Two weeks ago I manifested the dream car I have wanted for almost three years. If you are skeptical about the whole concept of manifestation, I could understand how this timeline would support your point of view. But if you want to believe, and you’re willing to read to the end, this admittedly long how-I-did-it story might be the one you’ve been waiting for.
My career path has been anything but linear. And by most people’s standards, I am not successful. Until a few weeks ago, I would have described myself as well-educated, highly competent and confident, but completely lacking in focus and purpose. Over the past twenty years, I have wandered my way in and out of the travel industry, law school, outdoor education, graphic design, international teaching, academia, and a brief but painful stint in the corporate world, until finally landing in the Hail Mary realm of entrepreneurship. Throughout this time, I have been able to support myself, garner positive letters of recommendation, and always land the next job, but at no point have I ever thought to myself, “Yes! This is it!” And trust me, I have yearned for this feeling.
Rewind to 2017. In a state of disillusionment, I left my tenure track teaching position at a prestigious university less than a year after completing my MFA. I’m approaching 45 and due to my lack of professional focus or success, my self-esteem is in the toilet. I feel like I have tried everything. I have played by the rules. And yet I feel… flat. Unfulfilled. And, if I’m honest, broke. With no clear idea as to why I feel this way and even less of an idea of how to fix it, up pops the concept of manifestation: if you think it, it will come. It was a highly seductive if improbable life raft.
There are many recommended techniques for manifestation—vision boards, daily affirmations, journaling. For a long time, it was to no avail, but the technique I tried most consistently was writing out a list of what I would do if I suddenly had a million dollars. The thing that was always at the top of my list was a yellow Mini Cooper with a white top and racing stripes.
This happy, sunshine-colored, two-door, completely impractical for a family of six, roadster embodied my idea of success. If I had this frivolous, not inexpensive car, it would mean that I was successful.
Inspired by both my departure from academia and my discovery of manifestation, I decided to seriously rethink my career trajectory. I had always been drawn toward the non-profit, do-good-for-the-world flavor of work because I thought that made me a good (=successful) person. It had made me feel like a decent human being for twenty years, but it hadn’t made me successful, and it certainly had not made me financially abundant. I traversed a rather dark night of the soul feeling like I had been duped. In retaliation, I decided to go out and get the highest paying job title for which I was qualified, industry be damned.
I found and landed a job that more than doubled any salary I had ever made in my life and tripled most of them. For a few months, it felt really, really good to be paying down debt, saving money, and having some substantial disposable income. If I was ever going to get my Mini, now was the time, but for some reason I couldn’t articulate, I kept putting it off. Nine months later, I had to come to terms with the fact that as a direct result of this job, I was truly miserable, flirting with alcoholism, and almost completely unavailable for my family.
I had been considering the option for months, but I finally quit the weekend after Kobe Bryant’s sudden death. I had no idea what I was going to do or how long we would be able to coast, but I knew now, for certain, that this was also not what success felt like and life was too short to be so soul-crushingly unhappy. Not only did I feel less successful than ever, I now felt like an actual failure.
You might think that this utter freefall in the wake of having exhausted all other possibilities over the previous twenty years might send me into paroxysms of anxiety and depression, but it had the strangely opposite effect. I had literally tried everything I knew how to try in terms of feeling a connection, a commitment, and a sense of success in my work. I had tried on every definition of success I had been offered by my parents, my mentors, and by society. Nothing resonated. The feeling was beyond despair; there was a kind of liberation in the nothingness. For several months, I floated in a surreal apathy.
Eventually, my inner Scarlet O’Hara kicked in, and I committed to never doing soul-sucking work again. I started evaluating opportunities with relentless scrutiny. The slightest whiff of the negative aspects of my previous work life would shut them down. Saying no to work while watching our savings dwindle is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I didn’t realize it while I was doing it, but each time I identified what I didn’t like about an opportunity, it helped me clarify what I did want. I had been doing this throughout the course of my career, but with this newly focused intention, I was finally making real progress on piecing together my definition of success even though I didn’t fully realize this was what I was doing.
My definition includes things like being able to walk my dogs in the woods in the middle of the day. It includes being completely responsible for a project which means if it doesn’t get done or done well it’s on me. And in the same breath, because it’s all on me, things can get done with ease, efficiency, and excellence. It includes making decisions based on my intuition and my sense of integrity, not the uninformed opinions of multiple stakeholders. It means exploring and communicating ideas in my own words that I think are valuable. It means some days I work twelve hours straight and other days I meditate, go to the grocery store and show up for my kid’s baseball game. My effort, my way, on my timeline.
To answer your next obvious question, no, I am not suddenly running a lucrative online business or working a waiting list of design clients. My income stream is still but a tiny, occasionally stress-inducing rivulet. But what I do have is three articles circulating here on Elephant Journal. It is content that I care about deeply, that I communicated via my strongest skill and talent, in my own words, on my own deadline, with the sincere intention of helping other people. The crazy thing is, it doesn’t matter how many people have read these articles. For my psyche, it only matters that I wrote them. I am authentically embodying my own definition of success.
So you know what’s coming next… there is now a red and white Mini Cooper sitting in my driveway. It’s not the yellow one I was originally trying to manifest, but it doesn’t matter because the representational power of this success symbol far, far outweighs the physical details. In order for the symbol of my success feelings to show up, I had to truly feel successful, and I wasn’t able to fully feel it until I had authentically defined and embodied it for myself.
I offer my story as an object lesson. I wasn’t really seeking a Mini, I was seeking my authentic feeling of success. If you are doing all the prescribed work of manifesting but feel like you’re not making progress, try examining the feelings you are seeking with your manifestations. Are you seeking money or a sense of security? Are you seeking a sexy, committed partner or a sense of feeling loved and desired? Are you seeking a BMW convertible or a sense of accomplishment?
The circumstances and the timing of my Mini helped me understand that what we are actually trying to manifest are feelings rather than things and that our language around those feelings has to be very specifically tuned to us and the unique desires of our hearts. Using other people’s definitions/symbols for feelings is seldom going to work. I also realized that while manifestation is presented as an all-at-once experience, if you’re paying attention and know what to feel for, you can actively cultivate its approach. I didn’t get the Mini and then feel successful; I felt successful and then the Mini manifested.
The more precisely we can identify the feelings we are trying to manifest, the more effective our reality-creating energy becomes. If we use our feelings as a guide—yes/no this choice/moment vibes with the feeling I’m seeking—we start getting more closely aligned to the specific feeling we are trying to manifest. Once aligned, the physical universe can respond with the corresponding material symbol of our feeling. And even if the symbol isn’t exactly as we have imagined—my Mini is red rather than yellow—it will feel exactly right. And let me tell you, right feels so damn good.
There are entire books full of how-to suggestions, but the following is what worked for me:
- Write down your desires. It literally makes it easier to see them more clearly when you write them down on paper. Write by hand. It’s scientifically proven that handwriting is more deeply connected to our psyche and forcing specific language through the act of writing requires your mind to get detailed.
- Choose one desire/thing/experience/person from your list that you would like to manifest and really dig into how you would feel if you had it/them. Forget the physical and temporal details. And try to ignore the super relentless, nagging question of how. As much as you can, focus only on the details of the feeling.
- Try to fully excavate this feeling. Can you remember a time when you felt this way before? What are the details of that experience? How can this remembered experience amplify the details of what you want to feel now? If you’ve only ever experienced the opposite of the feeling you are seeking, you can still use that as a refining tool. While not always the most pleasant method, figuring out what you don’t want is an equally effective wayfinding device. Write as much of this down as possible, too.
- Use this increasingly detailed feeling as your guidance system for your choices and actions. Does the action/choice harmonize with the feeling you are seeking? Your goal is to have your answer be yes as frequently as possible. Refer to your notes if you need to!
- Trust the development of this ever-more precise and harmonic feeling. As your exterior choices and actions harmonize with your interior feelings, you will start to feel the momentum of your manifestation. Things start to feel more and more similar to the way you have imagined them. It is an upward spiral!
- Continue to chase the feeling and continue to let the Universe do its own thing on its own time. This is the tricky trust part. It may take more time than you would like, but every single bit of it—the timing, the details, and the how—will make complete sense and feel even more incredible than you could have possibly imagined when you realize that your most desired feeling has manifested in the physical world!
I know that I have left out many of the details regarding exactly how my Mini manifested, but trust me when I say it was sprinkled with a wondrous amount of pixie dust. (I have also realized that I manifested my true-love, soulmate husband with an intuitive prototype of this process back in 2014.) I do not know what the forthcoming chapters of my story will bring, but I have no doubt that following this path again will result in additional manifestations of my physical abundance symbols. I wholeheartedly hope that sharing my version of the map helps lead you to your treasures as well!