Right after quitting my PhD to begin my business, I came across “The Secret”.
This is a supposed universal law of life known by some of the most successful people in history.
I followed this to the letter for about two years. To begin with, my life changed for the better. But then things got a whole lot worse…
But first, let’s go over what “The Secret” is and where it comes from.
The Secret (and the law of attraction): The greatest hoax of all time?
The Secret is basically synonymous with the law of attraction and was popularized in the 1930s by Napoleon Hill. He wrote one of the world’s most successful self-help books, Think and Grow Rich.
The ideas in Think and Grow Rich were replicated in the 2006 documentary “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne.
The big idea in both is simple:
The material universe is governed directly by our thoughts. You simply need to visualize what you want out of life, and whatever you visualize will be delivered to you. Especially if those things involve money.
Here’s the catch:
If what you’re visualizing doesn’t come to you, you don’t truly believe in it. You need to think harder. The problem is you. The problem is never the theory.
The Secret – at least as articulated by Rhonda Byrne in her documentary — says it works because The Universe is made up of energy, and all of energy has a frequency. Your thoughts also emit a frequency and like attracts like. Energy can also be turned into matter.
Therefore, the logical result:
Your thoughts create your reality.
If you are always worrying about not having enough money, The Universe will consistently deliver what you’re thinking about. Therefore, stop worrying about not having money and start visualizing having money.
If you’re worried about being overweight, don’t look in the mirror and think about it all of the time. Instead, start to imagine yourself having a six-pack.
Unhappy with the toxic relationships in your life? Stop worrying about. Don’t think about it anymore. Start to think about having positive and friendly people in your life. Problem solved.
The problem with the The Secret is that it actually works when you start practicing it, at least in the beginning.
That’s what happened with me.
Why The Secret worked for me
The Secret works because there are benefits to thinking positively.
Mayo Clinic have shared research suggesting that positive thinking helps with stress management and can even improve your health.
Health benefits include:
- Increased life span
- Lower rates of depression
- Lower levels of distress
- Greater resistance to the common cold
- Better psychological and physical well-being
- Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
The researchers weren’t clear on exactly why people who think positively experience these health benefits.
But I can tell you from my personal experience that positive thinking helped me to take charge of my health and outlook.
I had just begun a business and it was an incredibly stressful time. I was trying to raise capital from investors and was continually told that my idea wasn’t good enough.
By following the advice of The Secret, I consciously ignored my self-doubt and continued to focus on the vision of raising the money I needed so we could build the business.
There were many failures during this time. But ultimately we achieved what we set out to achieve.
Positive thinking helped me to ignore the naysayers and push forwarded aggressively. I jumped over many hurdles. We got there in the end.
However, there was a dark side to The Secret that was lurking under the surface of my outwardly positive thoughts. My sub-conscious wasn’t so easily convinced about all of this positive thinking.
There was a gap between the reality I was thinking about and what was happening on the ground.
Something had to give.
The Secret can screw up your life. It screwed up mine.
The Secret requires that you never doubt yourself. It tells you that when you start to think something negative, there’s a problem with you.
It’s a dangerous way to live life. If you were going for a walk in the jungle and you heard the hiss of a snake in the bushes nearby, would you ignore the feelings of fear that would immediately strike?
I don’t think so.
You would embrace the fear and stand at full alert to save yourself from being bitten by a snake.
The brutal reality of life is that you’ll encounter these metaphorical snakes. You need to have your wits about you.
When you’re programming yourself to always see the best in people around you, you can be hoodwinked.
This happened to me in a number of different ways.
The first thing that happened is that I was encouraging myself to be delusional.
We successfully raised the investment we were seeking and built a product. We were good at marketing and projecting an outward image of success.
We got good press. Lots of great feedback about our vision. I started to drink the Kool-Aid. I believed what everyone was saying about me.
Yet problems started to appear in the product we had built. Users encountered bugs. We were running out of money.
I kept on trying to visualize success. Self-doubt creeped in and I pushed it aside, trying to meditate harder, visualize better.
I was overlooking a whole range of signals I should have been focusing on. I should have been embracing negative thoughts so that I could start to fix things in my life.
It wasn’t just in my work life that The Secret and the law of attraction was doing me damage.
It was happening in my personal life as well.
I knew that I wanted to find a romantic partner to share my life with. I tried to use The Secret to make this a reality.
I visualized the perfect woman. Attractive, kind, generous and spontaneous. I continued to focus on her every day. I knew what she looked like. I would recognize her when I found her.
I started to meet some pretty incredible women, but they never lived up to the image I created in my head. Something was always wrong with them.
So I moved on, awaiting my perfect match.
Any thoughts questioning my behavior would be pushed aside. I would simply focus on my next creative visualization session.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my delusional positive thinking was stopping me from seeing warning signs in my life.
I should have recognized earlier that the business was in trouble.
I also should have had more respect for the inevitable imperfections in the women I was dating.
At some point, I needed to come to terms with the struggles and failures in my life. I needed to embrace what was really happening – warts and all.
Giving up positivity for being content and rational
The time came where I was forced to recognize reality.
I had to confront my challenges head on.
I needed to actually build a business that generated revenue and provided value for customers.
This isn’t easy work. It requires a kind of doggedness and determination to continue learning through all of the challenges.
Rather than visualizing extraordinary success, I needed to focus on the short-term and do things step by step.
Changing your life isn’t easy. I haven’t achieved anything yet. It’s a lifelong process.
But this is the point. It’s not meant to be easy to live the life of your dreams.
There’s a kind of peace that comes from embracing what’s negative in your life. It means you can face the challenges with eyes wide open rather than running away from your problems.
You earn the respect of people around you. Paradoxically, you attract into your life some incredible people who are content and can think rationally.
When you are always trying to visualize positive things happening, you attract similarly delusional people.
You become a narcissist and attract more narcissists into your life.
A bubble is created and it’s going to burst one day.
Sign up to Hack Spirit's daily emails
Learn how to reduce stress, cultivate healthy relationships, handle people you don't like and find your place in the world.