For millennia, wise people have recognized the power of thought. In 1889, Prentice Mulford published a book entitled Thoughts Are Things that is still studied and quoted today.
In 2006, Rhonda Byrne compiled quotations (and a few misquotes) supporting the idea that, when we focus on something, think about it often, we attract that thing into our lives. She interspersed some comments and anecdotes of her own. The result was her blockbuster book The Secret.
Many people who have not actually read that book are quick to criticize it. I’ll address common criticisms later. For now, I’ll just note that every book ever written contains some mistakes or inaccuracies, and those mistakes do not make the rest of the book worthless. Personally, I saw nothing to lose, and possibly something to gain, by trying the suggestions in The Secret.
The book describes a three-step process. Step 1, get clear on what you really want and ask for it. Step 2, believe that what you have asked for is on its way to you. Step 3, open yourself to receiving what you asked for. Visualize yourself already possessing it and feel the happiness, exhilaration, whatever feelings you will feel when that thing arrives.
I found Step 2 challenging. I wanted to try the process to see whether it worked. But the process required that I already believe it works. How could I get there from here?
I kept reading and found several answers, short cuts to the process. One is to ask for what you want (which you can do by simply writing it down) and then be happy. Use the simple practices recommended in my previous post: laugh, assume upbeat posture, meditate, nurture gratitude.
So the happiness short cut recommended in The Secret meshed with skills that I already used with success and that I teach to others. I’ve augmented my skills by using The Secret for ten years, and it has worked for me.
Do I have every single thing I could possibly wish for? Of course not. But I’ve gained a lot more of what I want than I did before I adopted this process.
Have I gained these things without effort, forward planning or work? Of course not. But when I opened myself in happiness to notice opportunities and inspirations to direct my work, that work became joyful, just as described in The Secret. For example, writing Love on the Rocks with a Twist never required discipline. I longed for that work. What did require discipline was taking breaks from the computer.
Still skeptical? Ask yourself: what harm could it possibly do to clarify what you really want, write it down, then, boost your happiness by making time to laugh, meditate or visualize? No harm at all! On the contrary, as we’ve seen in previous posts of this Happiness series, these practices boost success and improve your health anyway.
What can hurt is negativity, focusing on what we don’t want. I’ll discuss that next time.
I’ve never read “Secret,” but from your description there’s a parallel book people might also appreciate, written by a teaching physician at Stanford U: “Into the Magic Shop.” It’s his personal account. This can be but does not have to be woo-woo. There’s a growing body of serious, peer-reviewed research on “positivity” now.
Thanks so much for that recommendation, Mark. I’ll check it out. Another overlapping work is the movie “What the Bleep Do We Know” that came out a few years ago. I re-watch it every so often when I feel like I’d like a positivity boost.
There is a phrase some Christians use: “Let go and let God.” I would substitute “Goddess”, and some might use “Universe.” Doesn’t matter; they are onto something. I’ve found that if I want something specific, I had better be specific. Otherwise, what I ask for comes in unexpected and often surprising ways. It does not hurt to add, “and protect me from harm.” I have observed that there is much going on that I have neither knowledge or control of, but I can influence (but not control) what comes to me. The much harder part is figuring out what I really want. I’d love for you to have a series on “Inquiry”. How do I go about finding what I really want and need?
Thanks, Julia, for your thoughtful comment. There are some passages in my books that might help you with inquiry. Even though they are couched in examples in which one is getting clear on what they want from another person, they can be used equally well for personal goals: Chapter 5 of Bridges to Consensus, and in Love on the Rocks with a Twist, pp. 5-6, 22-25 and 150-151. For the Love on the Rocks sections, you will want to read the pieces that precede the respective study notes so that you learn about the situation the character wants to address.
Meanwhile, I will try to develop a blog article or series on this topic.
Margaret, I appreciate the examples you provide for the idea you are expressing. It clarifies the content for me.
Thank *you*, Winona. I can’t tell you how much it helps me to get feedback like this. So glad you found the examples helpful.