About Claire J. Harris

Claire Harris is a writer in exile who has spent the last decade travelling and working around the world. This is not nearly as glamorous as it sounds and usually involves scraping by on a diet of muesli and cheap wine. Occasionally together. You can find her at www.clairejharris.com

Life coaches, spiritual guides and similar gurus all point to an unmanifested destiny as the source of all your problems. Truthfully, the universe doesn’t care for you.

 

 

After posting on social media about my anxiety, I was recently contacted by a life coach who was keen to help me (for a fee, naturally). A quick scroll through the website showed me that this professional’s approach to mental health was to encourage people to manifest their destiny.

For those of you who’ve somehow managed to assiduously avoid all contact with self-improvement gurus, this means sending an intention out to the universe so it can take care of it for you.

(Not to be confused with Manifest Destiny, a 19th-century social theory that white settlers were destined to spread across the North American continent. Although perhaps not all that unrelated either…)

In fact, this life coach went on to give the encouraging — and I assume, incredibly scientific — statistic that it is only necessary to do 10% of work, and let the universe sort out the rest.

I can understand the appeal of this line of thinking — I mean, who really wants to do more than 10% of work, anyway? But look! You can simply put your wish into the world, sit back and wait for it to deliver when you’re ready to receive it. In the meantime, you can go and take a nap or whatever.

As a belief, this is incredibly close to how I was taught at my Opus Dei Catholic School to ask God for the things you want. If you don’t get them, it’s because you’re not praying hard enough. On the other hand, it could be because God knows they’re not what’s best for you.

My 12-year-old self questioned the flawed logic behind this: how were you supposed to know, for example, whether you needed to pray harder for something or stop praying for it altogether? (My 12-year-old self was sent out of class a lot.)

I find it fascinating that we’ve replaced the idea of “god” with “the universe”, but the wellness industry has still co-opted the language of religion. If you don’t get what you ask for, it’s because you’re being impatient and ungrateful. Where God used to have a plan for us, now the universe does. Where we used to pray, now we manifest.

Which would be all well and good, I suppose, if that could in any way be true for anyone except the world’s most privileged. I’ve had arguments with people who subscribe to the “manifest your destiny” doctrine where they’ve displayed a shocking lack of awareness about their own privilege. “But I’m not rich!” they protest, as they shell out $25 for brunch— ignoring the fact that they’re born with an Australian passport and more than one option for how to spend their life.

I’ve engaged in nonsensical arguments about how an asylum seeker who flees war and ends up locked in a detention centre could possibly manifest their destiny. Did they not want it enough, despite literally risking life and limb to pursue their goal? Is being subjected to inhumane treatment the universe’s “plan” for them? Does the universe enlist Western governments to enact this cruel and senseless plan on its behalf?

In which case, what on earth is the universe thinking?

So many millions of people in the world are working as hard as they can (more than 10%!) just to survive and escape the terrible situations they find themselves in. When you talk about “manifesting your destiny”, all you are manifesting is your own ignorance of how damn lucky you are to even think you have a destiny.

Now pull your socks up, and do the other 90% of the work.