So, I don’t think manifestation really works. There, I said it.

Nothing like starting a piece off with fighting words, I guess. I’m imagining that a whole lot of people are up in arms at a claim like mine. But hear me out, and I promise it’ll be worth it.

I’m all for positive thoughts and possibility. Truly, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who believes in just about anything than me.

And while I absolutely believe in as many as six or more impossible things before breakfast, or any other meal of the day, I think we tend to go about making our dreams come true the wrong way or at least an ineffective way.

I don’t think manifestation works, at least not the way we commonly hear it bandied around. Like, if you just want something enough, and visualize it, it’ll arrive at your window with a puppy and a free cup of coffee.

Why do I hold such a grim view of manifestation? Well, mostly because of all the evidence out there of people not getting what they want, doing what they want, or living the way they want, and believing it wasn’t meant to be, when they never really tried so they’ll actually know whether it was meant to be or not.

There’s a snag in the way a lot of the personal development industry peddles positivity and possibility, and I see it mostly show up in the realm of manifestation.

I get it: who doesn’t love the idea of just thinking about what you want and envisioning it, and then POOF! it arrives as though by magic? EVERYONE LOVES THIS IDEA. Myself included. It would be awesome to have a fairy godmother. Imagine the shoes!

However, I simply don’t think it works that way. At least not most of the time, if we’re more committed to having what we say we want than we are to the idea of being a singularity, a magicalrishically lucky individual.

There’s a lot of thinking that seems like it’s helpful, but in reality, it’s not. For example, the idea that if something is meant for you, it’ll come easy. We can all too easily misinterpret our intuition into a pretty darned narrow experience of life and our selves and others.

Sometimes we read our feelings and call them intuition. This shows up a lot when we’re working towards something and hit any kind of setback or challenge or, you know, even a slight incline in our path.

“I guess it just wasn’t meant to be,” we pronounce sagely, over the discomfort of our disappointment and frustration at whatever it was we didn’t win. Others praise our serene acceptance in awe, wondering at our patience and enlightenment. Sure, you didn’t get what you wanted, but at least you can pretend you’re woke as heck.

Here’s the tough love: if it’s meant to be, you might still have to work for it. I’m so sorry if this isn’t what you want to hear, but I would rather you turn your definition of manifestation to one that actually does work.

Thinking about how much you want strong abs is not going to give you a six-pack, unless you do the crunches. Wishing you could speak a foreign language isn’t going to make you fluent without ongoing practice.

I don’t know of too many athletes who’ve stood on a podium because they just laid back and waited for it. Olympians didn’t take home gold just because they were lucky. Or maybe they were lucky, the day of the competition, but they were able to grab that fleeting moment or circumstance of fortune and use it alongside all their commitment and discipline and take it across the finish line.

Did those athletes visualize standing on that podium, biting that medal while they smiled for the cameras (“Look ma: I made it!”)? Absolutely. But did they stop at imagining what it would be like to win? No, they surely did not. They visualized every step of the way, including the hard bits that really sucked, and they let their vision of winning and their desire and commitment be stronger than their feelings in any given moment, and they didn’t stop until they got where they wanted to be.

Believing that manifestation means that you just visualize your desired results and then VOILA! your desires are presented on a silver platter carried by angels riding unicorns is not a virtue or indication of enlightenment. Confirmation bias (the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories) is powerful, because we all tend to see and find what we’re looking for, but sitting in my car, envisioning being somewhere else isn’t going to transport me there unless I put fuel in the tank and drive myself there.

Also, just because something is hard doesn’t mean it wasn’t meant to be. Believing that struggling or working hard to achieve something means that it wasn’t meant for you is ridiculous. If that were truly the case, then no mother is meant to birth a child. No athlete would play any sport, let alone win.

Manifestation is not a hands-off game. Playing it like it is leaves you a victim on the sidelines, in an at-effect-to-chance-and-circumstance conversation dressed up as empowerment.

Visualizing what you want is an important, or—dare I say it—ESSENTIAL part of getting what you want and making dreams come true. Visualizing what it would be like to have created or achieved whatever it is you desire is genuinely the first step of project design (this is actual project management).

But it’s only the first step.

All the steps that follow are what makes a desire come to life. That’s how manifestation really works. It isn’t magic, and that’s where the magic is.