Oh, the ideals! We dream, picturing fantastic futures, soothing present pains with hopes of future tranquility. Dreaming serves a purpose. Realistic dreams motivate action; and action stimulates growth, but begrudging life holds onto sameness, comfortably resting in current habits and surroundings. Asking the universe for help is a common practice by hopeful followers of the ‘law of attraction.’ While I’m a skeptic of feel-good rhetoric, perhaps, there is some validity to this practice.
Limitations on Asking the Universe
I, first, would like to clarify that scientifically speaking the universe does not have ears, and does not respond to heart felt supplications for help. However, there is plenty of support for optimistic reframing. Asking the universe is a reframing assisting in the process of goal attainment. Asking the universe can clarify goals and motivate behavior—and, subsequently, lead to goal fulfillment.
Driven to achieve is wonderful; but we must remember that an ideal life never fully materializes. Even when we obtain a significant goal, life still is strained by heart ache, trouble, and disappointments. Reality (the world we live in) can’t complete with the sanitized future of our dreams. We can’t ask the universe to bless beyond reasonable realities.
If our satisfaction demands a perfect job, partner, children and bank balance, we will never be satisfied. We can chase the ideals. But waiting for attainment before enjoying life creates a perpetual misery. Simply asking the universe for more than life can provide creates disappointment.
See Realistic Optimism for more on this topic
Achieving goals is difficult. Change involves anxiety. When discomforting emotions arrive—and they will arrive—if we have an expectation of ease, our faulty expectation magnifies the pain.
Change continuously collides with conflicts, forcing decisions that demand trade-offs. Life doesn’t follow our beautiful plans. Unplanned troubles demand a pause—time to assess and make changes. The obstacles force cognitive action. When we ignorantly expect smoothness, misfortunes are more devastating, demanding more energy, summoning thoughts of unfairness that ignite anger, sadness or helplessness. Thoughts such as, “this is wrong” or “it shouldn’t be this way” interfere with creative and effective responses. We wallow in self-pity rather than taking an active approach to survive and overcome.
See the Anxiety of Change for more on this topic
The universe follows natural laws. The universe is not concerned with our sanitized dreams. Within these laws, life developed and expanded. Organisms with the ability to adapt flourished; while those expecting the great universe to change for their benefit struggled and died. The universe doesn’t consider individual needs then modify its existence, blessing one individual at a cost to the host of others. The universe isn’t bound to fulfill human desires, we must find our niche—our purpose, our enjoyment—within the laws of the universe.
See Natural Laws of Life for more on this topic
The universe supports survival, giving the necessary nutrients for millions of diverse organisms; Human are only an infinitely small piece of this living universe. Any universe dedicated to the thriving of a single species, would lead to the universe’s demise. The neutral and indifferent position of the universe in survival, allows the development of a complex structure of life, enjoying and competing for resources. Any person who neglects the natural laws is likely to suffer.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”~Unknown author (Often attributed to Charles Darwin)
Law of Attraction and Positive Thinking
We have power to change this flow of energy. We aren’t condemned to predetermined outcomes. Above all, we use cognitive learning to interpret happenings, guide appropriately responses, and abandon unhealthy environments. Accordingly, we actively participate in the flow of experience improving opportunities and gaining wisdom.
Barbara Fredrickson’s theory of broaden and build brings empirical support to the growth promoting qualities of positive emotions. Positive emotions invite wider perspectives and creative behaviors.
See Broaden and Build Theory for more on this topic
The Law of Attraction
The Law of Attraction is that the essence of an object (or person) draws likeness unto itself. Positive thoughts invites positive outcomes. If we believe we can accomplish something, we invite success in that endeavor.
Ester and Jerry Hicks explain, “If I feel fat and unhappy about the way my body looks and feels, I cannot discover the process or state of mind that is necessary to achieve a good-feeling, good looking body” (2020).
Eckhart Tolle concept of ‘pain-body‘ is an example of the law of attraction. He writes, “pain can only feed on pain. The pain body will feed on any experience that resonates with its own kind of energy” (2004, page 37).
The law of attraction is the underlying theme to many popular books, such as Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, and Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking. I’ll refrain from my own critical opinion of these best-sellers. They do give hope and with hope often comes motivation. If we think something is impossible, we will not exert the effort.
Asking the Universe
Asking the universe is a process that invokes the law of attraction by first aligning our “state of mind” with what we desire.
Petri Maatta explains in his blog that simply identifying our goals is not sufficient. Asking the universe is not a magical short-cut to change.
The steps listed by Maatta align well with scientific evidence. Clarity of goal, commitment to goal, belief in ability to attain the goal, flexibility to unplanned obstacles, patience and persistence, and willingness to adjust as new knowledge comes to light are all supportable qualities.
How about the first step—being friendly with the universe? I’m in agreement with this as well. I see friendliness with the universe as honoring its characteristics—the natural laws.
We must paint our lives on the canvas provided. Our friendliness accepts the universe as it is, works with the givens, and sees natural laws as agreeable to fulfilling our desires. Albert Einstein said, “the most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”
We Have Responsibility to Make Change
If our hearts are full of hatred, constantly fighting against the government, people, employers, expecting that some magical solution will change the world, we will never put together enough practical actions to succeed. Our vision of an unfriendly and oppressive world douses motivation to adapt. We can accept the conditions and still work for change, pushing for progress.
Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to congress, said, “you don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.”
Carl Jung wrote “givens can be embraced with an unconditional ‘yes’ to that which is, without subjective protests, an acceptance of the conditions of existence… an acceptance of my own nature as I happen to be” (Richo, 2006).
David Richo explains, “the givens of life may seem like a cruel joke perpetrated upon us by a vindictive universe. They could seem like penalties for a waywardness we inherited but did not cause. They may even seem like spiteful tricks to make our life miserable” (2006).
The universe is what it is, full of struggle and pain, but, also, full of opportunity and joy. This is the canvas we must befriend before we create our masterpiece.
Go Ahead, Ask the Universe
Create your dream board, ask the universe, modify your thoughts. These practices can bring blessings and motivate action. We can ask the universe to grant our desires. But, after we ask, we must go about the work, understanding the limitations, seeking intelligent advise, and gathering helpful resources. The universe is bountiful full of opportunity. We may never achieve all our lofty ideals, but we can move towards them, finding joy in this wondrous journey.
Hicks, E., Hicks, J. (2020). The Astonishing Power of Emotions: Let Your Feelings Be Your Guide. Hay House Inc.; 3rd edition
Richo, D. (2006). The Five Things We Cannot Change: And the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them. Shambhala; Reprint edition
Tolle, E. (2004). The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. New World Library.