Qui-Gon Jinn is a stoic Jedi Knight from the Star Wars cinematic universe, who first appeared on the big screen in 1999. In a dialogue with young Anakin Skywalker, he tells him to always remember that “your focus determines your reality”. I have been a fan of Star Wars since I first saw this movie a decade ago, at the age of 10, so it’s a line that I’ve known for a long time, but haven’t understood the meaning of up until recently.
For my 18th birthday I was gifted a book on The Law of Attraction; “The Power”1 by Rhonda Byrne, who helped popularize this law with the book and documentary “The Secret”2. I had previously seen the documentary and a handful of YouTube videos on this concept, but this content wasn’t revolutionary for me. However, knowing that Star Wars quote and having read that book, paired with a basic education in the psychology of perception and placebo, things started clicking.
What is The Law of Attraction?
The law of attraction is based on the idea that you will attract what you focus on, for example, positive or negative thoughts. Imagine this scenario; it’s raining outside. That’s an objective fact. Whether this weather is positive or negative depends on your thoughts about it. If you view it as negative, aspects that support these thoughts will be manifested in your way of analyzing the situation: “Now I don’t want to go out for my daily walk, which interrupts my routine, which in turn will make me feel worse than had it not been raining”. If you view it as positive, the opposite will happen: “It’s good for mother nature, and for me it’s a great opportunity to stay at home in my cozy clothes, working on my website as I hear the satisfying ambient noise of raindrops pattering against the windows”. To summarize what The Law of Attraction is to me, I would say that it’s about changing the way one sees the world by influencing one’s perceptions.
In psychology, perception can be described as the process of organizing and giving meaning to sensory stimuli. These perceptions are determined by our abilities, identities, experiences, temperaments, predispositions, etc. Therefore, people can experience the same sensory information differently. For example; a shower of 30°C/86°F can be considered warm or cold, depending on who you’re asking, even though the temperature is scientifically observed as the same.
I don’t think that we see the world in a very materialistic manner. Clinical psychologist and public intellectual Jordan B. Peterson articulated this part for me: “We perceive the world as a place to move from point A to point B”. I discovered the works of Peterson mainly because of his exploration of meaning. Peterson claims, partly based on research from psychologist James J. Gibson, such as The Visual Cliff Experiment3, that we see meaning before objects. If our surroundings are an arena to go from A to B, once you take aim your perceptions will be reorganized to support that aim. I’ve written further about this in the next chapter, but here is a concrete example of how taking aim may work, in my life; When I’m building LEGO and I’m looking for a specific piece, the rest of the pieces become largely blurred out of my vision, since my intention is to find that one piece which I need, and the other pieces are not part of the puzzle and therefore becomes irrelevant.
Some of the effects of The Law of Attraction may be a result of the phenomenon of placebo, which in medicine is a fake treatment that may still help a patient because he/she believes that it will help. This effect can be abstractly described as “believing that something will result in a certain thing”. If you wake up in the morning and manifest that this will be a great day, this can make you more prone to detect elements of the day that makes it great, it can make you filter out more negative aspects because it’s after all a great day, and it can make you take actions towards creating this great day that you’ve envisioned.
Here is another example of what could be a placebo effect: The day this text is being finished and published is August 8. This is the day when the “Lion’s Gate Portal” is open at its peak. It’s a cosmic event where Earth, Sirius, Leo and Orion’s Belt align, and this is said to increase people’s creative and spiritual energy. I’ve neither thought about nor “researched” this topic, so I don’t know what to make of it, but I’m sure that potential boosts of energy that people may experience can be due to the placebo effect. I’ve made it a bit of a tradition to create a little extra during the days The Lion’s Gate Portal is open – very much like manifesting in The Law of Attraction – and it has worked so far, even though this concept instinctively feels like mumbo-jumbo to me.
How to Use The Law of Attraction
With the understanding that what we focus on influences the way we perceive the world, we can start controlling our world through the power of the mind. Perhaps the mindset I’ve most successfully implemented has been that I’m in control of any given situation because I can choose how I want to perceive and act upon it. Getting a low mark on an essay is not necessarily good or bad. It could be perceived as a failure to mentally torture yourself about in an unproductive manner, or it could be perceived as a wake-up call to take this school thing more seriously. Whichever of these alternatives you choose to focus on influences how the situation will transpire. If you focus on letting this essay be a lesson to step up your academic game, you might for example intercept study advice that would have otherwise gone under your radar.
Podcaster and author Jocko Willink concretized the idea of positive thinking to improve any given situation. In his third podcast episode4, Jocko shares the idea of dealing with information that would generally be regarded as negative, by just replying with “good”. He gives some examples; “Mission got canceled? Good; we can focus on another one. Didn’t get the new high-speed gear that we wanted? Good; we can keep it simple. Didn’t get promoted? Good; more time to get better”, and so on. He says that doesn’t promote an over-optimistic outlook on life, but that when things are bad, there are going to be some good aspects in it, that you can focus on in order to spark positivity out of the situation. The phrase “good” has become a bit of an internal meme for me, with comedic effects when applies to especially annoying situations, but so far I’m convinced that by saying “good” you can improve whatever is in front of you. As a side-note, musician Akira The Don made a soundtrack5 called “Good”, using vocal samples from this podcast episode. This was how I found out about this idea, and how I’ve managed to keep it a part of the way I deal with what can be considered defeats.
If “good” is too optimistic, at least try thinking “maybe”; Maybe it was good, maybe it was bad, as we see in the story of The Chinese Farmer who lost his horse6, who just replied with “maybe” when his neighbors gave their opinions about whether events which had affected him were good or bad. This is something I want to write more about, as I explore the topic of Stoicism; We can’t know the ultimate consequence of what we may label as positive or negative.
Goal Setting with The Law of Attraction
Just the act of setting up goals, without plans to go along, has made me orient myself towards reaching them. Just like wishing upon a star, or praying to a higher power, goal setting requires you to think about and articulate what you want, and if you do that, you set your mind toward pursuing it. The Law of Attraction seems to generally focus on “manifesting” things into being. Merely mentally manifesting can change the way you see your reality, even though it’s materialistically the same. This could explain why The Law of Attraction works, as far as it does. Another explanation could be that internally aiming for something can lead to taking actions externally.
One of the goals I had set up for 2022 was to fix some kind of income, for the first time in my life. I specified approximately how (traditional or creative jobs), and made it clear that the experience was the important part, and that the income it results in is a means of measurement. Two related goals were to get my CV in order and to create a certain amount of material for my social media. Setting up these goals, these things to aim at, really paid off: It has led to me taking a small but meaningful side job at my University and taking my videography and networking a little more seriously, resulting in one currently confirmed sponsor and an invitation to a small creative team running a company. These aren’t necessarily major victories, but they’re victories, and they can lead to major things. If I had not set up these goals, the job opportunity might have flown right over my head, and I might not have done the creative production and networking necessary for this sponsorship and connection with this team to happen. At the beginning of the year, my CV was non-existent, and the experience I could put on it was limited. I wouldn’t be able to manifest this document into existence, in the sense that I just think about it and don’t take action. However, I did manifest it into existence in the sense that I thought about it this goal, subsequently restructuring my aims, and took action in keeping with these aims.
I think that this biblical message7 encapsulates the act of taking aim. The reason it’s inscribed in an ancient book that’s the most influential one in the history of the world may be a sign that this is wisdom that we’ve known for a very long time, and wisdom that still applies today:
7 Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you.Matthew 7:7–8
8 For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened.
My knowledge of this “law”, widely labeled as pseudoscientific and new thought spiritual, is still limited. The metaphysical claims about energy, vibrations, synchronicity, etc. that were made to explain The Law of Attraction turned me away from the concept when I first discovered it and made some “research” (looking up things on the web) about it. By studying the psychology of perception, learning about ideas of stoicism, and being reminded of that Star Wars quote, I think I was able to put a finger on how The Law of Attraction functions. I’ve tried to understand and explain it through the perspective of perception and placebo, which are perspectives that I’ve either missed or that are missing from the discussion on The Law of Attraction.
The validity of The Law of Attraction is up for debate, but I’m not too interested in that. I try to improve my own and other people’s lives, and whether that’s done through more or less scientifically proven methods doesn’t matter to me if the results are positive. So I urge you to take aim at something, even if it’s not wholeheartedly, to find out for yourself if you can attract potential into reality.
Anakin Skywalker doesn’t remember that his focus determines his reality. One reason why he is gradually seduced by The Dark Side of The Force is that he drowns himself in negative thinking. Although Obi-Wan tells him to be mindful of his thoughts and not to focus on the negative, he himself, as the other Jedi Knights, doubt that Anakin is The Chosen One to bring balance to The Force. Anakin’s son, Luke Skywalker, focuses on the good in the fallen Jedi Knight Anakin. He believes that there is still light in him, when no one else in the story or in the audience does. I think this is because he wants to believe it. Therefore he takes a leap of faith by acting as if it’s true, thus saving Anakin from being further consumed by Darth Vader, who previously believed that it was too late for him to be redeemed.