do you know “the secret?”

a few years ago, a documentary called the secret drew the attention of millions of people, including high-profile figures, such as ellen degeneres and larry king. the basic principle disclosed as “the secret” is the law of attraction. simply put: you can manifest anything you want, simply by believing in it. from the start, the narrator of the film positions this concept as folklore: mystical voo doo passed down from long lost generations. some of the greatest historical figures employed these tactics, from ralph waldo emerson to abraham lincoln.

allegedly, there are no limits to “the secret.” it can give you whatever you want – happiness, health and wealth, among other options. it can even perform miracles of mental and physical healing. all you have to do is hold the image of what you seek in your mind.

“the secret” makes big promises with no exception: “it works every time, with every person.” it even shows examples of how it might work: a woman eyeing a necklace through a storefront window, only to have it handed to her moments later. a small child holding a picture of a bicycle that his uncle brings to his front door in the next scene. one of the contributors even makes the claim that this secret is working whether you are an active participant or not. all based on the principles of quantum physics: your mind creates what will happen next.

the first benefit stemming from this line of thinking is the emphasis it places on being more self-aware. as the movie states, you are the michaelangelo of your own life, so acknowledging your responsibility for yourself is a great first step for any sort of life improvement (in my opinion).

“you create your own universe as you go along.” –Winston Churchill

(sidenote: according to this film, we have 60,000 thoughts, on average, per day. they claim that’s way too many to control, so as a result, our only option is to control our feelings. i take issue with this line of reasoning, but it is only a small, unexpanded portion of the movie’s progression, so i’ll let it go.)

now we start to run into real trouble. we are given actual step by step instructions to put this plan to work:

step 1: ask

step 2: believe (that it’s already yours)

**emphasized during this stage is the concept that you don’t need to know how it’s going to happen – you will magically attract the way.

step 3: receive

step 2 unravels the whole scenario for me. it undermines all of the personal responsibility for your own happiness outlined in step 1. all you have to do is want something badly enough and it will come to you? without you having to figure anything out, work for it or understand how/why? doubtful. also, i personally wouldn’t really want that sequence of events. if all the recent research holds true, and developing intrinsic motivation is the key to lasting happiness in any kind of work, it doesn’t translate too well with this set of instructions. the process teaches that method and know-how are unimportant and do not matter in the face of extreme desire.

moving on to the next portion of the film, things are looking a bit brighter. the speakers preach how vital it is to be grateful for what you do have. appreciation attracts support and helps you pull more positive things toward you. i can agree with that line of thinking. i’m also on board with the tactic and power of visualization (which apparently has roots in the apollo space program and the olympics – who knew?).

people who are able to outline in great detail what they want are often more successful in achieving that result. not because the universe brought it to them on a silver platter, but because it’s a lot easier to design a course of action for a specific outcome than it is for a vague nebula.

the film recommends creating a visionboard (good thing pinterest was invented so millions of people could live out “the secret”) in order to further solidify the end goal you seek.  

of course, there is a huge emphasis on money as a “desired outcome” exemplified in the movie, which further alienates me from it. one of the speakers even makes the claim that if you achieve inner joy and peace first, then all the outer things (MONEY) will appear to you, but i’m fairly certain the latter would become significantly less important to anyone who has found the former. not to mention that this movie doesn’t exactly promote the pursuit of inner gratification.

by the end, “the secret” puts the concept of self back in the limelight. we are reminded that “only one person can be in charge of your joy, and that’s you,” even though the opposite point was made earlier (just think about what you want and you won’t have to worry about how you’ll get it).

another decently astute point that i’ll give them credit for comes near the close: fighting against something gives it power because you’re thinking about how to defeat it instead of just not thinking about it at all. for example, be pro-peace instead of anti-war. reserving energy and focus for positive thoughts is definitely a mantra i can get behind.

by the end, the movie turns generically inspirational, and flashes images of skiers, mountain climbers, athletes as it reminds you that you are in charge of your story. 

overall, i find the movie to be incongruous, hokey and trite at best, dangerously misleading at worst. while i agree with requesting people to evaluate their end goals and take responsibility for making them happen, i see no value in pretending that the process of arriving there is easy or guaranteed.

i think, however, my biggest problem of all with the film is its emphasis on the end result. the extrinsic reward. if you’re so focused on that new car you want, how will you ever learn to enjoy the work you’re doing to get it? is life to be just a series of small, tangible and material goals? or are the filmmakers hoping to trick people into becoming intrinsically motivated by promising lofty rewards resulting from focus and determination?

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3 thoughts on “do you know “the secret?”

  1. Molly, I too had major issues with ‘the secret’– I believe it took such a powerful thing as energy and intention and turned it into a recipe for ‘getting stuff.’ I do think there is a secret, which is that everything we need is within us, and that the more we learn to clarify our intentions and stay in our hearts and in our truths, the more we find peace within our beings. Which doesn’t mean it’s all money and new cars and ease. Staying in our hearts and in our truths can be challenging and painful, and there are great lessons here. Staying in our hearts and in our truths, we can also tap into our greatest gifts and share them. so yeah. the secret didn’t do it for me, although I do appreciate in some ways that the power of intention went a little more mainstream. Some other media pieces on the subject are WHAT THE BLEEP and MESSAGES FROM WATER– have you seen or read either of these?

  2. Pingback: the benefits of intrinsic motivation | Workouts to Wine

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