What Is Manifestation?
Building the life we want also means re-wiring what we think we can do, a career coach explained to me once during a time of professional difficulty. I had long believed that finding a fulfilling job that paid well without being exhaustive was largely out of the question and that I was resigned to a certain kind of income bracket or professional title.
It turns out it wasn’t that I needed traditional career advice like refining my resume or building my LinkedIn network. Instead, I realized I had to learn (or unlearn) what I’d come to believe about myself and what I was capable of.
My coach then recommended mindfulness and manifestation to shift my scarcity mindset to one of abundance, of possibilities in the future. Once I did that, she suggested, I could take tangible steps to manifest the life I dreamed of.
I was deeply skeptical. But I committed to trying out Deepak Chopra’s 21 Days of Abundance meditations based on her suggestion. The first three days were frustrating and I actively tried not to roll my eyes when repeating phrases like “I create my personal abundance from an infinite source.”
But after sticking with it for a bit longer, I realized that perhaps manifestation is not all healing crystals, Eckhart Tolle, and reciting Sanskrit mantras. And as I’d come to find out, the practice combines both dreaming and doing. Manifestation takes an overarching goal and breaks it down into more digestible actions and fewer limiting beliefs. (You know, those beliefs that tell you “I will never be able to successfully build my own company, have my dream home, or find real love.”)
Whether you’re a skeptic like me or interested in approaching manifestation from an actionable perspective, here’s a practical guide to support you on this personal journey.
Manifestation: A Simple Definition
Manifestation is loosely defined as transforming ideas and desires into reality. Similar to the law of attraction, it stems from a belief that the universe (sometimes referred to as the Universe) creates and provides for you that which your thoughts are focused on.
Manifestation has also recently exploded in the mainstream: In the midst of the pandemic, Google reported a 400% increase for the term, and #manifestation on TikTok has a collective 7.3 billion views. In a time when circumstances feel so out of our control, the suggestion that manifestation can turn #goals into real-life achievements is quite appealing.
But, the idea of riches or a new relationship likely won’t happen just because we’ve imagined it so. A loved one who falls ill may not magically recover if only they wish it—the same way they did not wish to be sick in the first place. Manifesting is about more than just the power of positive thinking; it also includes intentional actions, challenging emotions, and techniques rooted in science and psychology.
Ilakkiya Maheswaran, a mindset coach and founder of Wander Is Calling, puts it this way: “Manifestation helps turn something theoretical into reality by believing you have the power to do so. But it only serves you if you pair it with the work.”
How Do We Manifest?
In my case, I hoped to manifest a future outside of what I had known. And just as I said it, my boss pulled me aside and exclaimed, “Congratulations, you’ve earned a promotion—” no, I’m kidding. It didn’t happen that way. But what I desired did happen over time.
The first, and arguably most important step, was clarifying what exactly I wanted. It became evident a promotion wasn’t really the goal. A lifestyle overhaul was. Perhaps you’ll start with envisioning a new relationship or landing a dream job. But I urge you to dig deeper and see if there are underlying goals there, too. Jennie O’Connor, a creative coach, specifically recommends identifying your core values: How can you know what you want, if you don’t know what’s truly important to you?
Once you know your goal, be clear and specific. For example, wishing for a relationship doesn’t provide any context on length, quality, or level of connection. This could be as specific as “I want a lifelong partner who values family time and a sense of humor the way I do.” But this thorough distinction helps you understand your ideal outcomes and the micro-goals needed to get there.
Take some time to put your thoughts to paper. It doesn’t have to look like the popular TikTok method of writing it down repeatedly throughout the day; once can be enough, via prayer, mindfulness meditation, or vision boarding. But make it concrete and something you can turn to time and again, like Post-Its on your mirror, a journaling prompt each night, or a digital collage as your lock screen. The more present and prevalent it is in your day-to-day, the more likely you’ll be driven to change. Otherwise, as the ol’ saying goes, out of sight, out of mind.
In addition to learning what you want, it’s time to un-learn what doesn’t serve you, like limiting or negative beliefs. A good practice is to turn negative self-talk into positive affirmations. Personally, I spent a lot of time thinking “I don’t deserve this kind of life” or “I’ll never be good enough” but over time I’ve transformed these thoughts into “I am grateful for all that I have” and “I am enough as I am.” This shift to a growth mindset helped me to embrace what was possible, rather than continuing to hold myself back.
I was then motivated to pivot towards action. In the way that flowers don’t bloom the same day we plant the seed, I knew I’d have to be more present- and future-oriented, instead of dwelling on what I had experienced thus far. Many coaches will also encourage this mindset and to frame your goals in the present or past tense, like you have already achieved them. When we say it to ourselves enough, we’re more likely to start believing it in a way that’s promising and drives us to change. If you’ve decided that you’ll explore a career change, you may start refreshing your online portfolio or practicing for a job interview in your new industry.
Then, as small changes happened, I worked to exhibit gratitude along the way. Every single book or article covering manifestation talks about being thankful for what you receive, and I do believe that gratitude helped reinforce that I was on the right path, being affirmed again and again by these incremental shifts. Consider starting a gratitude journal; in college, I kept a piece of paper taped up on my dorm room wall where I’d write three things I was thankful for that day. This was an easy foundation for me to continue practicing this habit over the long term.
Manifestation is like placing an order for delivery but not knowing exactly when it’ll arrive, my coach reminded me. That is to say, putting my goal out there wasn’t a one-and-done, it was the onset of a series of steps that would eventually pay off. And it reminded me of self-fulfilling prophecies; if I believed good things could come to me, I’d be more likely to work towards them and build momentum.
Ultimately, I found a role that afforded me the work/life balance I had been looking for, one that still complimented my skill set and interests. And yes, it was an accomplishment to get there. But more than that, manifestation allowed me to reframe my self-worth, capabilities, and what kind of life I could lead, in a sustainable way.
I’ve learned that’s what manifestation is actually about, after all.
Henah Velez (she/her) is the Executive Producer at Money with Katie at Morning Brew, as well as a writer at The Good Trade. She holds a Master’s in Social Entrepreneurship and is a proud Rutgers grad. Originally from NJ, Henah’s now in the Bay Area where she loves shopping small, hanging with her pets, or traveling. Say hi on Instagram!