Life Is Not A Vending Machine

I was at first blown away by the documentary called The Secret based on Rhonda Byrne’s book of the same name. The idea that someone can change their life by adopting a different mindset is appealing.

If you have not read it here is a quick summary: 

Thoughts have the power to manifest reality – tangible and intangible things in your life that you want. Focusing on what you want will give you wealth, health and love. 

The idea has been around for centuries in different forms. Praying to a deity to make a wish come true is common. There were also mythical versions of it in different cultures. Greeks and Romans had cornucopia – a horn of plenty that had all kinds of deliciousness falling out of it. Middle east had a legend of a powerful spirit trapped in an oil lamp that could make any wish come true. These myths were reincarnated in modern songs and movies giving them a second life.

Some took this to another level by writing books and creating communities around the idea. The law of attraction is one example with hundreds of books and coaches teaching the subject. 

Here is the thing though. I can wish all I want for a chicken dinner but it is not going to miraculously float into a window of my kitchen. Someone has to raise a chicken, deliver it to a supermarket, buy and cook it. Probably more than one person is involved in this enterprise. 

The idea of manifestation is missing at least two parts of the equation. The first part is planning. Knowing what you want is a bit like a beacon that you can see in the distance. But you still need to know How to get there. Figuring out the right path can be a frustrating experience if we get obsessed with the goal too much.

This is because success in achieving something is not always a linear progression. It is often a back-and-forth with zigzagging in between. I love General Patton saying – “Plans are useless but planning is invaluable”. Flexibility in How is easier said than done but it starts with abandoning the attachment to the “right” way. There are many right ways and all are equally functional.

The second missing part is Action. I value positive psychology, contribution to society and gratitude. But I doubt that wishful thinking without action gets anyone far in life. It is often an action that motivates a person to wish for something great to happen. The action opens the horizons and shows what is possible.

The problem with the idea of manifestation is not only the fact that without planning and action, it will also lead to disappointment. It also the fact that it creates a sense of entitlement. After soaking in the idea that positive thinking is all we need it is easy to see that life is kind of a huge vending machine. You press a number of the item on display – a great relationship, a new car or a thriving business and it will fall right into your hand. I was proven again and again that neither people, life nor the universe owes us anything. 

At the end of the day lifting my butt off the chair, picking up the phone or walking to the gym get me what I wish for in life. And life was prompt enough to remind me of this when I forgot the lesson.

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