Many associate the idea of “attracting” money with the The Secret, the bestselling book which essentially said you could attract anything you want with positive thinking. No doubt people everywhere tried like heck to think that Porsche or Caribbean vacation home into their midst. (If only that were possible, the entire planet would be living large right now).
The kernel of truth in there is that you can actually attract what you want into your life—including money. But it takes more than positive thinking. It also takes more than hope and simple effort. According to Srinivasan Pillay, Harvard professor of psychiatry, brain-imaging researcher and author of The Science Behind the Law of Attraction, your greatest source for attracting what you want is your brain.
The fact is, you’re attracting events and circumstances into your life all the time. But they may not be what you would choose. What you attract is based on what you believe is possible for yourself (more on that below) and as a result, what you focus on. Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania, summed it up in an NPR article a few years back. “The more you focus on something—whether that’s math or auto-racing or football or God—the more that becomes your reality, the more it becomes written into the neural connections of your brain.”
Think of your brain as a high-tech computer that acts on what’s been programmed into it. Much of that programming is faulty and came from things we heard, saw or experienced as children. So if you were taught that wealth was a selfish pursuit, you may think poor and focus on the scarcity around you. After a while, a strong neural pattern is created and your brain’s attention centers will hone in on scarcity wherever you are (to the point where even if wealth and abundance is more prevalent, you won’t see it). You may miss obvious lucrative opportunities, or become anxious and sabotage your own efforts if you’re offered a promotion, for example.
When our brain processes what we think, feel, say and do, it fires off electrical and chemical reactions that affect our physiology and change how we respond (or don’t respond) to the things that would empower us or help us reach our goals. Your brain can be your ally or it can be your saboteur, depending on the data input.
The bottom line? We have much more power than we know when it comes to living the life we want. It’s simply a matter of working with your brain rather than against it.
Here are 5 steps you can take to team up with your brain and start attracting more money and success now:
1. Raise your inner glass ceiling. We tend to believe our circumstances are due to our conscious decisions, says Pillay. The truth is, “we are in the grip of our unconscious brains.” Your conscious brain does the thinking (“I want to make more money”). Your unconscious brain holds your innermost beliefs (“I’m not good enough to get that client/raise/promotion”) and regulates your actions. If you try to deviate from what you believe deep down, your brain employs course-correction mechanisms (mental and physical symptoms) that will ensure you return “safely” to your comfort zone. Got a big speech to give? You may get laryngitis.
To put it another way, your life today is a product of your current beliefs. If your ambitions grow faster than those beliefs evolve, you will hit a brick wall (your inner glass ceiling). According to Pillay, our unconscious minds are much louder and more powerful than our conscious minds. “The power of the unconsious mind is quite breathtaking,” writes Pillay. Decisions we make every day are influenced by the unconsious without us even being aware.
So if you’re stuck and unable to get to the next level, it’s a sign your beliefs need to change. Ask yourself what your core beliefs are, ask yourself if they’re true beyond a doubt (they almost never are), and then create new empowering beliefs. It sounds simple, but there’s a trick to it. To make new beliefs stick, you must flip them from conscious beliefs to unconscious beliefs—that is, get them to sink deep into the recesses of your brain. Repeat them as many times a day as possible, every day. Say them, read them, listen to yourself saying them on your iPod. Feel them, see them, experience them until they embed themselves and become your new normal. And continue to reinforce them. (See #4 below).
2. See the impossible as possible. Most of what we deem impossible is actually possible, but our own self-limiting beliefs have us convinced otherwise. For example, you can get the star client, you can be a millionaire, you can become the top executive at your company, you can double your income in the next year—if you do what it takes to get there. Other people do it and so can you. But deem it impossible and you shut down your brain’s planning and action centers and stop it from finding solutions. Rather, assume everything is possible (unless it physically is not) and ask yourself how to achieve what you want. Create a plan to accomplish it. This turns on the brain’s motor planning, and fires up the centers in your brain that help you innovate, find solutions and hone in on opportunities. Pillay cites the example of Roger Bannister, a runner who broke the record of the four-minute mile. Everyone, including doctors, said it was impossible to run a mile in four minutes or less. After Bannister did it, hundreds of other runners followed suit within the next two years. “Once his brain computed that something was possible, it stretched to meet the demand,” says Pillay.
3. Fix your self-talk. Your brain takes everything you say literally. So if you think or say “I can’t afford that,” just like in the above example, you shut down your brain’s planning and action centers. Instead ask “How can I afford that?” Phrase everything you assume is impossible as a question, so your brain will look for solutions. The answers may not come immediately, but you’re building neural connections around it and activating a super-network to support what you’re looking for.
Another powerful self-talk tactic, according to Pillay, is to phrase everything according to what you DO want, rather than what you don’t. For example, if you say, I do not want to be poor, your brain only hears “poor” and will train itself and plan around the concept of “poor.” It’s better to say “I want to be financially free.” This activates those planning and action functions to focus on financial freedom.
4. Visualize like a gold-medalist. Similar to “attracting” visualizing has the stigma of hokiness. But the science behind it is solid, which is why it’s a staple in sports psychology, and a must to achieve that coveted medal. According to Pillay, imagery warms up the action brain and serves as a blueprint for action. Studies show that when athletes imagine exactly how long it takes them to run or swim a race, for example, they are likely to reproduce that time in real life. That’s because imagery gives the action brain the info about where it needs to go, says Pillay.
To achieve a goal you want, start by imaging it as a movie or story with a beginning, middle and end. For it to be most effective, be in the action. For example, don’t be watching yourself touting your book on Oprah; be on the stage looking out excitedly at the audience, ready to share something life-changing with them. It’s important to make it a visceral experience, so get all of your senses and emotions involved. Include how you feel and what you say and do when the end result is discovered. For example, feel yourself jumping up and down like a giddy school girl and bursting with happiness when you open your new boutique to a huge waiting crowd, or when you see your first seven figure-bank statement. (Always dream big!). Practice your imagery in a quiet place at least once a day for six weeks, Pillay advises.
5. Expect the best. Frankly, this is a tough one because we live in a superstitious culture that teaches us from birth that if things are going well, something has to go wrong (think Murphy’s Law). But to be wealthy and successful (and happy), you have to ignore pack mentality, limited thinking, and outdated superstitions. One thing wealthy/happy/successful people do differently from everyone else is expect good things for themselves without fear of the other shoe dropping. They have confidence in their abilities, assume things will turn out well, and know they can jump any hurdle and move on to the next good thing.
Here’s where your brain fits into that equation: We have something called a mirror neuron system that reflects outwardly what we feel inwardly. If we feel anger, our brains seeks out others who reflect our emotions, even circumstances that will fuel the anger. If we feel compassionate and kind, we will attract other kind people. In the same vein, if you expect good things to happen for you, you attract good things. As a mini-example, ever hear the TV pastor Joel Osteen talk about how he expects a good parking spot and always gets one? Same here (I don’t know how it happens but it does). Our mirror neurons cause us to “instruct our attention to look for things that support our emotional outlook,” Pillay writes. “If we are fearful, we tell our brains to look for threatening things, and if we are happy, we see the positive things about life.”
All of these are life-long habits to cultivate.The key (as with going for the gold at anything—whether it’s learning to play the piano or getting promoted or taking your company to the next level) is in knowing what you have to do to reach your goal, taking the steps necessary, and being consistent with your practice of good habits and a success-mindset. The reason why most people aren’t where they want to be is not because money or success is such a mystery and so hard to come by, but because even when they know all of the above, consistent practice is hard and most people won’t stick to it. It took me years of study (and trial and error) and applying these techniques to learn this, and when I’m consistent, I see amazing results. It’s all about what you put in.
Have you used any of these techniques? We’d love to hear your experiences, or tips that others can learn from!
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By Robyn Post
December 11, 2012