What The Law Of Attraction Gets Wrong
Although there are some similarities between Stoicism and the Law of Attraction (LOA), there are two massively important key differences that lead supporters of Stoic philosophy to advocate for its superiority.
Positive Vs Negative Visualization
The first key difference between Stoicism and the LOA is that the Law Of Attraction primarily focuses on positive visualization. As Napoleon Hill famously stated:
"Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve."
However, this mindset is not without its pitfalls, particularly for anyone who's poured their entire being into gaining something, say a highly desired job, so much so that they believe deeply in their soul that they will get it – as the Law of Attraction dictates. Because if it so happens that the opportunity fails to materialize, it can cause the individual some serious emotional distress and even the questioning of their entire belief system.
In contrast, Stoicism actually instructs people to practice negative visualization as a way to both prepare themselves for the worst-case scenario, and also to allow them the mental space required to anticipate hardships and take the appropriate measures to negate their impact. So in the job interview example, rather than thinking “I'm so happy now that I have this job,” as a follower of the Law of Attraction might do, a Stoic would reflect on potential reasons they might not get the position, giving them time to make whatever adjustments can be made ahead of the interview to increase their likelihood of attaining it, while having a game-plan in place – both emotional, and physical - for what their next steps would be if things don't work out as they had hoped.
Physical Vs Spiritual
This brings us to the second major difference between Stoicism and the Law of Attraction and that is the Stoic belief that the purpose of life is not to long-for or attain greater wealth, or fame, or even health, it's to find deeply meaningful inner contentment with 1) what you already have, and 2) with everything that happens to you.
As the former slave Epictetus wrote:
"Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle: some things are within your control, and some things are not."
Now this does not mean that a Stoic can't strive towards a greater purpose, only that they will keep an even keel and maintain a satisfied mind regardless of whether they attain it, or not. As the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote:
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”
So while it can seem inviting to try to manifest a big house, or a supermodel spouse, the key, according to both the Stoics and actually the Buddhists as well, is to release your sense of longing so that you can fill your being with the goals of self-actualizing, and becoming a better member of your community. As the Buddha once wrote:
“There is no fear for one whose mind is not filled with desires.”