Today manifestation and the law of attraction appear to be somewhat interchangeable, and are often applied as one and the same. And while conceptually they share many of the same qualities, they differ greatly from each other when it comes to achieving a desired outcome.
The law of attraction depends on what has already been manifested, positively or negatively, consciously or unconsciously, that attracts a likely outcome in your life. For example, if you are in a relationship where you worry that the other person will fall out of love with you, devoting much of your time to nurturing this fear and doubt, the law of attraction states that your lover will in all likelihood abandon you. Conversely, if you show daily gratitude for your lover, and actively pursue the relationship from a place of never-ending potential, your lover will respond accordingly.
The law of attraction is based on the belief that we are all magnetic entities, and attract or repel according to what we devote our mental and emotional energy to. When we act in accordance with what we desire, those desires will come to fruition.
Manifestation, while certainly sharing many of the above qualities, works from a slightly different angle. If the law of attraction is the effect, manifestation is the approach. While we can draw an outcome that has already been manifested by our thoughts and inadvertent intentions, manifestation itself is the actual act of focusing on the outcome one desires. To that end, the most notable difference between the law of attraction and manifestation is awareness.
So how can one differentiate between the two in his or her daily life? First, it's important to remind yourself that the law of attraction is just that–a cause-and-effect principle–while manifestation is an action. This will help immensely in the direction you choose to take your life. Most of us devote a great deal of time and thought to what we don't want or are feeling stressed by, such as debt, relationship troubles, poor health, and a demanding job. While this is perfectly natural, the law of attraction warns that by focusing solely on these issues and refusing to approach them as if their outcomes were already positive, we are doomed to repeat the same burdensome cycle over and over. Just as negative attracts negative, so too does positive thinking attract positive results. Many followers of the law of attraction would advise one to be aware of their desires at all times, and act with the belief that reality is constantly improving and shifting to allow those desires to come true.
If making a complete mental overhaul in your life seems a bit daunting, try this simple exercise for two days and compare the outcomes. On the first day, go about your life with a negative outlook. Focus on all the things that are troubling you, stressing you out, or tempering with your good mood. (Do not act this out on others! Keep it as your inner state of mind, and not a pursuit of action.) At the end of day one, would you say you benefited from your negative state of mind, that good things made their way to you and others reacted positively to you? On day two switch it around and focus only on the positive aspects of your life; what you are grateful for and the abundance you're certain will come your way. How did this day end? Did you notice a change in your energy and overall emotional and mental state?
Most of us operate in a more or less median state, leaning neither towards the overtly positive or negative, and so our lives are measured by equal parts joy and duress. But what would happen if we actively chose a more positive state of mind, and showed gratitude for what hasn't arrived yet, but is surely on the way?
Manifestation is all about visualization put into action. When there is something we desire–a new job, a better home, a welcome conclusion to a pressing matter–manifestation is the act of consciously creating the necessary energy and positive affirmation that will remove any blocks. Part of the reason why manifestation doesn't work for some is because the desire is there, but not the attitude. A feeling of entitlement, which is an aspect of laziness, or doubt that the object of desire is not truly deserved, can greatly hinder an outcome and prevent many from achieving what they so desperately wish for.
In order to manifest one's desires it is necessary to approach the desire as having already been awarded. Gratitude is one of the most powerful tools of manifestation, and when put into motion can bring about truly incredible things. Why? Because gratitude is a pure emotion, void of ego or selfishness, and vibrates to the highest level of positive thinking. When we give thanks for what we already have and likewise desire, the universe takes this for reality and follows suit. Actively manifesting one's desires does not mean ignoring the harsher aspects of reality (it's difficult to give thanks for a new home when the one you're currently inhabiting is still very much over your head and burdening you), but shifting your consciousness away from what you don't have and making room for what you will.
If nothing else, what the law of attraction and manifestation have in common is the simple acknowledgement that we humans operate on various levels of consciousness that can make or break our state of affairs. And despite the entropic nature of the universe–certain disasters and traumatic events cannot be anticipated or explained–what we can control is the immediate reality we forge for ourselves.