For teacher, motivational speaker and author Marci Shimoff and many others, the universe plays a central role in attraction. She is guided by the Law of Attraction, which essentially says our life is a result of our beliefs.
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“Everything in the universe is energy,” she says. “Everything vibrates at a particular energetic level, including our thoughts, words, feelings and actions. We tend to have an energetic vibration and we attract those to us who have a similar vibration.” In this scenario, if you’re always looking at the dark side of life, you’re likely to attract others—be it friends, lovers, even co-workers—who are similarly negative.
“We call it emotional contagion,” she says. “We become the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” So if you want to have a better life, surround yourself with people who have a positive attitude rather than those who will reinforce your own malaise. Shimoff’s most recent book, Love for No Reason, guides people to creating and attracting unconditional love.
Sue Elliott, editor of Law of Attraction Magazine, says there is no good or bad in life, only how we choose to see things. “So if you are convinced that whatever you do, your boss will never be happy, you’re going to attract more evidence to support that. Our subconscious mind is so powerful it will block out any evidence that contradicts that.” She says the law works in the most mundane situations.
“Say you receive a package in the mail and it’s damaged. Before calling customer service, if you can get into a calm space, you’ll have an utterly different experience with customer service.” If instead you pick up the phone in a rage, “you will have an experience that will breed anger” for both parties, says Elliott.
The same can be said at work—if your computer stops working and you’re forced to interact with technical support, or an employee has made a costly mistake, for example. Expressing anger and frustration can feel more action-oriented and temporarily satisfying, but really think about your desired outcome and the behavior model that will best attract it. Odds are, it won’t be the one that consists of hurling insults.
New York life coach Jay Cataldo says the age-old reasons for pairing up have not changed significantly, despite a century of changing social roles, at least when it comes to heterosexual relationships.
“Men really are focused on physicality. For women, it’s more about a guy’s personality and nonphysical traits. They’re usually attracted to the alpha male, someone with high self-esteem, someone who can get out there and make money for himself, make money for her and her kids.” Cataldo believes that even though more and more women are becoming the breadwinner, most women—even top earners—want a guy who will bring home the bacon (and maybe even kill the pig).
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“We call it emotional contagion, we become the average of the five people we spend the most time with.”
Marci Shimoff, author of Love for No Reason
Part of attraction may be chemical, too. That’s where the sweaty T-shirt experiments come in. In one famous 1990s study, a group of men was asked to wear a T-shirt to bed two nights in a row. Afterward, a group of women was asked to smell each shirt and rate the smell for attractiveness. The results showed that the women were drawn to the smell of T-shirts worn by men whose immune response genes were most different from their own. To put it in evolutionary terms, if these couples actually got together, their offspring would have the best possible chance of fighting illness and staying alive. In short, we may be able to sniff out a genetically compatible mate.
Opposite genes may attract without our realizing it, but we are consciously attracted to other types of opposite.
“Often we are trying to attract in a partner the qualities we may be lacking. So if we tend to be serious, we may want someone to lighten us up and be attracted to someone with a good sense of humor,” Shimoff says. “We’re looking at our complement in some ways.”
But opposites only go so far. High on the list of priorities for many people looking for love is meeting someone with whom they share common interests, a similar background and a similar outlook on life. The same can be said for people looking for the right career fit, the right city or neighborhood to live in, the right school to attend, or even the right pet to adopt.
At the heart of the Law of Attraction is manifestation, the idea that you can bring about what you choose by thinking about it (and acting on it). Arielle Ford is a longtime personal growth author and teacher. Her books include The Soulmate Secret and Wabi Sabi Love.
“What happens with love is that people sit on the couch and say, ‘Well, if it’s meant to be, I’ll find the right one.’ You’d never do that with a job,” she says. Getting what you want involves “both metaphysical and active participation.”
For example, Ford works with clients on what she calls “feelingizations,” which get the client into a state where they can experience certain feelings in order to manifest a particular reality.
“Say you’re a graduate and want this new career but you have no idea how to get there. I would have you do a feelingization to imagine what it’s like to wake up in the morning, walk into an office where people are happy to see you, where you’re going to do a great job and get paid well.”
But she adds that feeling and thinking aren’t enough. You need to do this on top of the usual job-related tasks such as applying, following up, networking and so on.
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Christopher Chabris is cynical. He is associate professor of psychology at Union College and co-author of The Invisible Gorilla, about how our intuition can deceive us. “The proponents of this idea that thoughts have resonant frequencies … it’s not a science that’s consistent with the rest of what we know about the physical world,” he says. “In some way, the mind is a coincidence detector. When we see coincidences, we ascribe great significance to them even though, in most cases, they probably aren’t significant.”
He says the problem with the Law of Attraction is that it only seems to consider one side. “What we really need to know is how many people had the same positive thought and didn’t get a positive outcome? And what about the people who didn’t have that positive thought but still got a positive outcome?”
As humans, we tend to seek meaning and order in life, and Chabris says it’s perfectly normal to try to rationalize what happens to us, good or bad.
Whatever you believe, it can’t hurt to be a little more accepting, positive and open to possibility. Whether you call it simply having a good attitude, or you consider it practicing the Law of Attraction, you may just be surprised by the outcome.
Ashley Milne-Tyte is a New York-based writer, public radio reporter and host of The Broad Experience, a podcast on women and the workplace. She has written for the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times and reported on many aspects of business and the economy for public radio’s Marketplace.
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