The Science of Manifestation: How To Make Your Dreams Come True

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Manifestation is often referred to as the process of making your dreams and goals a reality. It's based on a principle that you will attract into your life whatever you focus on. This concept maintains that if you focus on positive things, you will attract more positivity into your life. But the flip side is just as true: Negativity attracts the unfavorable.

Scientists have been looking at this phenomenon for a while. Is it true that what we focus our attention on becomes reality? This certainly seems to be the case with positive emotions, and is a good place to start. Most of us will be wanting to manifest more rather than less positivity. The basic idea is that positive emotions change how we interpret the world, creating positive experiences that add to our emotional well-being. This circular exchange of positivity creates an upward spiral of positive emotions. Once you begin to generate positive emotions, the good feelings generated pull you toward wanting greater and more diverse good feelings. In this small but important way, the generation of a positive emotion “manifests” a positive experience. I put it in quotes because the word “manifest” reeks of magical thinking, pseudoscience, and plain old wishful thinking. Scientists use more precise language when they talk about the relationship between what we think and feel and how it impacts our reality.  One scientist described the process as: “…positive emotions broaden the scopes of attention and cognition, and, by consequence, initiate upward spirals toward increasing emotional well-being.”  

This upward spiral of positivity is initiated with positive emotions, seeks out more positive emotions and experiences, which in turn helps you find more.  When we deliberately do something to make us feel positive, it sets in motion a positive sequela. Like a snowball rolling down a hill, there is a natural force or law at work, and a small beginning becomes greater.

Buddha's quote on the mind

In one study, 138 college students were measured on their positive and negative emotions.  It was found that those with initial positivity used broad-minded coping, which predicted increased positive emotions. In turn, these increased positive emotions serially enhanced their positivity over a five-week period. In other words, our initial positive emotion helps broaden our thinking, which increases our positive emotions. A snowball effect. We attract what we focus on. When we feel good, we look for and find good things. When we feel negative…well, you can fill in the sentence.

The impact of negative emotions - particularly when they become thinking traps - is very well known. A thinking trap is just what it sounds like. Once negative thoughts and their accompanying feelings accumulate, they trap you in a whirlpool of negativity. When negative thoughts repeat, they are called intrusive ruminations, and getting out of the trap involves deliberate ruminations. Intrusive ruminations are those we have difficulty stopping. Deliberate ruminations are positive changes in our thinking, which are intended to combat intrusions. This means there is an intentional, preconceived effort to change your thinking. This is important if you want to manifest something greater in your life.

The difference between intrusive and deliberate rumination – and the power each of them can hold

Intrusive rumination is seen as the culprit behind reactions to life’s difficulties, including traumatic events causing PTSD—Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Negative thinking helps to create a negative experience. The question is, can we “manifest” something positive in the middle of such a downward spiral? One study out of South Korea looked at 411 participants 18–68 years old who had experienced one of three types of trauma: interpersonal (human perpetrators); impersonal (human or natural origins); or interpersonal (e.g., death of a partner, severe illness). They found that deliberate rumination using gratitude not only kept people from experiencing the deleterious effect of PTSD – it actually caused them to have something known as Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG) – the positive life change following a struggle with a trauma or difficult life crisis.

This means if we want to manifest a better life, we must begin with a positive emotion like gratitude or optimism (snowballs, if you will) and dwell on that until we start to experience the world as a more positive place. This is deliberate rumination. It combats our negativity and pulls us toward the positive. Even when the worst happens to you, changing your thoughts can shape your reality. The deliberate rumination is like pushing the snowball until the natural force of gravity takes over. You do your part, and a natural process will begin to help.

Understanding manifestation means understanding that there tend to be patterns of thought and habits that will actually determine how we see the world.  And how we see the world determines how we respond to it. If you see the world as a threatening place, it becomes one. If you see it as an abundance of opportunity, you respond accordingly. This is, perhaps, the most essential ingredient behind manifestation: experience is what you choose to perceive.

Quote by Dr. Dan Tomasulo

Let's take the example of you wanting a new car. Your old car is starting to have more problems, and you realize you need to put more money into repairs. You begin to wonder if a new car is possible. Can you afford it? Can you pay the higher insurance? Do you really need it? 

This is the tipping point – and it’s where the positive and negative aspects of your thinking fight for dominance. On the one hand, a new car would be nice, but on the other, your old car was just fixed- so maybe now isn’t the right time. No one steals an old car, but you’ll have to worry and think more about where you might park a new one. Buying a new car takes time, and you are too busy to go test driving or search the web. But if you have a new car, you could take longer trips with less hassle, and people will notice you are moving up in the world.

The back and forth means that you are not aligned with your goal. 

To generate positivity, an essential ingredient in the manifestation and goal-setting process, you must stop generating ambivalence. Your thoughts are like the wheels of a car.  Point them in one direction or the other, and you will go there and, for better or for worse, see the sights that are along the path you’ve chosen. But if you put the front wheels of the car in different directions, the car isn’t going anywhere. If you are undecided, you’ll manifest indecision.

How to manifest real positive change in your own life: Your step-by-step guide

So if you’re ready to actually start “manifesting” positive change, with intention, where do you begin? Here are five practical and actionable steps toward using methods that have shown they can bring about positive change.

1. Clarity and Positivity

The first step is to get clear about what you want. What are your goals, and what do you really want to achieve? Once you're clear about what you want, generate some positive feelings about it as the way to start putting it out into the universe. Aligning yourself with a positive emotion at the beginning of the journey toward the goal makes it energetically dynamic, as the above research shows. Focus on it and really believe that it will happen. Yes, this could be about material things, like a car, but it could also be about a feeling you’d like to experience, or a creative endeavor, like writing a book.

2. Take Action

Take action steps towards your goal, even if they're small. Indeed, micro-goals are one way to make super-small progress while feeding your positivity. Suppose we use the new car example, allowing yourself twenty minutes (timed) to look on the web for cars in your price range, with the micro goal of selecting at least one that would be a good choice to follow up on. In that case, the short-term payoff and accomplishment keep the flow of positivity.  When we have a big goal, we want to know we are doing things—even if they are small—to make it happen. Manifestation is a powerful process, but it takes time and effort to make it work. Staying optimistic continues to fuel the snowball of positivity. In multiple studies, researchers have found that people who are optimistic and confident about their future tend to achieve better outcomes than those who are pessimistic. This can actually mean the difference between life and death, as in the case of cardiac patients looking to lower the risk of coronary heart disease. Why? Because patients who are optimistic make necessary health changes for their recovery, whereas those who are not optimistic do not. When you combine a positive emotion with a clear goal and take action on that goal, even at a small level, you get attracted to the outcome.

3. Believe and Achieve

To make a goal or aspiration achievable, you must first believe that it is possible. Confident people know there is a loop, a reciprocity of dynamics. They learn how to manifest by using these principles and keep finding ways to do two things: First, make progress on their belief that something is achievable. This is where your micro-goals come in. Secondly, once it has happened (even if it is a small part of a larger goal), this supports the feeling that it can be done. For confident people who are good at making things happen, there is a continuity that says: Achieving something I believed possible strengthens my confidence. As you make one part of your dream come true, it strengthens the belief that all of it will happen. When a big one happens, you’ll believe others will too.

4. Visualize

The power of visualization is a well-known secret to success in many fields. From business to sports to acting, the ability to visualize your goals and make them a reality is an essential tool for achievement. The science of manifestation refers to the process of creating or bringing into existence something that is not currently present. 

The most effective method is to write down your goals in a clear and concise way, and then visualize yourself achieving them. This process helps to embed your goals into your subconscious mind, increasing the likelihood of them coming true. Another way to set goals for manifestation is to create an altar or shrine dedicated to your dreams. This can be done by setting up a small space where you can place items that symbolize your goals. By regularly visiting your altar or shrine, you can keep your goals top of mind and strengthen your connection to them. While this might sound unscientific, there is actually some good evidence to use what is called goal priming. In this style, just like they have motivational posters up at work, you prime your goal with something known as supraliminal priming. If you want the new car, take a photo of the one you found on the internet and put it in a prominent place. Every time you see it—it will remind you of what you hope to achieve. You can even create a vision board with photos or words that represent what you are working towards

Ed’s Note: Try the digital vision board tool available right here on Infijoy, where you can upload pictures, define your goals, and use this visually-rich organizational tool to help you work towards your dreams!

5. Affirmations

Creating affirmations is the next step to manifesting your dreams. Affirmations are positive statements that you repeat to yourself, which will help you focus your energy and intention on what you want to achieve and there is some very good evidence to support this. They can be used to reprogram your subconscious mind, allowing it to focus on the positive things that you want to manifest. Affirmations should always be expressed positively and in the present tense. For example, instead of saying, “I won’t let failure hold me back”, say, “I am confident in my abilities, and I know success is within reach.” You should also make sure that your affirmations are specific and realistic, as this will help keep your focus sharp and focused on achieving your goals. Finally, remember that repetition is key when creating affirmations for manifestation. Make sure to repeat them often throughout the day—this will help reinforce them in your mind and also make them more likely to come true!

This process requires patience, faith, and consistency in order for it to work effectively. Keep going even if something doesn't happen immediately; trust that everything happens in its own timing. Stay consistent with your thoughts, feelings, actions, and goals. Be the energy you want to attract.


Ed’s Note: Check out our selection of affirmations-based meditations, for everything from building confidence and starting your day on a more positive note, to allowing yourself to pause and slow down when you need a rest.


Dr. Dan Tomasulo

Written by Dr. Dan Tomasulo, an American psychologist, writer, and professor, and the Academic Director and core faculty at the Spirituality Mind Body Institute, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York. He is the author of Learned Hopefulness: The Power of Positivity to Overcome Depression. Dan’s passion is positive psychology and the science of happiness, helping people focus on their strengths and cultivating their best selves so they can lead meaningful and fulfilling lives.


Want to learn more from Dr. Tomasulo? Check out his Infijoy courses on Learned Hopefulness and The Power to Thrive!


All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals that influenced this article: Positive Emotions Trigger Upward Spirals Toward Emotional Well-Being; The Resilience Factor: 7 Essential Skills For Overcoming Life's Inevitable Obstacles; Gratitude Moderates The Mediating Effect Of Deliberate Rumination On The Relationship Between Intrusive Rumination And Post-Traumatic Growth; A Meta-Analytic Cross-Lagged Panel Analysis Of Self-Efficacy And Academic Performance;  Goal-Setting: A Possible Theoretical Framework For Examining The Effect Of Priming Goals On Organizational Behavior; The Psychology Of Change: Self-Affirmation And Social Psychological Intervention.

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