Does Manifesting Work? Tune in to Learn the Neuroscience

Jenna Kutcher 

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January 11, 2021


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Where does visualization fit into how to plan and goal set for the future? What about manifestation — is that a tool in your kit for going after what you want? 

Before you cast off manifestation and visualization as too “woo-woo”, I want you to meet Dr. Tara Swart. She is a neuroscientist, a medical doctor, and so much more, and her work is anchored in researching the science behind manifestation. Dr. Swart is going to share that research with us, and the proven methods for visualizing and manifesting the life and business you want.

This is more than making a vision board on Pinterest with your dream house, this is a tactical lesson in manifestation and visualization, backed by neuroscience. Let’s dive in with Dr. Tara Swart.

Meet Tara, the Human

“I intentionally kept my married name and working name different so I can step into different personas when I need to,” Tara chuckled as she began. As a woman with so many incredible titles and qualifications to her name, I was so curious to learn about the woman behind it all and how it led her to this place in her life and career. 

“I’m somebody who is in pursuit of truth, beauty, and art,” she continued. “Truth is authenticity for myself and my clients. Beauty is about growth, positivity, optimism, and neuroplasticity, which is my research area and work.”

“The nice thing is that my life is very much about neuroplasticity which is continually learning and growth, and seeing beauty in everything from nature to people to situations,” Tara explained. 

Finally, she touched on art. “I’ve always said medicine is an art not a science,” she explained. “I was one of those kids in high school who was told I wasn’t creative because I wasn’t good at art, and I believed that for 20 years. And now I feel like such a creative person and that’s been a huge 180 for me.”

Can you already feel that this is going to be an incredible conversation? You have to hit play to hear this full interview!

Meet Dr. Tara Swart

Tara’s always been fascinated by the mind. She went to medical school and became a psychiatrist, which she practiced for 7 years. She then transitioned into the role of an executive coach. As a coach, she enjoys the balance of two very different components — the focus, discipline, and reaching goals, combined with the zen, trust, relationship building, and intuition. 

Neuroscience has become a very popular topic in business coaching, and it became the topic of several books early in her career. Each time she published a new book, she said it would be the last time, but a friend told her that one day she would wake up and there would be something she couldn’t NOT write about. 

“That’s what happened to me with my newest book [The Source] where I combine science and spirituality,” Dr. Swart explained. Throughout the conversation, she described herself as a walking contradiction, and the book was evidence of that. However, the “risk” of writing about spirituality that her colleagues asked her about didn’t feel like a risk to Tara. 

“At all the pivot moments in my life that seemed like risks from the outside, to me, the biggest risk would’ve been not taking that leap of faith and doing what I did,” she shared, in a mic drop moment.

Manifestation & Visualization

These two topics have become a cornerstone of what she researches and teaches, and yet they seem different from what a neuroscientist and medical doctor might dedicate their life to. 

“There are really obvious processes in cognitive science, the way that your brain works, that back up both of those concepts,” Tara began. “So to me, they go together.”

Dr. Swart has always been interested in manifestation and visualization, and she practiced them in her own life in a way that she said was not based on empirical science. However, as she began to research the key elements of manifestation and visualization, she discovered that much of it could be explained by modern neuroscience and brain scanning, and not, “less tangible things.”

She explained that these two practices are often misunderstood or misdirected, and there are skeptics abound. That’s why she decided to write a book that would explain them in a way that made sense to her, a neuroscientist.

Processes of Manifestation and Visualization

There are several processes behind these two practices, including selective filtering, selective attention, and value tagging. 

Selective filtering is best explained as the process your brain goes through to filter out the stimuli that you don’t need to pay attention to for survival. For example, the clothes you’re wearing. They touch your body all day, but the brain filters that out so you don’t feel information overload. 

Selective attention is what your brain moves your eyes, ears, head, etc. to focus on. Then value tagging puts those things in order of importance to survive and thrive. “If you’re under pressure,” Dr. Swart explained, “Then the thriving part isn’t seen as important, only survival is.”

Value tagging has two paths — cold and warm. Cold things are more logical, like what you need to do each day to get your work done, take care of your family, and so on. Warm is more emotional, things like your dreams, aspirations, the community and family you’re a part of.

Dr. Swart explained that if you’re not aware of these processes, you could go through life with a brain only primed for the survival decisions. However, visualization can prime your brain for the more aspirational, dreaming parts of life. 

How Visualization Works

“When you visualize, the brain doesn’t differentiate very much from a real event,” she explained. This is especially true if you repeat the process over and over.

Tara told me about an experiment where weight lifters were split into three groups — one that did no weight lifting for a week, one that did finger and elbow weights to focus on specific muscles for a week, and then a group that only visualized lifting finger weights and elbow weights. 

“Although the growth in muscle mass in the actual weights group was around 50%, the growth in muscle mass for the group who only visualized lifting weights was between 13-30%,” Tara shared.

What that study showed is that visualizing activated parts of the brain that would’ve been activated by lifting weights, without actually lifting weights. 

This research proves that the brain is so powerful, and she says, “The possibilities are… Endless isn’t a scientific term but they’re way bigger than we ever thought before.”

Create an Action Board

You’ve heard of a vision board, but an action board is based in neuroscience and it requires an action-taking piece. Dr. Tara Swart creates an action board for herself at the beginning of each new year.

What’s different about an action board is that it involves some sort of positive action. Dr. Swart explained, “It can’t be a fantasy that you create of a life that is unachievable to you and you’re not willing to do anything to move towards that becoming a reality.”

An action board should contain some things that you can achieve within the year, along with some bigger pieces that are stretch goals. 

Dr. Swart then shared something called the Tetris Effect, and it plays into the most critical times to view and absorb your action board. Press play to hear what the Tetris Effect is and why it matters.

More from Dr. Swart

I simply cannot put into words the power of what Dr. Swart shared during our conversation and how it’s already altered the way I’m walking through my days and stepping into this new year. I invited you to hit play on this episode for more on manifestation, visualization, neuroplasticity, and even the exercise she guided us through together at the end of the episode. 

Pick up her book The Source and connect with Dr. Tara Swart online and on Instagram @drtaraswart.


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  1. Wow, thanks for that powerful visualization with Dr. Swart. It came at a perfect time for me as I was meditating on self-improvement and improving my reality.

  2. I was blown away with the athletic example she gave- it all makes so much sense. And in a scientific, realistic way- not just vague mysticism. Thank you- I loved this.

  3. Emily Warren says:

    I have never been SO MOVED by a podcast EVER. And trust me, I listen to quite a few podcasts 😉

    Thank you for this! Can’t wait to purchase the book!

  4. […] the podcast “Does Manifesting Work? Tune in to Learn the Neuroscience” by Jenna Kutcher here. It’s a really interesting listen from the neuroscientist herself, Tara Swart who recommends […]

  5. […] It’s an exceptionally interesting concept, and if you’d like to learn more about this, this podcast episode from the Goaldigger Podcast is a […]

  6. […] the podcast “Does Manifesting Work? Tune in to Learn the Neuroscience” by Jenna Kutcher here. It’s a really interesting listen from the neuroscientist herself, Tara Swart who recommends […]

  7. […] Want a little taste of what ,Dr. Tara Swart has to say before book-buying? Hear her breakdown how manifestation works on this ,Goal Digger podcast episode! […]

  8. […] Want a little taste of what ,Dr. Tara Swart has to say before book-buying? Hear her breakdown how manifestation works on this ,Goal Digger podcast episode! […]

  9. […] Want a little taste of what ,Dr. Tara Swart has to say before book-buying? Hear her breakdown how manifestation works on this ,Goal Digger podcast episode! […]

  10. […] this is my stuff. Jenna Kutcher, probably one of the most entertaining humans out there, has a podcast episode with Dr. Tara Swart (neuroscientist, author, obvious genius) on the science behind visualization […]

  11. […] and I both hosted Dr. Tara Swart on our podcasts and the conversation with Tara was as transformational for her as it was for me. Mallory shared […]


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Before you get any further... Hi! I'm Jenna Kutcher!

A small town Minnesota photographer, podcaster, educator and puppy rescuer, my happiest days are spent behind my computer screen sharing my secrets with the world. I'm glad you're here.

I’m an expert at online marketing, a nerd when it comes to the numbers, and my obsession is teaching others how to make a living doing what they love (without it taking over their life). 

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