A 4-Step Process For Manifesting Your Goals This Year, From A Neuroscientist
It's a new year, which, for many, represents a clean slate. The air is rife with the fresh scent of new beginnings, and it's the perfect opportunity to reflect on what you want in the next 12 months—and how to manifest those goals into existence.
But manifesting has earned a bad rap. Some people scoff at the ability to draw what you want into your life, and on the surface, that's a totally valid reaction. However, as neuroscientist and author of The Source Tara Swart, M.D., Ph.D., explains on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, you can actually change your brain chemistry to achieve your goals this year.
This isn't your average guide to manifesting. Here, Swart walks us through a four-step process to get what you want by altering your brain:
First things first: "You need to know what you want to bring into your life or how you want your life to look or feel," says Swart. What is it that you're trying to change? It helps to pinpoint exactly what you're trying to achieve so you can have a one-track mind, so to speak.
Let's say you'd like to meet a certain workout goal this year. "I would regularly have a picture of somebody doing yoga on my action board," Swart says. (She prefers the term "action board" to "vision board," as the former implies doing the necessary work.) Or you could grab a piece of clothing that represents movement and keep it close by. "Basically, the images can be metaphorical or literal or anywhere in between," Swart says.
Part of raising awareness also involves reflecting on why you haven't been able to manifest what you want in the past. "What are the feelings or behavior patterns that keep blocking [you] from getting that?" Swart adds. "Once you understand that, you create a mantra that is the opposite statement."
Focus your attention.
That reflection piece brings us to the next step: focused attention. Notice the negative thoughts or behaviors that are holding you back from getting what you want, Swart says. Take stock of what hasn't worked for you in the past, and compile a "database" of good and bad habits over the years.
Then once you have your positive mantra and your action board, "you act on the basis that it has already come true, or that it's definitely going to become true, and you give gratitude for that fact," Swart explains. This naturally shifts your brain from a fear or shame state to a state of love and trust—which is crucial for manifestation.
"Rather than having the stress hormone cortisol directing the blood flow around your brain, you have oxytocin, the bonding hormone, flourishing in your brain," Swart explains. "That makes you much more likely to take some healthy risks that you might not have [taken]. And that's the state from which you have to manifest. If there's any doubt, fear, or shame, you are much less likely to manifest."
Next, you have to take action. There's this misconception with manifesting, where many believe you simply visualize what you want, then lie on the couch and "think" it into existence. According to Swart, that couldn't be more false. "You've got to do the work," she declares.
She recommends doing small "experiments" over time that slowly bring you toward your goal. "Small, low-risk things that help you build up to the things that you actually need to do to get what you want," she explains. Essentially, break your overarching goal into bite-size chunks.
"I'm quite a fan of picking two or three really small habits to change each quarter of the year," she adds. "Take small steps toward the things that you want."
Finally, you have to hold yourself accountable for those goals. "It's very easy to start a new year and say, OK, 'these are all my resolutions and new things that I'm going to do.' And then, for most of us, that motivation doesn't remain," Swart says. Motivation is certainly a skill, but according to Swart, most of our goals drop off simply because we pick ones that feel way too big.
Try to create actionable, tangible goals, and prioritize them based on what you can control. "If there are some things that are more in your control, like getting fit and healthy, then start doing that, and then if there's something that's less in your control, like getting married or having a baby, then give that a bit longer," she notes. Just make sure to have some sort of accountability along the way, whether it's a vision board, your partner, a therapist, etc.
For many, "manifesting" is merely a buzzword that has lost its meaning. No, you cannot simply "think" your goals into existence, but according to Swart, your thoughts have a major influence over your actions, and manifesting can help those positive feelings come to fruition. "Know that you are changing your brain by changing your behaviors," she notes, and that can ultimately give you the confidence to go after what you want.