal evidence to these believers. These adherents would argue that those men simply did not envision their goals correctly, or that they must have at some point or another envisioned themselves falling, or some such thing. They will spin any observation in an effort to make their paradigm unchallengeable.

One of the fellows I was debating followed up an anecdotal example with the statement that the universe always answers "yes" to any thought one may envision. He further went on to explain that if you are focused on something like wanting money, for example, than the universe will make certain that you continue to want money or some such nonsense. Now if you want to believe that's true, it's okay with me, but I find it quite presumptuous that anyone would claim to know first off that the universe has a consciousness and secondly that he knows how it thinks and how it will react. It is also a little troubling to think that the universe's consciousness can't tell the difference between the literal wording of a thought and the true meaning one is attempting to convey. Most humans could, why does the universe have such problems? Is the universe thought dyslexic? Personally, I don't know if the universe has a consciousness, but if it does I'm sure it would answer requests yes, no or maybe like any other conscious entity. It might even depend on how it was feeling on the day you asked it.

There was a news story I read long ago of a man who was riding his bike in Colorado on a bright sunny day when he was suddenly struck down by lightning. The nearest storm was ten miles away when this happened. While it is true that the lightning was attracted to him for some unknown reason, I doubt very much it was because he was thinking about being hit by lightning. Unfortunately he died, so we can't say for sure, but even if he was I would guess that there was a more scientific explanation to the event. I certainly don't think he wished it upon himself and I don't believe he was in control of the circumstances. He simply had wanted to go on a bike ride on a nice sunny day, was enjoying himself and then was suddenly struck down.

These adherents might say he had thought about getting hit by lightning in the past, or perhaps he was focused on it, but that wouldn't explain all the people who go through their entire lives without getting hit by lightning, the vast majority of us. Most of us have likely thought about getting hit by lightning and even focused on it at some time. I know I have. Usually when this happens I make every effort to get off the golf course as soon as possible. The likelihood that I will get hit by lightning is slightly higher than the average person's because I play golf, but not so much higher that I will curtail that activity. So, if I live to be 150 and don't ever get hit by lightning, how does the law of attraction explain that? I'm not certain it can.

But enough about my misgivings with this "law." I can sum them up by saying I don't like absolutes. I didn't like them when President Bush would use them (as in you're either with us, or you're with the terrorists) and I don't like them when they're ensconced in spiritual dogma that can be neither proven nor disproven. But there are certain aspects about "The Law of Attraction" which I find intriguing and I'd like to examine them a little closer.

I think people are quick to believe that the universe works in this fashion because quite often it seems that we do attract things into our lives by our thoughts. Often times when one thinks positive thoughts positive things happen and when one thinks negative thoughts negative things happen. We used to call this the power of positive thinking. But the reasons for this likely vary, and it isn't necessarily always true. There are billions of people in the world and billions of experiences and still the possible explanations and variations are not exhausted. In my experience there have been times when I've had a positive attitude and negative outcomes have occurred and visa-versa. Likewise, there have been times when I've envisioned positive outcomes that haven't come to pass and visa-versa. Still, many people hold a firm belief that this attraction thing is the secret to their success. There are times when I believe there might be a little something to this attraction thing, and I believe I know why.

I like to think of it as a theory, since I don't believe in spiritual absolutes which some would call laws. I call it the Theory of Directed Effort. I theorize that if one wants to achieve something in his life then one has to make an effort to do so. He can't just sit about wishing it to be so and expect it to happen. Furthermore, if one thinks positively about the outcome of his efforts, it becomes easier for one to expend the energy to make the effort. It is definitely easier for me to sit and make the effort to write a book if I believe it's going to be a best seller and make me lots of money than it would be if I were to think it was going to suck and no one was going to publish it, let alone buy it, so there is value in positive thinking. I would imagine this is true in many cases, but I would also imagine that it's not the thinking that makes the project a success so much as the effort that goes into it.

These are but two of the variables that go into any venture, however. Talent is another factor that will help decide whether one is a success or not. If one is talented at something, it is also easier to direct one's effort into a project which utilizes said talent. If one is not talented or unskilled but still interested in accomplishing some goal, than one might want to direct his efforts into honing said talents or skills before attempting to achieve said goal. Another factor is the reality of the circumstances one finds himself surrounded by. Is the timing right? Does the necessary technology exist? Is the world ready for your project? These are factors one does not have control over and should one find that something is simply not right or some critical component is missing, perhaps one would be better off directing his effort to another area.

When everything comes together one has a tendency to be successful. That doesn't mean, however, that one has attracted success via one's thoughts. In fact, the other day I was asked to fix my ex's computer. I went to her house and looked at it, but something quite strange was wrong and I was very confounded. I was ready to give up and felt I'd have to restore the operating system, something I didn't want to do because it would mean she'd likely lose all her data. I decided that I would try a little trick I knew not because I thought it would work, in fact I believed it wouldn't work, but it wouldn't take long and I thought "what the hey." To my surprise it worked and the computer was fixed. I was successful not because I envisioned a successful outcome, or because I asked the universe to give me an idea to help me with my task, but because I directed an effort toward finding a solution and it happened to work. All the thinking and envisioning in the world would have done nothing if I didn't direct my effort properly. And should one of those adherents twist that around and suggest that I somehow did envision or think of a positive outcome, that tells me that now they believe they know my mind better than I do.

Truth be told, I believe that life is a mix of free will and fate. I believe that it is a mix of effort and circumstance. I believe it is a mix of luck and doing the best you can if dealt a bad hand. I don't believe there is one all encompassing secret that will lead to success. Trying to maintain a positive attitude will likely make things more pleasant for you as you go through life, but I don't think it will guarantee you will be a success, though it may make that outcome more likely. On the other side of the coin I don't believe that one's failures are always one's own fault. Though negative thinking may contribute, sometimes more and sometimes less, I think there are other forces working in this world that one cannot always control. It seems to me that there are grains of truth to all dogma, and some people like to try to fit the whole universe inside one of those little grains. I prefer to explore possibilities, keep an open mind, and collect as many of those grains as I can.

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