Making Sense of Manifesting
Updated: Jan 19
With the New Year upon us, we often get caught up thinking about goals and what we hope to achieve. This is also a time when terms like "manifesting" can pop up more frequently as it relates to goals. The idea that you can manifest what you want is interesting to me, particularly because there are people who I admire who swear by this practice as a means to achieve what they want. But whenever I’ve looked into how manifesting is supposed to work, I’ve been met with hazy explanations; ones that seem to involve asking the Universe to perform some kind of magic to make the thing I desire appear out of nowhere.
Although such explanations don’t resonate with me, my curiosity has stopped me from completely giving up on the concept. There had to be more to it than asking the Universe for help. So I decided to dig a little deeper. That’s when I came across the work of Dr. Tara Swart and her book The Source. Dr. Swart is a neuroscientist, medical doctor, coach, author and lecturer. She talks a lot about manifesting and visualisation using concepts from cognitive science to describe how manifesting actually works. With my own background in psychology my interest was immediately piqued.
Dr. Swart talks about manifesting as part of a set of cognitive processes called: selective filtering, selective attention and value tagging.
Let’s break down these fancy terms.
Selective Filtering is where your brain filters out what it deems non essential information from your day to day. For example, if you’re chatting with a friend in a busy restaurant you might not notice the sounds of clinking cutlery, music and other conversations around you. Your brain will be filtering out these distractions.
Selective Attention is what you focus on. For example, what your friend is saying and their body language.
Value tagging is putting the things you focus on in order of importance. Dr. Swart describes logical and emotional elements to value tagging. The logical side relates to tagging the information we receive as it relates to our survival. The emotional element relates more to our sense of community and aspirations.
Creating a vision board, or action board as Dr. Swart calls them, is one way to help you focus on what you want to achieve and to prime your brain to assign more value to your aspirational goals and dreams.
Dr. Swart explains, “When you visualise what you want to achieve and how you’ll get there you’re priming your brain to do that value tagging in a different way that serves you towards achieving your goals, rather than not focusing on anything in particular.”
The brain assigns a higher value to images than words alone. So the more you look at those images on your action board, the more they move up in importance in your value tagging system. And the more likely you are to recognise opportunities related to these goals as they arise in your day to day.
The final piece to manifesting what you want, is to take regular action towards your goals. Taking action is key to turning a dream into a reality.
Looking at manifesting as a way to prime our brains to focus on what we want to achieve, leading to thinking and behaving differently and then taking consistent action towards our goals, makes much more sense to me. I also find it more empowering knowing that we have some amount of control over the process of manifesting rather than setting an intention and then kicking back and leaving the rest up to the Universe to take care of.
For those of us who have had our doubts about manifesting, Dr. Tara Swart offers a science based explanation that might even compel you to give it a try.
By Rachel Barac