What science says about the art of manifesting success

Mark Travers
Written by Mark Travers
on November 23, 2022 3 minute read

Manifestation is sold as a zero-effort growth hack. Here’s why it’s not.    

As Xolopreneurs, we understand that the possibilities of scaling our business are endless. I am constantly thinking about new ways to provide affordable, timely, convenient, and quality mental health support to more people through my online therapy service. I find this process exhilarating, as it allows me to envision what my business will look like a few years from now. 

But there’s one viral trend that could spell trouble for a new crop of social media-obsessed entrepreneurs.

Manifesting — or the process of creating something through thought alone — is often associated with spirituality and pseudoscience. The idea is that through visualization, affirmations, and other similar techniques, you can turn your thoughts into reality!

The problem with manifestation isn't that it is wholly unscientific. Instead, it’s easy to sell a watered-down version of it to those who don’t know any better. Social media, especially TikTok and Instagram, is notorious for popularizing the concept of liking a post to manifest success. These posts often have a pseudoscientific explanation for how manifestation works, which earns it a bad rap in scientific circles.

In reality, the idea of translating thought into reality isn’t far-fetched. Visualization and affirmations are valuable tools for self-improvement. Visualization, for instance, is found to improve athletic performance in individuals even when they did not put in any physical effort. Simply rehearsing certain movements using the power of imagination can have a positive effect on your actual performance.

 As a rational entrepreneur, what you must understand is that the journey is every bit as important as the destination, if not more. Here are two insights to help you manifest your business goals in the right way.  

#1: Great entrepreneurs make the stars align for themselves

Many who buy into the pop-psychology definition of manifestation tend to underestimate the role their actions play in achieving their goals. To them, manifestation is a license to be lazy. Generally, they tend to have what's called an external locus of control, which is a belief that their fate is decided by external factors.

 But, as all successful entrepreneurs will tell you, it is advantageous to have an internal locus of control, which is a belief that your actions shape outcomes.

One study showed that children who had an internal locus of control were less likely to have health complications in adulthood compared to those who had an external locus of control.

 The explanation is simple: the children who believed they had a say in their health ate less junk food, were less likely to indulge in vices like smoking or doing drugs, and, in general, took better care of themselves. On the other hand, children who believed their health was controlled by external factors were less likely to make healthy choices in life.

Another study published in The Journal of Organizational Behavior found that individuals who had an internal locus of control had better outcomes at work. Compared to those with an external locus of control, these individuals were more motivated and had better experiences with their tasks and coworkers.

Those who have an external locus of control often fail to take the steps required to bridge the gap between where they are and where they want to be. While manifestation can help you define the steps you need to take to achieve a goal, achieving it is on you. Understand that a goal is realized through the process of learning, self-improvement, and hard work.

Entrepreneurs who achieve great things are usually the ones who fall in love with the process.       

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#2: Great entrepreneurs are masters at strategy 

All entrepreneurs have goals, but not all achieve them to the same degree. Fickle-minded people fall into the trap of thinking they are manifesting several goals at once. But, in reality, what they are doing is simply holding themselves back from achieving quantifiable success.

A classic study published in Psychological Bulletin revealed the importance of setting specific and challenging goals to increase your chances of achieving your goals. The study found that when a goal was well-defined and challenging, people were likely to spend more of their mental bandwidth trying to achieve it. Such goals increased their effort, persistence, and motivation.

So, rather than manifesting success in your business (which is a poorly defined and intangible goal) break it down. To better understand what you want, ask yourself questions like:

  • What does success mean for your business?

  • What are the numbers you’d like to see on your balance sheet?

  • Do you have a plan to make your business more successful? 

  • Do you have a timeline?

  • What sets you apart from your competitors?

  • If you achieve this goal, what happens next?

Now, create a SMART goal that lines up with your answers. A SMART goal is one that is:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Attainable

  • Relevant

  • Time-bound

This is what manifestation should really be about. Every great entrepreneur understands that it should be about strategizing and putting their mind to a very specific, tangible, and relevant goal that is not easy to achieve (but also not impossible) and then dedicating their energy toward achieving it within the set deadline. 

Final thoughts                

There's more to achieving something than simply thinking about it. Don’t fall prey to the fad that manifesting success just means sitting back and imagining everything in your business magically coming together. Visualize your goals and take actionable steps toward achieving them. That’s how a savvy Xolopreneur turns their thoughts into reality.   

 About Mark

Mark Travers, Ph.D., is an American Psychologist with degrees from Cornell University and the University of Colorado Boulder. Xolo helps him run his online therapy practice, www.awake-therapy.me, from whatever part of the world he is currently living in.

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